Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Accreditation assessment team takes public comment on DPS policies

The Department of Public Safety's reaccreditation review continues this week with on-site interviews by two members of the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) who took public comments Monday.

At the hearing at DPS offices, three members of the public spoke. Two maintained DPS should be more independent of the university administration and the third, a member of the campus' DPS Oversight Committee, said the department is "very professional."

"I believe we are independent in our investigations," DPS Interim Chief Joe Piersante said after the hearing. "When we become aware of criminal allegations, our investigations are submitted to the Washtenaw County Prosecutor's Office for review and authorization of arrest charges."

Doug Smith, a retired U-M pathology professor, said, "One of the major problems with the police force here is a problem with independence."

Oversight Committee member Thomas Moore, professor emeritus of biology and curator emeritus of insects at the Museum of Zoology, was among those addressing accreditation assessors Dean Tondiglia, assistant chief of the Kent State University Police Department, and Geoffrey Ice, executive director of the Connecticut State Police Academy Alumni Educational Foundation Inc.

"My impression has been that the DPS is very professional, coming forward quite freely with us discussing things that are going on. When we make suggestions, they are attentive and responsive," Moore said. "They haven't always done exactly what we suggested but they're certainly very thoughtful about what has come before them."

He added he believes police do present honestly the details of cases the committee is interested in. The Oversight Committee, consisting of two students, two faculty members and two staff members, hears grievances made against sworn police and the department.

Linda Martinson of Troy, a former student, also criticized DPS for not being sufficiently independent of the U-M administration. She also criticized CALEA, saying she raised her concerns at a public hearing on accreditation in 2009, but said her comments were ignored.

The assessors arrived Sunday on campus to examine all aspects of DPS' policies, procedures, management, operations and support services.

"The evaluation is moving forward as we expect it to," Piersante said. "We're only one of 60 universities in the country to have this accreditation. We don't do it just for the prestige. It shows our community that we indeed comply or exceed almost 500 standards that are reviewed through this accreditation process, and the reaccreditation would also validate a lot of the hard work our officers and staff provide to the community on a daily basis."

The accreditation team is expected to wrap up on-site inspections and interviews Wednesday. Once the CALEA assessors complete their review of DPS, they will report to the full commission, which is expected to decide this summer whether to reaccredit the department for three more years.