Editor's note: This story is part of Southwest Michigan Second Wave's On the Ground Battle Creek series.
Twenty-one years after its first attempt to achieve full accreditation from the Michigan Association of Police Chiefs, Battle Creek’s police department has achieved success.
During a City Commission meeting on Tuesday, March 5, Battle Creek Police Chief Jim Blocker accepted the Accreditation Award, presented by MACP Directors Neal Rossow and Bob Stevenson. The BCPD is one of only 16 law enforcement agencies throughout Michigan to achieve full accreditation.
Blocker says the process of working towards accreditation forced BCPD personnel to look at policies, procedures, and programs in a heightened and intentional manner to see how the department stacks up against current national standards and best practices.
“It just brought in a real sense of accountability, transparency, and humility,” Blocker says.
The accreditation process affirms that the BCPD voluntarily met best practice standards and complied with 105 MACP required professional standards. The two-year process involved a public comment period, as well as on-site assessments in January.
It resulted in making accommodations for heightened security at the BCPD’s new headquarters which opened in 2018. There also were new policies and procedures put into place to address situations including the proper securing of officers’ firearms and additional security for Juvenile Interview rooms.
Accreditation requires an annual report with routine updates. The BCPD’s next evaluation for accreditation renewal will be in January, 2021.
“To be one of 16 says lot of about their leadership and dedication,” says Battle Creek City Manager Rebecca Fleury. “Our Crime Lab is also going through this process. It’s a highly positive reflection on the entire city that recognizes the work of the police department and that they want to do their work in the best possible way.”
During the process, BCPD Inspector Brad Wise, who led the accreditation process, spent time modifying department policies, developing procedures, and providing evidence to the MACP assessors that the BCPD meets the required standards. These standards result in great accountability within the agency, reduced risk and liability exposure, increased community advocacy, and more confidence in the agency’s ability to operate efficiently and respond to community needs.
Although the designation reflects well for the BCPD, Blocker says it won’t be an excuse or crutch when something goes wrong.
“It does not relieve us when things go poorly,” he says.
Five or six years prior to Blocker’s installation as Chief, the department was going through some internal struggles that involved poor choices and cases of officers involved in low crime or misdemeanors such as drunk driving, bar fights, and domestic violence. Blocker says the response to these incidences wasn’t as robust as it could have been and the department wasn’t holding itself to a higher standard.
“One of the things that came out of that internal turmoil is that we kind of lost our vision five or six years ago,” Blocker says. “Poor decisions were being made by officers,” Blocker says. “That led to a reputational tarnish for the community and the city. It reminded the community and the city that a third-party group has to come in. Although the chief tells you that you’re doing a good job, the reality is it has to be validated.”