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Aberdeen Police Department attains 'gold standard' in policing

Aberdeen Police Chief Henry Trabert speaks about the importance of the recent CALEA accreditation for the Aberdeen Police Department.
Aberdeen Police Chief Henry Trabert speaks about the importance of the recent CALEA accreditation for the Aberdeen Police Department. (MATT BUTTON | RECORD STAFF / Baltimore Sun)

Aberdeen residents can rest a little bit easier, knowing their police department meets a national standard of professional excellence in all areas of policing, its chief says.

The Aberdeen Police Department worked for more than three years to become certified by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, which it received last Friday during a trip to Colorado Springs, Col.

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"They know the department is held accountable, from the crossing guard to the chief. We're held accountable to the public," Chief Henry Trabert said Wednesday. "We feel that we are part of the community, not separate. Being part of the community means making them feel safe, preventing crime, solving crime. It's what we do because we're all part of the same community."

The Aberdeen Police Department became the ninth municipal department to obtain the certification, Trabert said. Only 5 percent of all police departments in the U.S. are accredited with what is called the "gold standard for policing," he said. Maryland State Police attained CALEA accreditation last year.

The accreditation is good for three years and must be renewed.

When Trabert, who has been with Aberdeen Police Department since 1986, took over as interim chief in October 2010 after Chief Randy Rudy retired, he began preparing the department for accreditation.

"It's something I always wanted to do for the department because I wanted to increase our professionalism, have a better working relationship with the community and hold all of us in the department, including myself, accountable for everything we do," said Trabert, whose interim title was removed in November 2011.

When he looked at other departments that had accreditation, "they were squared away," he said.

"They were considered one of better police agencies, from recruitment, to procedures, to how they handled themselves on the job. They were just very professional," Trabert said. "That's what I was striving for. It's a lot to strive for it, and some, for one reason or another, can't get there."

Aberdeen hired an experienced CALEA manager, Shirley Echols, first to help the department achieve accreditation and now that it has it, maintain it. She will stay on as a city employee to maintain CALEA records.

Echols was brought on in 2011 to help the department "evaluate ourselves from top to bottom," Trabert said.

The CALEA standards address six major law enforcement areas: role, responsibilities and relationships with other agencies; organization management and administration; personnel administration; law enforcement operations, operational support and traffic law enforcement; detainee and court-related services; and auxiliary and technical services.

"The bottom line is, everything we do, we had to analyze it, evaluate it, see if it met national standards and if it didn't, we had to change it to get to the standard," Trabert said.

What did they learn during the evaluation?

"We needed a lot of change. We needed to redo a lot of standards. We weren't doing anything wrong, but we found we can do it better," Trabert said. "We run a lot smoother right now. We're very efficient. I've always considered us a professional law enforcement agency, but now we have documentation to show it in what we do, everything we do."

The chief said the officers and other employees look at the department in a different way, too.

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"They find we're at a different level and they hold themselves accountable. They want to adhere to these standards. They make changes," he said. "They bought into it."

One of the biggest changes to occur is how the department recruits its officers, trying to better reflect the diversity that makes up Aberdeen.

"We look at the community makeup. We strive to get the department makeup to reflect what the community is," Trabert said.

To do that, the department has begun working with local and state colleges and partnered with the local NAACP and the Hispanic Law Enforcement Association in Baltimore

"We know nationally that's an issue, getting departments to reflect their community. It gives us better working relationship with the community to meet that standard," Trabert said. "Ferguson [Mo.] didn't reflect the community and there was a disconnect. I don't feel like we have a disconnect, and this will only strengthen our relations with the community."

In Colorado Springs, Trabert and his staff appeared for a formal interview with the CALEA commissioners, who had already reviewed an assessors' report.

"They talked about that, the things we're doing, what the evaluation said, and we were approved," he said.

The chief said he took a large group with him to Colorado Springs "because it wasn't me that got accredited, it was the whole department. It was three years of very hard work, long days, not always fun days."

Trabert wanted to take a cross section of the department, "to tell them how I appreciate their help. And a sense of pride. It wasn't the chief's award, it was the department's award. "

"I might be the head of the agency, but we all did this," he said.

Also traveling with Trabert and Echols were his deputy chief, Kirk Bane, Officer Danielle Follosco, Sgt. Shannon Persuhn, Sgt. Albert Severn and Lt. Daniel Gosnell. Aberdeen Mayor Michael E. Bennett and City Manager Douglas R. Miller accompanied them.

Trabert pointed out the police department never would have obtained the certification without the city government's support.

"They wanted this as much as I did. They're proud of their police department, they want the best police department they can have," he said. "They know what happens when you don't have a professional police department. They gave us all the support we needed."

"You don't have to be the biggest department to be the best department," he said. "Like most, we want to be the best. We consider ourselves one of the best and we consider this validation that we are up there."

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