Look through the list of Virginia state accredited law enforcement agencies, and you will find a lot of local agencies.
These include Pulaski Police Department, Christiansburg Police Department, Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, Radford City Sheriff’s Office, Radford Police Deparment, Radford University Police Department, Roanoke City Sheriff’s Office, Roanoke County Sheriff’s Office, Salem City Sheriff’s Office, Salem Police Department, and Wytheville Police Department.
One agency you won’t find on the list is the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office.
Why do all of these surrounding counties and cities make accreditation a priority, but Pulaski County has yet to make the effort?
The Pulaski Star asked Tazewell County Sheriff Brian Hieatt why he thinks accreditation is important.
“I believe that being an accredited agency is important because it tasks you and your department to uphold a higher standard when it comes to policies, training, and working with the public,” Hieatt said in a statement to the Star.
Hieatt said it demonstrates an agency strives for excellence. “The State sets certain standards each law enforcement agency has to abide by, but going into the Accreditation Process shows you are willing to meet the State minimum standards and then exceed them.”
Hieatt also provided a few requirements of accreditation. “Some examples of the mandated standards include additional training for the use of non-lethal weapons and the use of specialized vehicles, a direct supervisory flow and chain of command, and mandating the issuance of certain equipment such as body armor and first aid kits.”
Hieatt concluded that the accreditation protects the county, and makes certain officers are prepared for their duties. “The administration of policies and the requirement that policies be in place, trained to and enforced provides insulation to the agency and county in times of law suits and helps to ensure a highly trained and ready workforce.”
The Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services lists a wide array of benefits to the accredited agency and to the community it serves. Some of these benefits generally include accountability to uphold the high standards, the most up-to-date training for officers, and a greater public confidence in the agency.
One candidate for Pulaski County Sheriff, Mike Honaker, has pledged to pursue accreditation for the Office if he is elected.
Some of Honaker’s opponents have said that accreditation is too costly, would be too much effort, and have downplayed it’s significance for Pulaski County.
Is it too costly? All of the aforementioned agencies have been able to find the funds in their budgets (which are in some cases, much smaller).
Is it too much effort? The standards for accreditation are high and DO require a lot of additional effort, but that’s the point of the process–striving for excellence.
What about its significance for Pulaski County?
If it wasn’t well worth the cost, all of the local agencies mentioned in the beginning of the article wouldn’t waste their time. Law enforcement is a very time consuming job and these men and women wouldn’t waste their time in useless endeavors.
One of the most dedicated, intelligent Sheriffs in the region, Tazewell County’s Brian Hieatt, would not bother with certification if it wasn’t extremely important to his agency and his community. The same goes for all of the other local agencies taking the time to gain accreditation.
That’s why all four Pulaski County Sheriff candidates should make accreditation a priority.
No matter how you may feel about Mike Honaker, there’s no good argument against the accreditation aspect of his plans for the office. As evidenced by other locals agencies which are already accredited, the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office needs to catch up to this standard.
Whoever ends up being elected as the next Sheriff of Pulaski County, he needs to incorporate accreditation into his plans. Our community deserves the excellence, high standards, and accountability that comes with it.