NJSACOP Marks Accreditation of 300th Law Enforcement Agency in New Jersey

Point Pleasant Beach P.D. is the Latest to Achieve Accreditation

October 31, 2023

POINT PLEASANT BEACH –– When Point Pleasant Beach Police Chief Robert Kowalewski embarked on the voluntary accreditation process through the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police (NJSACOP), he had no idea his department would become the spotlight of the program.

The Point Pleasant Police Department has earned the distinction of becoming the 300th law enforcement agency to go through the detailed process, which ensures that internal policies and procedures meet the highest professional standards and industry best practices.

“We received strong support from the Township Council to undergo this process, as we work to increase our overall performance and greater accountability to residents,” Kowalewski said. “We are a summer tourism community; our police department swells to nearly 100 officers in the summer for a town of only 5,000 all-year residents. We want to keep Point Pleasant Beach as a family-friendly community. Ensuring our police department follows best practices is a main objective.”

Earning accreditation is never easy, as law enforcement officers at every level of the department need to fully embrace the lengthy and detailed process, with regular inspections from NJSACOP accreditors over the course of a two-year assessment. For those departments that earn this important designation, it expires within three years, requiring police departments to keep up with myriad requirements.

For South Brunswick Police Chief Ray Hayducka, the accreditation process through the NJSACOP Law Enforcement Accreditation Program (NJSACOP LEAP) has been well worth it. His department, with 89 sworn officers, began the accreditation process in 2007, among the first group of police departments in New Jersey to undergo the rigorous NJSACOP process.

“There were plenty of unknowns at the beginning; we really needed to explain the benefits to the Township Council,” the police chief recalled. “It has been a great building tool for us. You really can’t afford not to be accredited.”

Hayducka, who has served as police chief of the Middlesex County suburb for 18 years, noted that accreditation has helped his police department recruit quality police officers, lower liability, reduce lawsuits and enhance the police force to the level of a model agency. Because of accreditation, the department has also seen an ongoing reduction in its insurance costs.

“We have a community of 48,000 residents, in which 80% of adults are college educated. Our residents understand the importance of professionalism and a process of self-checking,” Hayducka said. “It has been a selling point for recruitment and was recognized in our contract, as township leaders know that police departments that use best practices should be fairly compensated.”

The NJSACOP LEAP is administered by Program Director Harry J. Delgado, Ed.S., who receives reports from assessment team leaders and field representatives as they work with police departments statewide.  The program is overseen by the NJSACOP Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission, comprising law enforcement experts with the overall responsibility of adopting program standards, reviewing of all assessment reports, and approving all recommendations for the granting of accredited status of applicant agencies.

Delgado explained that police departments are required to conduct a thorough self-analysis to determine how existing operations can be adapted to better serve the public. When the procedures are in place, a team of trained, independent assessors verify that the applicable standards have been successfully implemented, Delgado said.

He is quick to note that NJSACOP LEAP accreditation does not ensure mistake-free policing or crime-free communities. Nor will it stop citizens from suing police departments and their leaders.

“Accreditation is a progressive and time-proven method of assisting law enforcement agencies to improve their overall performance,” Delgado explained. “The foundation focuses on the adoption of standards with a clear statement of professional objectives. Participating agencies conduct a thorough self-analysis to determine how existing operations can be adapted to meet those critical standards and objectives. Our team of trained, independent assessors verifies that the applicable standards are implemented.”

Another vocal supporter of NJSACOP LEAP is Montville Police Chief Andrew Caggiano, who helped guide his Morris County department through the initial process in 2013 and ensures his department of 41 officers is well prepared for re-accreditation every three years.

“In 2013, we learned that our policies and procedures were outdated,” said Caggiano, who served as his department’s initial accreditation manager.  “Once we had our policies and procedures in place, the NJSACOP assessors wanted proof. They looked for examples in our police reports and radio transmissions that we were following our new policies. It took us a year to become fully accredited. It wasn’t my full-time job at the time, but it sure felt like it.”

During the process, the Montville Police Department learned about new technologies that could enhance policing in the 20-square-mile suburb. Town leaders were supportive, funding new laptops for police cruisers, updating the evidence tracking system and upgrading police headquarters.

“The accreditation process gives our officers great guidance for what can be a very complex job,” Caggiano said. “It gives them the confidence they need, which leads to a more professional police force for our 22,000 residents.  We now see fewer internal affairs complaints, less lawsuits and better community relations. Accreditation really helps further trust with the entire community.”

In South Jersey, Voorhees Police Chief Lou Bordi is one of the most vocal proponents of NJSACOP LEAP accreditation. The Camden County community received accreditation in 2019 and earned the designation again in 2022. Bordi is also currently serving as the police chief in Berlin Township, which is now undergoing the initial process. He expects accreditation within 18 months.

“When I began looking into accreditation, I learned that some insurance companies provide grants for the process, as a more professional police department runs with more efficiency and with less insurance risk,” he said. “When I did the math and saw that accreditation would reduce our insurance premiums by $14,000 a year, it quickly became obvious what we needed to do. Accreditation pays for itself.”

Bordi said it is a tremendous benefit to have independent, outside assessors review his departments’ policies and procedures. “You learn what operations you are doing well and what areas need improvement,” he said. “The goal is to meet and exceed the industry’s best practices.”

He noted that assessors drill deep into department operations, such as ensuring evidence lockers have multiple locks and separate weapons from drugs. The systems also ensure that a limited number of officers have access to these lockers and that video cameras are placed in strategic locations to ensure accountability.

“The police officers have more confidence in the administration through this process,” Bordi said. “They know that everything we are doing shows that we are looking out for them and that we are committed to creating a more professional product for the people we serve.”

Learn more at NJSACOP.org

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