November 1, 2016
CRESTVIEW — After more than three years of intensive agency-wide effort, the Crestview Police Department became officially accredited Oct. 26 during a meeting of the Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission.
The Crestview Police Department and the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office are the only two accredited departments of the seven law enforcement agencies in the county. Crestview Police is the largest municipal police force in the county.
Police Chief Tony Taylor accepted the certification during the commission’s regional meeting in Westin on behalf of the entire department.
“When I first got appointed chief, one of my goals was accreditation,” Taylor said.
On Oct. 1, 2012, Taylor took over a police department that had recently undergone a corruption scandal that led to the termination of his predecessor, the indictment and ultimate conviction of a top operations officer, and subsequently suffered from low officer morale and public mistrust.
“There was a lot of attention needed,” Taylor said. “There was a lot of housecleaning that needed to be done, and we had to regain the public’s trust.”
One of the first steps toward accreditation was establishing new departmental procedures and policies and training police officers and administrative personnel in their requirements.
“A lot of policies were outdated,” Taylor said. “We had to get everybody—officers and citizens—used to the idea of being accredited and what it means. We had to address some of the culture that was left behind by the previous administration.”
The public education component of the process included addressing misconceptions about what accreditation encompasses—and what it costs.
“One businessman was concerned because he had heard rumors it was going to cost taxpayers $200,000 for us to become accredited,” Taylor said.
In fact, revising and updating policies and procedures cost less than $6,000, Taylor said. Maintaining and updating the guidelines will cost between $500 and $600 a year over the course of the three-year accreditation period, after which the agency will face recertification, he added.
“Most of it is a policing philosophy and living by that philosophy,” Taylor said. “We have to provide proof we’ve been living by our policies.”
As the Crestview Police Administrative Division Commander, Commander Andrew Schneider is also the department’s accreditation manager, who oversaw the process from an operational standpoint.
“I appreciate all of the hard work and dedication from everyone during this accreditation process,” Schneider said. “As a result, effective Oct. 26, 2016, the Crestview Police Department and more importantly, the officers, investigators, auxiliary and reserve officers, dispatchers, records clerks, administrative staff, volunteers and all other employees are officially members of an accredited agency.”
Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission assessors cited the Crestview Police Department’s outreach to the community and subsequent community support among factors leading to the department’s accreditation. Successfully putting the scandals of 2011-12 behind them has also enhanced the department’s stature within the law enforcement position.
Coupled with higher starting pay for new officers, the appeal of accreditation has begun attracting new recruits to the agency.
“We’ve had several people apply only to Crestview (Police),” Taylor said. “In the past you’d get out of the academy and blanket the Panhandle with applications.”
Taylor and Schneider said the agency’s officers and administrators have no intentions of resting on their laurels as they look toward reaccreditation in 2019.
“What we’re doing is holding ourselves accountable to higher standards than those expected by the community,” Taylor said. “If it (accreditation) was easy, it wouldn’t be worth doing.”