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LOPD earns state accreditation

A state board of police chiefs has given the Lake Oswego Police Department its seal of approval.

The department recently received state accreditation from the Oregon Accreditation Alliance, a program run by the Oregon Association Chiefs of Police.

The organization certifies police departments in Oregon based on 107 recommended standards for police agencies.

To earn the state-level accreditation, the Lake Oswego Police Department passed a two-day assessment that included interviews, a tour and close inspection of department records.

The Lake Oswego Police Department is the 21st police department to receive the Oregon accreditation.

Asked what the honor would mean for Lake Oswegans, Mike Hammons, a captain in the Lake Oswego Police Department and the department's accreditation manager, explained:

'It means that the department follows the best business standards of the industry. We do things the right way. We follow state law. We follow federal law. Our officers are all well trained and we can prove it,' Hammons said.

He said the accreditation would change little about how the Lake Oswego police operate in the community.

For the most part, he said, earning accreditation required showing that existing police work already met the standards set by the chiefs association.

But the accreditation does have public benefits.

Among them, policies in the department are now written rule, making police procedures an open book in Lake Oswego.

Policies were required to show organization of the department of 69 employees, clarifying practices for support services such as storing records and evidence, and outlining procedures for police officers in the department's three divisions: patrol, traffic and detectives.

Hammons said the newly written rules cover everything from 'having the ability to instantly record radio traffic so dispatch can play it back if they missed something' to how officers are trained to use force.

He said having the policies in writing will help police officers provide the same level of service to anyone who needs it in Lake Oswego and guarantees consistent treatment to people who encounter police.

Anyone who takes issue with police action can also say so. Accreditation requires the department document every complaint.

'Our mission is to be transparent and to work with the public to establish a relationship based on trust,' said Hammons.

That's key in a department that handled more than 40,000 contacts and wrote more than 5,000 reports in 2007. With its motto 'No Call Too Small,' the department puts heavy emphasis on customer service and a community policing style.

Through the accreditation program, the department will be required to demonstrate continued compliance every three years.