WARNER ROBINS — An assessment team has recommended national accreditation for the Houston County 911 Center.
If approved by the accrediting agency in July, the center would be among a handful in Georgia to receive the designation, officials said. This is the first time the center, which is a part of the Houston County Sheriff’s Office, has sought accreditation through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, said Houston County sheriff’s Capt. Ricky Harlowe, the center’s director.
Going through the CALEA accreditation process means that Houston County 911 is doing everything in its power to become the most professional organization that it can become, Harlowe said.
CALEA, which was founded in 1979, expanded its accreditation of law enforcement agencies to include free-standing communications centers, or those within law enforcement agencies, in 1999. No statewide accreditation for communication centers is currently offered for 911 centers, Harlowe said.
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The communications accreditation includes 218 standards in seven areas of organization: direction and supervision; human resources; recruitment, selection and promotion; training; operations; critical incidents; special operations and homeland security.
“An agency that voluntarily goes through the process is an agency that wants to provide the best service to its community,” said Maya Mitchell, a CALEA program manager.
The two-member assessment team was on site April 24-27. The team’s favorable recommendation will be reviewed by CALEA’s 21-member board of commissioners at its July conference in Las Vegas. The conference, which is open to the public, provides an opportunity for commissioners to ask questions of representatives of agencies seeking accreditation.
An accreditation is for a three-year period, Mitchell said.
Houston County sheriff’s deputy Stephanie Mercer, training and accreditation coordinator for Houston County 911, was charged with overseeing the center’s self-assessment, which was required before the on-site visit. Most of the work involved taking what the agency already was doing and putting it down on paper, she said.
“I think our dispatchers are among the best dispatchers in the state, and I think they deserve this national recognition,” Mercer said.
The four 911 centers now accredited in Georgia include Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, Cobb County 911 Communications Bureau, Covington-Newton County 911 Center and Lowndes County 911, Mitchell said. In addition to Houston County, Cherokee County E-911 and Athens-Clarke County Police Department are in the communications accreditation process, Mitchell said.
Lowndes County 911 Director Danny Weeks said CALEA accreditation has proved valuable because it required the evaluation of the all of the center’s policies and practices. Potentially weak areas were shored up in the process, Weeks said.
Another benefit of accreditation is it gives the county legal protection by demonstrating that the center is operated in a manner that has been tested in court and has been nationally accepted, he said.
Lowndes County was first accredited in 2003 and has received subsequent three-year accreditations.
“We’re really proud of it,” Weeks said. “It’s a lot work ... but we think it’s worth it.”
To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.