What is CALEA?

In January 2000, the Sheriff approved a contract with the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) with the goal of bringing the Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) in line with international standards of performance. As the chief executive of one of the premier law enforcement agencies in the United States, the Sheriff believes we should take a leading role in the quest for professional excellence in law enforcement.

With the cooperation of the bureau majors and their staff, we successfully modified our policies and procedures to bring us in compliance with 480 professional standards involving law enforcement administration, operations procedure, fiscal management, human resources, training, and various support functions.

The HCSO received initial CALEA accreditation in 2002 and was awarded reaccreditation in 2005. In 2008, CALEA conferred upon the HCSO FLAGSHIP AGENCY status, which, based on past performance, acknowledges the expertise and achievements of some of the most successful CALEA accredited public safety agencies and serves as flagship examples to assist other law enforcement agencies. The HCSO was assessed once more in December of 2010, earning an award of “Advanced Reaccreditation” in 2011.

What are CALEA Standards?

When you see [CALEA Standard] in the policy, it means that section of the policy is part of the evidence we provide CALEA to prove we’re meeting their standards for law enforcement accreditation.

Many CALEA standards require multiple points of evidence, and a section of the policy is usually only one of the many pieces of evidence we provide to CALEA for a particular standard.

When you hover your mouse over a CALEA standard number, you’ll see a tool tip with the actual standard. We’ve added this for reference purposes only.

What is law enforcement accreditation all about, and what benefit does the HCSO receive from all the additional work?

Accreditation is more than just changing policies and doing paperwork. It involves a change in attitude and not accepting the status quo. It means improving performance, requiring a quality work product and supervisory accountability, and doing the best for our employees and the citizens to whom we provide service.

What does it mean to be an accredited agency?

The HCSO has policies and procedures in place that are accepted as nationally-accepted standards for the administration and operation of a professional law enforcement agency. The standards can be compared to those adhered to by accredited universities and hospitals or any other professional organization that maintains nationally-accepted standards of performance.

How did law enforcement accreditation come to be?

In the 1970s, the leaders of many professional law enforcement organizations saw a need for standardization of policies among agencies throughout the United States. The organizations involved included:

  • International Association of Chiefs of Police
  • National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives
  • National Sheriffs’ Association
  • Police Executive Research Forum

In 1979, CALEA was formed with the goal of bringing law enforcement agencies an array of nationally, and now internationally, accepted professional standards that are consistent throughout the law enforcement community.

How is law enforcement accreditation accomplished?

  • Application
  • Self-Assessment
  • Mock Assessments
  • On-Site Assessment by Commission Personnel
  • Commission Approval

During the self-assessment phase, we took a hard look at the procedures we had in place and compared them to the CALEA standards. To obtain compliance, we either modified those policies that didn’t meet the standards or established new ones. We then briefed and trained personnel prior to new policy implementation. Accreditation has the greatest impact on mid-level managers who are held accountable to this higher standard of performance.

How do we prove compliance with CALEA Standards?

  • Written directives and policies
  • Written documentation that reflects our practices comport to our policies
  • Observation of personnel and equipment by CALEA assessors during the mock and on-site assessment
  • Interview of HCSO personnel by CALEA assessors

What are the benefits of accreditation?

  • Deterrence of lawsuits
  • Greater accountability within the HCSO
  • Influence for change
  • Community confidence and respect
  • International recognition

What other Texas agencies are accredited?

Arlington PD, Burleson PD, College Station PD, Corpus Christi PD, Dallas PD, El Paso County SO, HISD PD, Harris County METRO PD, Highland Park PD, Midland PD, Plano PD, Sugar Land PD, Tyler PD, and University of Texas Medical Center PD.

The HCSO is committed to maintaining CALEA accreditation status and will continue serving the citizens of Harris County as a CALEA Flagship Agency.