By NATHAN GREGORY
On Thursday Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Department was awarded a distinction only three other county law enforcement agencies in the state can lay claim to.
The department successfully completed a list of 123 objectives needed to earn accreditation from the Mississippi Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission.
The accreditation also means there is a high likelihood that OCSD will earn national recognition from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement when it appears before that organization’s board in March.
The only other three counties with MSLEAC accreditation are DeSoto, Lauderdale and Leake. The accreditation is effective for three years.
The distinction makes Oktibbeha County the only one in the state to have its county, city and campus law enforcement agencies state accredited.
MSLEAC conducted a full-scale, on-site evaluation of OCSD Nov. 5-7.
During that time the commission toured the department, evaluated evidence storage procedures, inspected OCSD vehicles, reviewed the department’s written policy and conducted a call-in session where county residents could voice concerns about their law enforcement.
Chief Deputy Chadd Garnett said the application to gain accreditation was set in motion in 2009 by then-Sheriff Dolph Bryan. Garnett and current Sheriff Steve Gladney have made gaining accreditation a priority since they took office in January, he said.
“When you apply for it you have three years to be accredited. We had come in at the beginning of the last year, so we had a lot of work to get done,” Garnett said. “Everybody in the department pitched in and did what we asked them and got it accomplished.”
Earning the accreditation, he said, also benefits county residents by lowering their liability insurance rate because the department has proof that it abides by all the standards set forth by MSLEAC.
Gladney said earning the accreditation reflects highly on OCSD.
“When I got elected Sheriff, one of the goals I had was to get accredited. Thanks to the dedication of our staff we made that possible,” he said. “I know the guys that worked on this put in a lot of hours. Now that we’re accredited we can show that we have standards of professionalism we go by every day. It just makes the department better.”
OCSD’s assessment from MSLEAC comes just months of Starkville Police Department’s evaluation from CALEA. SPD, which is accredited by MSLEAC and recognized by CALEA, is seeking full accreditation from CALEA, which is a level above recognition. Chief David Lindley will attend the CALEA conference in Jacksonville, Fla. this week, where he will find out if SPD has successfully earned national accreditation.