RHODE ISLAND — The Rhode Island Police Accreditation Commission (RIPAC) is a department-initiated process by which police departments in Rhode Island voluntarily strive to meet and maintain a series of professional standards.
Each month, RIPAC will highlight a different accredited department through its Agency Spotlight series. For September, the highlighted department is the Johnston Police Department.
Briefly describe the benefits of accreditation for your agency:
Accreditation is the investment by an organization in the voluntary external review of their operational policies and procedures based on industry standard best practices. Within that definition are the primary benefits to our organization and, by virtue, our community.
The commitment on behalf of the agency to voluntarily invite such a rigorous review highlights the organization’s commitment to transparency, feedback and accountability. The investment of such resources by the town’s governing members in this process highlights their commitment to instilling confidence in the community’s police service. The incorporation of a neutral, unaffiliated, and truly external review of the organization serves to bolster the examination process, and provides standing and rigor for the Commission’s findings.
Lastly, the alignment of the department’s operational policies with nationally recognized best practices, which are vetted by the leading law enforcement organizations in the country (such as the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), the National Sheriffs’ Association (NSA), and the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF)) affirms the structural integrity and efficacy of the organization’s function within the field of law enforcement.
Was there anything about your agency’s accreditation process that stands out?
One thing that stood out when we embarked on this journey back in 2014 was that we were already operating in accordance with the majority of recognized best practices. Of course, there were gaps that needed to be filled, and we continue to strive for heightened service delivery today and into the future, but during our self-assessment phase, we didn’t encounter anything that was believed to be insurmountable for the organization to come into compliance with. I think that’s a credit to the close-knit community of Rhode Island law enforcement and the collegial environment created between the Rhode Island Police Accreditation Commission, the Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association, and the individual departments as a whole. That’s also a credit to the officers from the agency, led by former Johnston Police Chief Richard S. Tamburini, who established a functional and effective culture over 25 years of policy development, training and supervision.
Have there been any programs you’ve put in place since your accreditation that you would like to promote?
We are extremely proud of our community engagement with programs and partnerships that have evolved throughout our journey with accreditation, such as our Police Explorers Post, our numerous events with local senior citizens, such as our holiday gatherings, summer Walk with a Cop series, the involvement with the National Night Out, in addition to town sponsored events such as the Apple Fest, Spooky Walk, our Adopt-a-School Program, Community Surveillance Camera Registration Program, and the most recent installment of our Citizens Police Academy.
We are also very proud of the collaborative ventures we have engaged in with our International Brotherhood of Police Officer members over the last several years, such as the Special Olympics Torch Run; Kids, Cops and Classrooms; and Kids, Cops and Christmas statewide initiatives, and our newly launched 2020 Patch Fundraiser Initiative where officers wear uniquely styled agency patches and sell them to benefit associated charities such as the Autism Project of RI, the Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.), breast cancer associated charities and Operation: Stand Down servicing local veterans with a food pantry and other necessary services within our town.
What are some of the lessons your agency (or individual officers) have learned as a result of accreditation?
Our officers have learned that the accreditation process is certainly not an easy task, but also that their efforts are part of a larger system that invokes pride and establishes credibility in what they do. When you open your agency for external review, there is a vulnerability that is overcome and the resulting sentiment is a feeling of validation for your efforts; that the hard work officers exhibit every day are being realized. There becomes an elevated standard for organizational culture that has been recognized and appreciated by the administration which is undeniable.
How has your community reacted to your efforts?
The outpouring of local support during these difficult times has been overwhelming and greatly appreciated. When you look at outcomes of assessment, sometimes community support is a difficult metric to quantify. In times like these, and even before the events of 2020, the expressions of appreciation and displays of public support have been nothing short of remarkable. We believe such respect and appreciation from our community is a derivative of the accreditation process and effective policing services.
Comment from community stakeholder:
“As a firefighter for 22 years, I know firsthand the importance of first responders and the role they play in keeping a community safe. The Town of Johnston and the Johnston Police Department have a long history of working well together, and personally I am proud of the JPD’s work to achieve accreditation. In a time when many people across the country view law enforcement in a negative light, the Johnston community appreciates and supports its police and will continue to do so.” – Johnston Mayor Joseph M. Polisena