The local department achieves long-time goal of professional accreditation

by: POST PHOTO: JIM HART - Sandy Police Chief Kim Yamashita inspects one of 120 file folders, each with evidence to prove the department meets all 120 high standards to be considered for the prestigious status as an accredited police agency. POST PHOTO:  JIM HARTThursday, April 11, is a red-letter day for the Sandy Police Department.

That’s the day Police Chief Kim Yamashita will step to the front of an audience at The River House in Bend at the annual meeting of the Oregon Association Chiefs of Police.

She will bring home the certificate that proves the Sandy Police Department is accredited.

In this way, Yamashita and the department’s staff members will be rewarded for months of work in the quest to achieve the ultimate professional goal for any local law enforcement agency: accreditation.

The Sandy Police Department is the agency that is competing with the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office for the contract to provide police coverage for Estacada.

“This is an incredible honor for the department,” Yamashita said. “Everybody participated in some form or fashion to get us there. This is something I started right after I began work here because it was a council goal.”

While the spotlight will last only a short time, the results of Yamashita’s work are likely to outlast her service to the city.

It has been a long road to this pinnacle, during times when former chiefs Harold Skelton and Fred Punzel were in charge.

With help from Oregon Accreditation Alliance Director Joe Simmons, Skelton presented the idea about four years ago to the Sandy City Council, which adopted accreditation as its goal.

When the city was searching for a new police chief three years ago, one of the criteria for a new hire was having the skills needed to earn accreditation. Yamashita was hired in April 2010, and soon began work toward the goal.

But to reach this summit of professionalism, Yamashita spent many months writing new policies, implementing updated policies and creating evidence to prove the department is operating under those new polices, matching all 120 standards that the Oregon Accreditation Alliance (OAA) requires.

Yamashita admits those standards have the bar set very high, giving each agency something to work toward.

“For each of the (120) standards,” she said, “we had to develop policy and a procedure, which might require changing the way we do business or new forms or new equipment. Then I had to supply (digital evidence such as documents or photographs) to prove we are meeting each standard.”

One of the major roadblocks that prevented previous chiefs from reaching this City Council goal was the old, inadequate police facility. But with the new building completed, that was no longer a brick wall in the path to accreditation.

That path also involved a personal inspection from a representative of OAA, who gave high praise specifically to the department’s evidence program and its treatment of domestic violence issues.

“On those programs,” Yamashita said, “we go way above the standards.”

Also under the OAA eye are some of the police department’s partners such as the Clackamas County law enforcement dispatch center and the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Department, which also is in the process of meeting the high standards.

Assisting the department and each of its staff members to stay current on policies is Lexipol, a company of attorneys who provide daily training for officers, based on Oregon laws, so they can avoid activities that place the city, the department and the officers at risk of liability.

For more information, call Yamashita at 503-668-5566.

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