Farmville Police Dept. Goes Far Beyond 'Arrested Development'

Published 2:38 pm Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Farmville Police Department's perfect score in winning its first-ever accreditation shows the department is about a lot more than arresting people.

There are 187 standards worth a total of 713 points in the Virginia Law Enforcement Professional Standards Commission (VLEPSC) accreditation process, and they cover everything from community outreach to fiscal responsibility and all things in between.

The department and its officers got all things, and everything in between, 100 percent right.

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The three-year journey to climb the mountaintop of accreditation was a long one that covered much ground. Approximately four years ago, Farmville's Town Council decided to have an independent assessment done of the department, hiring retired Chapel Hill, North Carolina Police Chief Gregg E. Jarvies to undertake that review, which was performed prior to the Town's appointment of Doug Mooney as police chief.

Jarvies was critical of the department in several areas, though praising the good-intentions and best efforts of the department's personnel, top to bottom. There is no need to rehash that entire 30-page report. Jarvies' conclusion can be summed up by saying he believed the department needed more direction and community-oriented policing.

The assessment, made public in May of 2009, is inherently relevant because it provides context and greater understanding and appreciation of the department's accreditation success, which is perhaps why Town Manager Gerald Spates mentioned the assessment during the accreditation ceremony, and why Chief Mooney addressed the assessment in an interview with us.

Four years ago, prophetically, Spates expressed the Town's belief that Jarvies' report would serve as a springboard to “improve the department and to make necessary changes to make the organization one the community will be proud of in the future.”

The future is now.

The push for accreditation began immediately after the appointment of Mooney as chief. There are formal policies, guidelines, a mission statement, a statement of values, and accountability. Department personnel know the goals they are pursuing as a law enforcement team, why those goals have been established and how to achieve them.

And there is a ton of community outreach, whether through the Neighborhood Watch program, or National Night Out, the Police Explorers program for youths, or the Citizen's Police Academy begun this spring for residents to get an officers'-eye view of law enforcement, the latter three among the programs begun under the aegis of Chief Mooney, who deserves tremendous credit for his consistent on-theme leadership. Credit is also deserved in equal measure by the police department's officers for their own consistency and commitment to meeting the highest standards of law enforcement in the Commonwealth.

There are more than 400 law enforcement agencies in Virginia. Only 25 percent of them are accredited. Just 84 of them. When Gary Dillon, the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services VLEPSC Program Manager, presented the accreditation certificate to Chief Mooney during Town Council's meeting last week he noted that earning the distinction is “one of the only means by which citizens and government leaders like yourselves can be assured that the agency is maintaining the high performance mark to which the community has a right.”

The Town of Farmville, officials and residents alike, have that assurance by overflowing measure. Accreditation is not something a police department can luck out on or luck into. Earning accreditation is a total team effort by the complete roster. Nobody knows that better than Chief Mooney, and the officers on his team know it just as well.

“Everybody is responsible for carrying their share and you can't fudge it, you can't fake it, and with that many standards and points of compliance you can't pretend that you're doing it,” the police chief told us. “You have to show that you're doing it. And you need to have the support of all of the officers and the buy-in of all of the officers.”

The support and buy-in have been total.

Dillon rightly told Town Council that the accreditation was “a testament to good leadership (by Chief Mooney), a testament to support from this council, the town manager and every officer in this police department doing their job. It's one thing to have a policy manual but it means absolutely nothing if you don't follow it.”

To be accredited, a police department must have everything in its policy manual and everything must be followed. To the letter. No fudging, no faking, no pretense.

The Farmville Police Department is such a department and those who live or work here, and those who visit Farmville, can take meaningful comfort in knowing that public safety is in such hands as these.