HAVERHILL — The city’s police department has achieved what only a handful of Massachusetts law enforcement agencies have: national accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.
Mayor James Fiorentini and Police Chief Robert Pistone said the department had to meet 180 standards for the national designation, which follows state accreditation achieved by the department in June 2020.
National accreditation was granted Nov. 19 during an online meeting between the national police commission’s review team and Haverhill officers heading the process. The Haverhill force joined Newton, Fall River, Danvers and a few collegiate public safety departments to achieve national Tier I accreditation, according to the www.calea.org website.
“This is a great accomplishment for the department and a testament to the professionalism and dedication that the police chief and all our officers have in being responsible and responsive to the needs of the entire Haverhill community,” Fiorentini said.
Established in 1979, CALEA’s goal is to improve policing and professionalism in law enforcement. It offers different programs to police departments, one of them being the accreditation process. Nationwide, just 5% of law enforcement agencies are accredited by CALEA.
Recent initiatives that helped Haverhill police meet the CALEA standards include a new behavioral response unit that partners mental health counselors from Leahy Health with officers on service calls involving people with mental illness or in dangerously stressful situations as well as a wellness program headed by a staff person who works with the city’s police officers on fitness, diet, nutrition, and stress counseling.
Called the “Gold Standard in Public Safety,” the CALEA designation certifies that the department and its officers are operating under the highest national standards and best practices, Fiorentini said.
To meet the standards, the department must adopt and train its officers in the latest national recommendations for “de-escalation, pursuits, use-of-force, prisoner custody, recruiting and diversity.”
The accreditation process included examining how evidence is handled, prisoner lockups, police files, memos, equipment and making sure policies and procedures were up to date.
The department’s updated website, www.haverhillpolice.com, played an important role in meeting the national standards, the mayor said.
The site includes information about all of the department’s divisions including records, patrol, narcotics, traffic and safety, investigations, prosecution, community policing, administration, animal control and the gang task force. It also includes all of the department’s policies and procedures including use of force guidelines as well as a link the department’s popular social media pages.
“We take customer service and protecting the public incredibly seriously and this national accreditation is proof that we have a professional department,” Pistone said, noting that national accreditation also lowers the department’s insurance costs.
“It is also a testament to the support that we receive from city government. That we have modern, up-to-date equipment and proper staffing that allows us to have various specialty units so we may provide our citizens with the best possible service and protection.”
The local team leading the accreditation process included Lt. Doreen Champagne, Sgt. Tiffany Clark and Capt. Wayne Tracy.
“It’s a lengthy and intense process that assures we are accountable to the community,” Champagne said. “First we do self-assessment then the CALEA review team comes to review what we’ve done to make sure it meets their standards. Now we have to stay on top of everything and keep making improvements to maintain compliance. It’s an ongoing review that really never ends.”