WARETOWN, NJ – Most associate accreditation with institutions of higher learning or medical care. Truth be told, there’s at least one more place that accreditation serves as a mark of achievement. And, the Ocean Township Police Department just earned that distinction in law enforcement with its accreditation by the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police (NJSACOP).

Just a couple of months ago, the general public was invited to provide comment on the Ocean Township Police Department. Since that time, a team of assessors from NJSACOPs visited headquarters. Both activities represented just a couple of parts of the process.

The NJSACOP terms accreditation as “a significant professional achievement.” In Ocean Township, Police Chief Michael Rogalski spearheaded the process as both the ranking officer and the accreditation manager.

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“Before I even started, Chief Ken Flatt had the vision of being an accredited agency,” shared Rogalski. “When I came on as a patrolman in 2005, we went through a couple of accreditation managers.  I don’t know what the issues were at that time that it didn’t go through, as I wasn’t involved.”

Ten years later, the idea of accreditation resurfaced. “It was actually some members from the PBA who suggested it,” said Rogalski. “The town also felt it was the right time and we started the process in the later part of 2016.”

At the time, Rogalski was neither the chief nor the accreditation manager. However, that was for just a short while. In 2017, Rogalski was the youngest and least senior of five candidates vying for the rank of Ocean Township’s Chief of Police.

Ocean Township is non-civil service town, which means the governing body sets its own requirements when it comes to selecting officers or promoting them. In Rogalski’s case, the NJSACOP interviewed the prospective candidates and recommended him as the department’s chief. In January of 2018, Rogalski also took on the role as the accreditation manager.

“I don’t know how many departments you’ll find that the chief is also the accreditation manager,” admitted Rogalski. “I thought it was the right move because it also allowed me to dive into every aspect of the department.”

Accreditation Steps

There are actually five steps to the accreditation process. For Rogalski, reviewing every aspect helped him in his capacity as chief as well. For example, as he acquired documentation for the application, Rogalski learned more about budgeting concerns and the direction he needed to take as far as training.

The process also includes a Self-Assessment phase, which meant taking an internal inventory of operations. NJSACOP did an On-Site Assessment. The other parts of the process include the Commission Review and Decision Phase, as well as the Maintaining Compliance and Re-accreditation Phase.

Remarkably, the final report granting Ocean Township Police Department’s initial application for accreditation was marked “flawless.”  NJSACOP made note of the fact that there were no issues of concern.

 Mayor Ben LoParo applauded the results.  “From what I understand, it’s not common to score 100%, especially on the first attempt.”

What the Accreditation Means

Ocean Township Police Department’s accreditation puts them in a category with only about 40% of other law enforcement agencies throughout the state.  Although the program is voluntary, not every department seeks out the distinction.

According to NJSACOP, “accreditation acknowledges the implementation of policies and procedures that are conceptually sound and operationally effective.”

No doubt that accreditation adds to an agency’s reputation among other law enforcement professionals and community members. Additionally, there are economic benefits, which come by way of fewer professional liability claims, workers’ compensation actions, and automobile liability claims.  There are also insurance policy discounts as well as a stronger defense when it comes to lawsuits.

“The accreditation establishes that we follow best practices,” Rogalski shared. “There’s generally a drop in citizens’ complaints and greater accountability.”

According to Rogalski, morale is also higher in towns that are accredited. “We follow rules established by the Chiefs’ Association and it makes it easier overall.”

In three years, it will be time for reaccreditation. For Chief Rogalski, who says he “likes projects,” it will be another opportunity to dive into the details and take the department through the steps.

Stephanie A. Faughnan is a local journalist and Director of Writefully Inspired, a professional writing and resume service. Feel free to contact her at sfaughnan@tapinto.net.