UWF Police Department earns accreditation
For the first time since its inception, the University of West Florida Police Department has earned accreditation with the state.
“Now the real work begins," said Marc Cossich, the chief of police at UWF. “It’s harder to keep it than it is to get it.”
The accreditation is from Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation and it's valid for three years. UWF is now one of almost a dozen university police forces in the state that have applied for and achieved accreditation. The process is voluntary and this is the first time the UWF Police Department has ever applied.
“We require a higher standard of professionalism in law enforcement, and that’s what accreditation shows in my opinion,” said Cossich. “There’s so many policies that we have to abide by. We’re at a higher standard. It was a long process. This didn’t happen overnight, it took several years to make this happen. But, again, it shows our commitment to excellence.”
A team of assessors from the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation visited UWF last November to examine all aspects of the department’s policies and procedures, management, operations and support services. “(There were) roughly 280 standards that we had to comply (with)” said Sabra Cupples, the UWF Police Department accreditation manager. “It would not have been possible without all of our officers and all of our staff here. Everybody is on board with it and everything fell into place.”
Each of those 280 plus standards have specific bullet points that need to be met to achieve accreditation. The department built a computer program that had to be kept that proved they were meeting the standards set by the commission. Over the next three years, that system must be kept in order to be reaccredited.
“The accreditation manager’s job is to police the police,” said Cupples. “So that’s what I do every day to make sure that we show best practices.”
Other than being a point of pride, achieving accreditation opens many doors to improving and expanding the services of the department.
“It’s a lot easier for us to get grants,” said Chief Cossich. “It’s a lot easier for us to get certain things that you couldn’t without (accreditation). If you have three or four agencies applying for a grant or applying for something and they’re all equal but we’re accredited, we’ll have a better shot at getting it.”
The University of West Florida Police Department has over two dozen people on its staff including patrol officers, administrators and support staff.