SARASOTA, Fla. -- For the first time in 12 years, the Sarasota Police Department is not accredited by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The change took affect on June 27th, after the agency withdrew its accreditation application with the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation. The move came as the result of an internal review that found S.P.D. was not fully operating by the standards set by an accreditation commission.
Back in February, S.P.D. became aware that they were not in compliance with all the guidelines needed to keep its accreditation. So they made the decision to stop the reaccreditation process and give up their current status.
"We found these deficiencies and we are going to correct these deficiencies," says Sarasota Police Chief Bernadette DiPino, talking about the department’s internal review that found it was not fully operating by the standards set by the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation.
Sarasota P.D. has been accredited by the commission since 2002, but on June 27 Chief DiPino made the decision to withdraw the department’s current application for reaccreditation out of fear that it would not meet the guidelines.
"We weren't going to meet some of the criteria for the accreditation, and because of that we put our agency and everybody through it until we evaluate and make sure we meet or surprise, because that’s my direction we're going to surpass the guidelines," DiPino says.
Those guidelines include 261 policies and standards that are reviewed over the course of 3 years, of which 161 are mandatory. If the agency fails to meet any of them during that time period they could fail the accreditation process. S.P.D. says they were only lacking in 15 areas, five of which they have already fixed. DiPino says many of the errors are clerical, and include things like failing to inform schools about child predators.
"The police are supposed to go tell them look at the website, here's a picture, and here's the identity of that individual,” DiPino says. “What had happened was a couple of years ago one of the detectives left and it was his responsibility, and apparently what we are finding is that it wasn't passed to the next person and the new supervisor didn't know he was suppose to do it.”
“The good news is we are now in compliance since we found out about it," she says.
Chief DiPino says they are working to address the other areas currently not in compliance.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement Accreditation Office sent us this statement:
"For the community it provides validation that the agency is operating under the best practices available for the industry. We like to use the analogy, you wouldn't want to seek medical care from an unaccredited hospital, or seek a degree from an unaccredited university, so why would you expect anything less from your local police department?"
Still, DiPino want to assure the community that her agency is operating at high standards.
"Our department is still certified; our officers, every day, will be out on the street doing the same things they did yesterday as today," she says.
Chief DiPino says the department will reapply for accreditation in about 2 years. They have also set a 60 day deadline to meet the standards set by the commission.