For the first time in its history, the Arlington Police Department has received full state accreditation status from the Massachusetts Police Accreditation Commission.

"This isn't mandated," Chief Fred Ryan told the Board of Selectmen on Monday, Oct. 6. "I'm very proud .... All in our department accepted scrutiny" during the weeklong review last spring.

Accreditation is a self-initiated evaluation process by which police departments strive to meet and maintain the highest standards of law enforcement practice.

Arlington is among 45 departments of those in 351 cities and towns to be accredited.

"Achieving full accreditation confirms that the Arlington Police Department is in line with the highest possible standards of policing, and that we are delivering the best level of service to our community," Ryan said in a news release Oct. 6. "I am proud that the Arlington Police Department has taken its place as one of the most professional policing agencies in New England."

Ryan credited those who were prime movers in the effort -- Capt. Richard Flynn and three others who appeared before selectmen: Inspector Rebecca Gallagher' family-services officer; Officer Vitaly Volkov, planner; and college intern Joseph Canniff.

After their presentation to selectmen, those gathered in the meeting room gave an ovation.

Intense self-review

The process includes an intense self-review and an external assessment by the commission’s external team of subject-matter experts.

The MPAC program includes 257 mandatory police department standards and 125 optional standards.

To achieve accreditation, a department must meet all required standards and at least 60 percent of the optional ones. Standards that are reviewed include: Jurisdiction and Mutual Aid, Collection and Preservation of Evidence, Communications, Working Conditions, Crime Analysis, Community Involvement, Financial Management, Internal Affairs, Juvenile Operations, Patrol, Administration, Public Information, Records, Traffic, Training, Drug Enforcement and Victim/Witness Assistance.

"Going through the process initially requires intense self-scrutiny, and ultimately provides a quality assurance review of the agency," Donna Taylor Mooers, the commission executive director, said in the release. "Achieving Accreditation from the Massachusetts Police Accreditation Commission is a very significant accomplishment and a recognition highly regarded by the law enforcement community."

To conduct the initial self-assessment and prepare for the on-site review, Ryan appointed Captain Flynn in 2012 to serve as the department’s accreditation manager.  

Assessed last May

The department was assessed in May by a team of commission-appointed assessors. The assessment team found the department to be in full compliance with all applicable standards for accreditation. The award was given at ceremony on Thursday, Oct 2, at the Boston College Connors Center in Dover.

The standards of the accrediting agency in the state are promulgated by the National Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.

The commission offers two program awards: certification and accreditation, and accreditation is the higher of the two. Participation in the program is strictly voluntary.

"The residents and business owners of Arlington can have confidence in their police department that it has opened itself up to external review, and the results were extraordinary," Town Manager Adam Chapdelaine said in the release. "On behalf of the entire town, I am very proud of the work the Arlington Police Department has done to achieve accreditation."

"Accreditation, and going through the intense accreditation process, shows that the Arlington Police Department is properly trained and prepared to handle any emergency that comes our way," said Steven M Byrne, Chairman of the Arlington Board of Selectmen. "This is truly a badge of honor for Arlington."

Massachusetts is one of 24 states that offer an accreditation process for its police departments.

The department has to stick to the high bar it has achieved. Another review comes in three years.

This story was published Monday, Oct. 6, 2014, and updated Oct. 7.