A special guest at Peters Township Council’s Jan. 6 reorganization meeting made an interesting observation about local law enforcement.

“It’s always been a great police department, and now we’re making it official.”

Tom Ogden, chief of police at Carnegie Mellon University, attended to acknowledge the township’s successful completion of the Pennsylvania Law Enforcement Accreditation Program.

He noted that only 8% of the state’s law enforcement agencies have earned accreditation through the program, which was introduced by the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association in 2001. Ogden is a senior member of the association’s accreditation commission.

The process of meeting the requirements took more than two years, according to Peters police Chief Douglas Grimes.

“We should take great pride in accomplishing this, not because we’re one of 118 agencies that’s in this, but more so because of the commitment that it took to get here,” he said. “And that commitment starts with council.”

He said some reasons for the relatively low number of accredited police departments.

“They shy away from this because they don’t get the commitment, beginning with their elected officials. They don’t get the commitment from their township management or borough management. They don’t get the commitment from the officers, themselves, or from the union that represents their officers,” Grimes said. “In our case, everyone worked together: council, township administration, the union and our officers.”

He gave particular credit to Capt. Jennifer Ford, who put in a substantial amount of work on rewriting department policies. The other police captain, Gerald Maloni, joined other members of the department in reviewing the policies to “ensure they were consistent with best practices in the application of law enforcement for our community and our residents.”

According to the Chiefs of Police Association, the purpose of accreditation is to help departments evaluate and improve their overall performance:

“The cornerstone of this strategy lies in the promulgation of standards containing a clear statement of professional objectives. Participating administrators then conduct a thorough analysis to determine how existing operations can be adapted to meet these objectives.

“When the procedures are in place, a team of independent professionals is assigned to verify that all applicable standards have been successfully implemented. The process culminates with a decision by an authoritative body that the institution is worthy of accreditation.”

State Sen. Pam Iovino, D-Mt. Lebanon, and Rep. Natalie Mihalek, R-Upper St. Clair, attended the meeting to offer their congratulations.

As far as council’s reorganization, David Ball was elected chairman for 2020 by a 4-3 vote over Monica Merrell, with Frank Kosir Jr. and Gary Stiegel Jr. also supporting her. Council then unanimously elected Merrell as vice chairwoman.

Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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