Assessors visit Tustin PD as it seeks to again receive national gold stamp of approval

By Greg Hardesty

The man in the suit and tie sat at a table in front of his open laptop and looked up at the Tustin PD officer sitting across from him.

“Do you handle grievances?” the visitor from Georgia, his fingers hovered over the keyboard, asked Lt. Bob Wright.

Wright told the man in the suit, Chief Louis Dekmar of the LaGrange Police Department in Georgia, that he handles both formal and informal complaints.

“Can you explain the difference to me?” Dekmar asked him.

Wright didn’t break a sweat, because Dekmar, whose 39 years of law enforcement experience include 25 years as a police chief, wasn’t trying to sweat him out.

No one at the Tustin PD was in trouble.

Rather, Dekmar spent three days at the Tustin PD recently to assess copious details about how the agency operates as the TPD seeks, for a third time, to have its three-year accreditation with CALEA renewed.

CALEA is the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.

Assessor Louis Dekmar of CALEA (Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies) at Tustin PD, with fellow CALEA assessor Dorris Certain, accreditation manager for the University Park PD in Carrollton, Texas and a former officer with the Carrollton PD.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Founded in 1984, CALEA accreditation is a gold stamp of approval for PDs that choose to subject themselves to rigorous, top-to-bottom examination in the four areas of policies and procedures, administration, operations, and support services.

Dekmar was joined on the three-day visit by fellow CALEA assessor Dorris Certain, accreditation manager for the University Park PD in Carrollton, Texas and a former officer with the Carrollton PD. Certain has been a CALEA assessor for 12 years.

“The (certification and re-certification) process is a valuable management tool for police agencies to detect trends and patterns and to modify training if they determine there is a need to do so,” Dekmar said.

Dekmar and Certain holed up in a conference room off of Chief Charles Celano’s office as they interviewed scores of TPD employees with the assistance of TPD Accreditation Manager and Support Services Manager Thao Nguyen.

As part of the recertification process, the public was invited to phone the TPD during a two-hour period on Monday, Aug. 14 as well as make comments in the City Council chambers that evening.

The TPD first became CALEA certified on July 30, 2011. The agency was recertified on July 30, 2014 and now is vying for a third recertification.

Dekmar and Certain will have their roughly 25-page report done in early to mid-September. Two representatives of the TPD will have to appear before a CALEA commission in November to learn if their agency won recertification.

Assessor Louis Dekmar of CALEA (Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies) talks with Tustin PD Lt. Brian Greene. Next to green is TPD Accreditation Manager and Support Services Manager Thao Nguyen.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

About 10 percent of law enforcement agencies fail the recertification process, said Dekmar, currently the second vice president of the International Association of Police Chiefs.

The Tustin PD is one of only four Orange County law enforcement agencies that have won CALEA certification.

The Garden Grove PD, Buena Park PD and the Cal State University Fullerton PD are the only other CALEA accredited Orange County agencies. Only 16 police agencies in California have the CALEA stamp of approval.

To achieve CALEA certification, PDs have to prove they meet up to 484 standards that prove they follow national best practices.

During his interview with Dekmar, Wright’s answers seemed to provide the information needed for this portion of the CALEA review.

Then Dekmar and Certain readied for their next interview.

“We know we do things the right way here at Tustin PD,” Chief Charles Celano said. “CALEA accreditation just validates what we know and ensures that we only ‘expect what we inspect.’ The Tustin community should take some comfort in knowing their police department is a nationally accredited police agency. We are very proud of this honor and distinction.”