By Parker Gavigan
The NBC 10 I-Team has learned the Bristol Police Department recently lost two important law enforcement accreditations — badges of honor — but surprisingly, the reasons are not entirely clear.
Here’s what we know: there are two coveted accreditations for police departments in the state, the Rhode Island Police Accreditation Commission, or RIPAC, and the nationally recognized Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, or CALEA, seal.
First accredited in 2007, the Bristol Police Department is no longer a CALEA accredited agency, according to a regional manager there.
The department voluntarily withdrew from CALEA in June 2018 and then immediately made attempts to re-enter the program, said Paul McMillan of CALEA. Currently, Bristol is not CALEA accredited.
On top of dropping out of CALEA, the department also had its state accreditation suspended in June, according to RIPAC executive director Christine Crocker. RIPAC would not say why.
Crocker told the I-Team that earlier this month the commission conducted a preliminary review of Bristol’s files in preparation for a formal review scheduled for February 28. She said the agency’s files were found to be “inconsistent” with a department ready for an on-site visit. That visit is now cancelled, pending a full review by the commission in March.
Why did this happen?
Police Chief Josue Canario, a 33-year veteran, agreed to meet a reporter at police headquarters. Canario said the department withdrew from CALEA, and then re-entered at a lower tier level because adhering to 400-plus standards was a serious undertaking for Bristol’s 40-person department.
The chief blamed the state suspension on withdrawing from CALEA and stressed the voluntary nature of all the accreditations.
“It’s a concern, but we’re back on track,” said Canario.
Canario learned of the state suspension back in June 2018, but it appears no one in town government found out until recently.
“I was surprised,” said Town Administrator Steven Contente, who discovered the news last week.
Contente told the I-Team he met with the chief and is committed to getting the town’s two accreditations back. When asked why he kept the tough news to himself? Chief Canario told the I-Team he wasn’t trying to keep a problem from his boss.
“I’m not going to make excuses. I look for results,” Canario said.
Why do departments earn accreditations?
Police departments pursue accreditations for a number of reasons, but mainly to assure taxpayers that their law enforcement officials are committed to a high quality of following policy and procedures. Accreditation can keep litigation costs down and also lower police department insurance premiums.
The NBC 10 I-Team has learned the Rhode Island Interlocal Risk Management Trust, known as “The Trust,” will increase city/town insurance deductibles beginning July 1 for police departments who do not have or lose their accreditation.
CALEA is considered “the gold standard in public safety” and only 10 Rhode Island departments have that distinction.
CALEA accreditations also come with a steep price tag. Departments the size of Bristol pay $11,450 for a one-time fee and $4,065 annually.
State accreditation is a different type of accolade, but the goal is the same.
“Participation in the program is a signal to all of the citizens of Rhode Island that we are committed to professional standards,” according to the RIPAC website.
Presently, 25 police agencies are RIPAC accredited and up to four more are set to receive their accreditations in about a month, said Christine Crocker.