PORTSMOUTH ó The Police Department received the endorsement of the Northern New England Police Accreditation Coalition, as well as the Manchester Police accreditation manager, during a public hearing Thursday.
The hearing was held to receive comments during the final months of a three-year accreditation process the department is pursing through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. A team of CALEA assessors has been in Portsmouth during the past few days, including Sam Farina, chief of the Village of Fairport Police Department in Rochester, New York, who led Thursday's public hearing.
With assessment team member Kim Marrow-Lopez, Farina explained the current evaluation of the department involves its 'proof of excellence' in all facets of law enforcement. He said the department, at the onset of the process, was provided a manual with 484 standards and has since offered proof of compliance with all of those standards. Farina said he and Marrow-Lopez are now in the city to verify compliance with the standards.
The only member of the public to speak during the hearing, retired Manchester police officer Greg Murphy, said he is now Manchester's civilian compliance manager, as well as chair of the Northern New England Police Accreditation Coalition, which represents 50 accredited New England police agencies. He said he had a site visit at the Portsmouth Police Department, when it was first discussing accreditation, under former chief David Mara.
Murphy said he attended the hearing to let the assessors know he thinks the Portsmouth Police Department is "well suited to be granted law enforcement accreditation" and that he's seen "quite a change" from the beginning of the process to a later mock assessment.
"We fully endorse and applaud their efforts," he said.
Chief Robert Merner said Friday the process won't be complete until May when police officials appear before a 21-person panel at an accreditation conference.
"It's a ton of work," he said. "We're rewriting every policy in the department. People have really bought into it."
Merner credited the accreditation momentum to civilian accreditation manager Jackie Burnett and lieutenants Darin Sargent and Michael Maloney.
He said a lack of public input at Thursday's hearing, which was publicized several times, may be an indicator that things are going well.
"When things go bad," he said, "community input is usually at its highest."
Once the commissionís assessors complete their review of the department, they report back to the full commission, which will then decide if the agency will granted accredited status, it was announced.