Clallam Sheriff’s Office 1 of 7 in state to get special accreditation; Jefferson plans to follow suit

PORT ANGELES — The Clallam County Sheriff’s Office has been reaccredited by the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.

Drawing on his 22 years of military service, Sheriff Bill Benedict rolled up his sleeves and rewrote department policy with the attention to detail of a former naval aviator.

Accreditation recognizes full compliance with 140 best practices and professional standards.

“I’m proud,” Benedict said. “We’re the only accredited agency on the [North Olympic] Peninsula right now.”

The Clallam County Sheriff’s Office joins six other accredited law enforcement agencies in the state.

Jefferson County

The Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office plans to begin the process next year, and Benedict said that both the Port Angeles and Sequim police departments are considering a focus on accreditation.

Benefits include state and local acknowledgment of professional competence, credibility, better administrative and operational effectiveness, and decreased susceptibility to litigation.

Benedict and Undersheriff Ron Peregrin received the award at the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs conference in Blaine on Nov. 18.

Clallam County’s previous accreditation expired in 1996. When it was originally accredited in 1988, it was the first county in the state to receive the designation.

Took two years

Two years of work, spearheaded by Benedict and administrative coordinator Chris James, went into the accreditation received in November.

The sheriff’s office reorganized its policy manual by separating policies from procedures.

“That took us about a year and half to completely rewrite that policy,” Benedict said.

“Once that was done, we have to train everyone to that new policy.”

Much of the work centered on the consolidation of evidence. The sheriff’s office now has about 6,000 items of evidence, all of which must me documented and properly stored to be used in court.

Accreditation involved a multiday inspection from two representatives on the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.

Jefferson County

Jefferson County Sheriff Tony Hernandez said his office would focus on accreditation beginning in the new year.

“We are planning to start the process next year and hoping to be accredited by 2012,” Hernandez said.

“We will actually be working with the association and with Clallam County Sheriff’s Office to help us get our accreditation.”

Hernandez said the best practices outlined in the accreditation requirements were practices his office supported.

Top priority

Benedict made accreditation one of his top priorities when he assumed office in 2007.

He said the work was similar to being in the military, where policies and procedures keep you prepared.

“With me, I guess it’s always been a part of my makeup,” he said. “You always want to aspire to be your best.”

Retired Sheriff Steve Kernes, who served from 1978 to 1990, was instrumental in drafting a policy to conform to best law enforcement practices and state law, according to the sheriff’s office, and was responsible for the department’s original accreditation in 1988.

The sheriff’s office will display the accreditation plaque in its front lobby at the Clallam County Courthouse.

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Reporter Rob Ollikainen can be reached at 360-417-3537 or at [email protected]

Reporter Erik Hidle contributed to this story.

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