Chief Shawn Butler

Auburn Police Department Chief Shawn Butler

AUBURN — The Auburn Police Department recently announced it is working toward securing state accreditation for the department. 

Securing this status through the New York State Law Enforcement Accreditation Program has been a goal since day one for police Chief Shawn Butler and Deputy Chief Roger Anthony, who were promoted into their leadership posts in the summer of 2016, Anthony said. Preparing for accreditation will involve updating APD's policies and procedures and will give the department "higher standards to live by," he added.

"One of our main goals was to make sure our department and members operated as the most professional and transparent police agencies the City of Auburn has ever had," Butler said in an email. "Our desire is to increase our transparency and level of trust we have with the community that we serve."

Accreditation, he added, will ensure the department operates under best practice standards. The department's policy and procedural manual is constantly changing and adapting, but the document hasn't been updated in entirety for more than 25 years. Butler said accreditation comes with increased training hours for every officer and adherence to 110 required standards as outlined for the program by the state's Office of Public Safety, which operates under the state Department of Criminal Justice Services.

According to the DCJS website, about 150 agencies are accredited in New York state. Anthony said he heard from other departments that the additional training hours are the biggest hurdle to getting accredited.

"For us, the training is not going to be a problem," Anthony said. "We're in pretty good shape."

A committee of six people, including Butler, Anthony, Capt. Paul Casper, Sgt. Greg Dann, Sgt. Christine Gilfus and Lawrence Church, a civilian staff member working as the accreditation program manager now meet twice a week to move the process forward. The committee is responsible for reviewing and updating department policies and procedures with the goal of meeting or exceeding accreditation standards. Anthony said the committee has reviewed about 15 percent of the department policies, so far. He said preparing for the state accreditation evaluation could take as many as three years.

Once the committee comes up with a policy, subject matter experts will also review it before the department finalizes it, Butler said. For a policy on Tasers, for example, the department's instructors who train personnel on Tasers will be involved in the policy-creation process.

Anthony said APD is also working with Lexipol — a nationwide organization that helps law enforcement update policy and meet all accreditation requirements — during the process. This will help APD implement the nation's best practices, he added.

Butler said APD purposefully did not set a strict completion date for getting accredited because it is labor intensive and time consuming. Many agencies, he said, often assign multiple staff members to the project full-time whereas APD created a committee of people who will also maintain their primary areas of responsibility and command. 

"I believe when we achieve this goal, this will be another feather in the cap for the City of Auburn, knowing that we have the most professionally trained, trusted, and advanced police agency possible," Butler said. "We will adhere to standards of policing that are viewed as best practice all while reducing our liability because of the standards we deliver our service by."

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Staff writer Megan Ehrhart can be reached at (315) 282-2244 or megan.ehrhart@lee.net. Follow her on Twitter @MeganEhrhart.