Fayette County

Lexington residents tell accrediting agency their experiences with police

Lexington residents shared their opinions Monday of the Lexington police department as part of the department's effort to maintain national accreditation from the Commission of Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.

Two assessors from the independent non-profit organization, which accredits more than 600 law enforcement agencies nationwide, investigated all aspects of the police department that fall within the organization's guidelines.

Paul Baggett, a team leader for the organization, said accreditation "shows this agency has met the best practices recognized nationally." Law enforcement agencies that are certified also have a better chance of getting government grants, Baggett said.

The accreditation organization sets standards for everything from budgeting and management to officers' interaction with the public and safety issues, such as whether officers wear seat belts in cruisers and orange vests at crash scenes, Baggett said.

Baggett is a major at the sheriff's department in Polk County, Fla. The other assessor, Tamera Bulla, works for the police department in Howard County, Md.

Part of the accreditation process is getting citizens' perspectives on the department.

Baggett took 37 calls from Lexington residents from 1 to 3 p.m. Monday, gauging their perceptions of the department. The majority, Baggett said, were positive, though details of the calls were kept confidential.

About 30 people came to a special meeting at the Urban County Council Chambers on Monday night. A handful of those in attendance shared their opinions of the police department — some offered praise; others, criticism.

The accrediting organization was established in 1979. The Lexington police department was initially accredited in 1993 and has been ever since, said Lt. Gregg Jones, accreditation manager within the department.

Jones said the department is also a "flagship" agency, meaning it has been recognized for consistently meeting accreditation standards.

Flagship agencies can help train others. Jones said Lexington police are helping the 11-member Taylor Mill police department in Kenton County, which is seeking to be accredited this year.

The Lexington and Newport police departments are the only two law enforcement agencies in Kentucky accredited by the organization, according to its Web site.

Accreditation will be announced in November, after reports issued by the assessors are reviewed by the organization's 21-member board of directors, Baggett said.