By Bethany Bray STAFF WRITER
The Salem News
---- — HAMILTON — The Police Department has received state accreditation, a goal Chief Russell Stevens set out to achieve when he took over the department in 2009.
It’s a lengthy, self-initiated evaluation process that involves an audit, of sorts: An outside panel of law enforcement experts has reviewed more than 300 standards in Hamilton, from facilities and equipment to policies and procedures.
Last week, the Hamilton department became the 48th in the state to receive accreditation from the Massachusetts Police Accreditation Commission.
Stevens called the achievement a milestone.
“In the world of policing, it’s a big deal,” Stevens said. “It ensures your policies are up-to-date and are being used in practice. ... There’s a lot of pride that goes with this accomplishment.”
To become accredited, an audit panel makes sure a department is meeting 319 standards, from evidence handling and emergency response planning to prisoner holding facilities and officer training.
“Proper policies translate to proper training, and lessen your exposure to liability,” Stevens said.
A handful of police departments in northeast Massachusetts are accredited, including Danvers, Peabody and Rockport.
To remain accredited, a department must meet the standards every year, Stevens said. The Hamilton police received accreditation on Oct. 18 and immediately began reviewing its policies for reaccreditation, he said.
“I’m very proud of the accomplishment of the officers here,” Stevens said. “There’s been a lot of support from each officer, the (police) union, the town manager and selectmen (through the accreditation process).”
Stevens, a former Connecticut state trooper, came to Hamilton in September 2009 and assumed the daunting task of turning around a police department reeling from scandal — a fraudulent EMT recertification scheme that affected all but a handful of the department’s 23 officers.
Bethany Bray can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.