The Lehigh University Police Department was accredited as a “premier agency” by the Pennsylvania Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission.
Only 2% of agencies in the state earned this status, which requires re-accreditation at least five times.
Of Pennsylvania’s 1,100 agencies, 147 are generally accredited.
The Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association introduced the Pennsylvania Law Enforcement Accreditation Program in 2001. It was designed by professional law enforcement executives to provide a plan for the professional development of law enforcement agencies within the Commonwealth.
Since then, over 375 agencies have enrolled and 147 agencies maintain accreditation. Accreditation in the United States is voluntary, but it is a proven way of helping institutions evaluate their overall performance.
Ed Shupp, former chief of police at Lehigh, started the accreditation process for LUPD in 2003.
Lehigh first became accredited in 2007 and was one of the only colleges in Pennsylvania to have their police department accredited. The re-accreditation process happens every three years. To get re-accredited, an agency must meet 125 standards and 240 sub-standards.
To determine if an agency gets reaccredited, the Pennsylvania Chief of Police Assessment Team puts the agency through a full assessment. The team writes a report that goes before the commission. The team leader goes to the commission meeting and presents the report. Finally, a vote is taken on whether to vote for accreditation or not.
Jason Schiffer, LUPD chief of police, said Lehigh’s police department is honored to have received this award.
“I am proud to be associated with this agency that continuously demonstrates a desire to improve our professionalism in everything that we do,” Schiffer said. “Anytime someone is part of an organization that gets recognition for their professionalism, there is a sense of internal pride.”
LUPD has worked on receiving this award for many years.
“Captain Richard McGarr has been working very hard within the last 15 years to keep the department within the accreditation standards,” said Elizabeth Miller Coleman, business manager and employment coordinator for LUPD.
According to the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police website, there are many benefits to becoming accredited. These include establishing a credible framework for evaluating agency practices, reducing exposure to lawsuits, improving community relations, increasing employee input and identifying the capabilities of the agency.
James Adams, the accreditation program coordinator of the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association said agencies that get accredited have solid policies and make sure the officers adhere to those policies.
“Accreditation is a good first step to providing ethical and professional police services to the communities they serve,” Adams said.
Schiffer said LUPD will continue to work on areas to improve the department, such as communicating to the Lehigh community what LUPD is doing as a department.
The future of the department will continue with the accreditation process and continue to strive for the accreditation standards.
“We want to continue demonstrating our commitment to (being) a professional police department,” Schiffer said. “We wouldn’t be able to achieve this goal without the support of the entire Lehigh community.”