SUNY Cortland’s University Police Department (UPD) recently joined the relatively thin ranks of police agencies in New York state to achieve a standard for effective, professional law enforcement and community service.
Police agencies that apply for accreditation must meet standards set by the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services and are assessed by the New York State Law Enforcement Accreditation Council.
From Jan. 11-13, an assessment team consisting of David Gardner, the City of Elmira’s retired deputy chief of police, and Detective Lt. Edwin Brewster of the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office, conducted a site visit of the UPD.
On March 1, the council notified the UPD that it has earned first-time accreditation. SUNY Cortland’s University Police Chief Steven Dangler, expressed his department’s sense of validation at the result.
“The department’s primary mission is the protection of the lives and property of our students, employees and visitors,” he said. “This agency has long embraced the practice of community policing and we strive to be visible, proactive and available to the campus community.”
The council primarily reviewed the operation of the UPD.
The College’s 19 full-time sworn officers with arrest powers and seven civilian staff members serve on the 191-acre main campus in the City of Cortland and branch campuses. The current student enrollment at SUNY Cortland is more than 7,000, with approximately 3,000 students residing in on-campus housing. Faculty and staff make up an additional 1,000 people who while on campus fall under the UPD’s jurisdiction.
In the course of their duties, University Police officers conduct foot, bike and vehicular patrols and operate a dispatch desk 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. When necessary, they work closely with other police agencies in Cortland County and New York state.
Gardner noted in his Jan. 27 assessment report, “…It is obvious that implementing the policies and procedures required to achieve accredited status has been taken very seriously by all the members of the Department.”
The assessment team highly recommended that the UPD be awarded accreditation status.
In Dangler’s opinion, the process provided an opportunity for his department to hone its strengths.
“Having met the Division of Criminal Justice Services accreditation standards, we have built upon our professionalism by improving our overall performance, effectiveness and efficiency,” Dangler observed. “Additionally, we are able to increase public confidence in our department and meet specific training levels.”
With the council’s endorsement, the SUNY Cortland UPD becomes one of only three police agencies among the State University of New York’s four-year or doctoral colleges to achieve the status. Two university centers, University of Buffalo and SUNY Stony Brook, are the others.
Moreover, the College joins the New York State Police and just over 120 of the 600 police agencies in the state to earn accreditation, a ratio of approximately 20 percent.
New York was the first state in the country to sponsor a law enforcement accreditation program, which provides a comprehensive blueprint for effective, professional law enforcement. Community leaders embraced the initiative from the outset, and the program was immediately endorsed by leading statewide organizations of law enforcement and elected officials.
The initiative has had a significant impact on law enforcement in a very short period of time. More than 260 agencies submitted applications to participate during the first eight years of the program's operation. Accredited agencies range in size from four full-time officers to more than 4,000 sworn personnel and extend geographically from the tip of Long Island in Suffolk County to St. Lawrence County in the north and Erie and Monroe counties in the west.
Insurance benefits, enhanced community support, and a greater overall standard of professionalism are just are few of the many tangible benefits that accredited agencies enjoy.
In 1992, a national organization, the Council of State Governments, determined that New York’s program “has dealt with a significant problem in an effective and innovative manner and has the potential to be transferred to other states.”
While patrolling the campus, SUNY Cortland University Police Officer Jennifer Olin, center, pauses to converse with two students.