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City Police force earns accreditation from state

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The Watertown City Police Department was recognized as an accredited police agency by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services two weeks ago. The accreditation, which lasts five years, marks the fourth straight time the department has received the recognition since it was first accredited in 1998.

To receive the accreditation, a police agency must meet 133 standards, in three categories: administrative, training and operations. Watertown City Police Chief Gary R. Comins said that out of 510 eligible police departments in New York, 143 have been accredited, or about 28 percent.

Mr. Comins attributes this to the intensity and time needed to reach the lofty standards required, especially if the department is working to be accredited for the first time.

“The hardest part was getting accredited for the first time,” he said. “Everyone needs to be on board and comply.”

He said it could take two or three years of work even to start the accreditation process.

The state program began in 1989 and was the first of its kind.

Mr. Comins was joined by City Manager Sharon A. Addison and Officer Cristin N. Fuhrman, who serves as accreditation program manager for the department, in Albany to receive the recognition, but Mr. Comins stressed that all 65 full-time employees in the department are educated on what the accreditation is and the rigors required to meet the standard, and all were given pins to recognize the accomplishment.

Ms. Fuhrman has served as accreditation manager since January 2009. Before her, Mr. Comins held the position.

During the accreditation process, assessors visit and perform an on-site inspection. In September, the city police department was inspected, where inspectors took note of many things, such as a prominently displayed mission statement, separate designated juvenile interviewing rooms and proper filing and documentation.

“If you have a policy and procedure, they want to make sure you’re following it,” Mr. Comins said.

For this most recent accreditation, which will last until 2018, new standards were added. In 2008, a standard for the collection of DNA samples was added, and in 2011, another standard was added for hate crimes. Additionally, standards were added for a sex offender registry in 2008, though Mr. Comins said the department had a sex offender registry in place before the addition.

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