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Penn Police has been awarded its fourth Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies accreditation — an optional certification which ensures compliance with CALEA’s standards of law enforcement. Penn’s is the only university police force to receive accreditation in Pennsylvania.

CALEA also voted that Penn Police be designated a flagship agency.

Flagship agency status is conferred upon the most successful of CALEA-accredited public safety agencies. Penn Police is now one of 46 flagship agencies out of 592 accredited police departments nationwide.

Reaccreditation takes place every three years and subjects law enforcement agencies to a review of 463 standards, ranging from patrol operations to finance to crime prevention to community relations.

Assessors came to Penn last fall to inspect Penn Police’s documentation. A town hall meeting was also opened to all University members to discuss safety and the police department.

“The response from student, staff and faculty was overwhelmingly positive,” said Accreditation Manager for Penn Police Lt. Gary Heller, recognized as a national leader in the past two cycles.

Other police agencies like Philadelphia Police are currently not accredited. However, Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush stressed that accreditation is an entirely voluntary process Penn chose to pursue.

“It was the decision of the Philadelphia Police not to pursue it — after all, they are involved with many things,” Penn Police Chief Mark Dorsey added. “We made that decision in 2001 to put ourselves under that scrutiny to see what we’re required to do — to be the best we can be.”

Jonathan Kassa, executive director for Security on Campus — a non-profit organization that aims to prevent crime on college campuses — said accreditation “raises the bar for expectations, as well as delivery of better public safety services,” making campuses a safer place for all.

Kassa, who sits on a CALEA sub-commission that looks at revising accreditation standards for unsworn police forces, said the review process is not an easy one.

“It probably explains why Penn is the only school police force in Pennsylvania to have that,” he said. “It’s not that other schools don’t have high standards, but the institution has to have the resources and commitment to the accreditation process.”

“It’s not just a piece of paper,” Rush said of the accreditation process. “It’s a journey that is profitable … because our police officers have gained a reputation for model policing in the country.”

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