For the first time in the history of Desoto County’s Sheriff’s Department, it has been awarded both state and national accreditation. The department received state accreditation in November 2011, but the certificate from CALEA (The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies) was just announced. This accreditation is a process that can take up to 36 months to complete, and it involves a thorough examination of various aspects of the department’s “day to day” operations such as: policies and procedures relating to arrests, use of force, personnel decisions, and hiring and retention, among other areas.
As a citizen of Desoto County and as an attorney that routinely represents individuals that have been subjected to unlawful and excessive force by law enforcement/governmental agencies, it is my opinion that all of these areas of accreditation are important to the running of a department. Too often departments fail to enact and enforce adequate policies and procedures–thereby leaving important decisions as to how to handle a situation in the complete discretion of the officer facing that situation. This ultimately leads to inconsistent action on the part of the agency and oftentimes inappropriate action on the part of the officer. A perfect example of this is the topic of “use of force”. If there are not guidelines (or if the guidelines are inadequate) relating to what is an appropriate use of force under what circumstances, a jailor who is being verbally challenged by an inmate, may result to physical force, when another jailor that is more seasoned may respond differently. The manner in which this situation is handled can mean the difference in whether a detainee is seriously injured while in the custody of the jail vs. safely housed pending a criminal hearing.
Finally, policies relating to the hiring and firing of department employees can make a big difference in how the department is viewed the public and how the detainees in county jails are treated. If jailors with known episodes of anger or violence are hired, retained, and allowed to work in this environment, widespread abuse of inmates often results. If an agency is quick to identify “bad jailors” and fire them, not only is the department more secure from a legal liability stance, but the citizens regain confidence in the department and its policy makers.
Undertaking steps to clean up a department and run an accredited agency does not mean that civil rights violations will not occur. It hopefully means that they will not occur as often. If you or a loved one has been subjected to physical abuse while in jail, or have had your civil rights violated by law enforcement/governmental agency, please feel free to contact us. We will be more than happy to spend time discussing the matter with you and work hard to not only obtain justice on your behalf, but also to encourage change within the department that allows/fosters unlawful activity within its walls.