Clarion University Police earns reaccreditation; process ensures equitable practices

Clarion University Police earns reaccreditation; process ensures equitable practices

Jason Hendershot

Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association has confirmed reaccreditation of Clarion University Police Department. Initially accredited in 2017, the department, led by Chief Jason Hendershot, was assessed on 135 standards.

“The process serves as a guide to improve the function of the work we do. In higher education, accreditation is widely understood as a positive acknowledgment that work is being done the right way,” Hendershot said.

Clarion University Police Department is one of eight university police departments in the state and the only department in Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education to attain the status.

“Most of the officers see the (accreditation) as getting everyone on the same page as opposed to having different officers handle work processes differently,” Hendershot said. “The new officers appreciate the ability to look at policies and see how they are supposed to perform certain functions.”

Among the accreditation standards is a mandate for departmental policy to address bias-based policing through training for new hires and for all officers during every three-year accreditation cycle, according to Hendershot. The department is required to maintain and examine statistics for indications of bias, as well as to examine demographic information for the university and the region for comparison with arrest and traffic stop statistics.

“We drill down on each individual arrest to ensure it is based on probable cause,” he said. “Through the accreditation process, we have several stages in which we review this information as an ongoing practice.”

Sgt. Dan Siegel and Cpl. Shane White are the department’s accreditation managers.

Clarion’s department includes eight sworn, full-time officers, a security guard, and three dispatchers/administrative staff.

Of the approximately 1,117 law enforcement agencies in Pennsylvania, only 126 – or 10 percent – have been accredited. Other agencies accredited by the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police include the Pennsylvania State Police, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia police, and Duquesne, Lehigh and Carnegie Mellon – where Hendershot worked for 15 years prior to Clarion –  universities.

Hendershot was appointed to the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Accreditation Commission in March, having been involved with the program for the past 10 years.

Benefits of accreditation include:

  • Establishes a credible framework for evaluating agency practices and procedures;
  • Improves relations between law enforcement and the community;
  • Increases employee input, interaction and confidence in the agency;
  • Identifies and highlights the capabilities and competence of the agency;
  • Furnishes a solid foundation for the agency to build upon for further progress;
  • Provides reliable methods to improve essential management procedures;
  • Enhances planning and innovative activities by all agency personnel;
  • Develops improved methods for providing services to the community;
  • Encourages problem-solving activities within the agency.

“This superior standard of excellence exemplifies the level of commitment we have to providing safe and comfortable surroundings for our students,” said Dr. Susanne Fenske, vice president for student affairs. “We know our students can be most successful on a campus where they feel their needs are addressed on a daily basis.  The university police play a critical role in meeting those needs by allowing the students to feel they are engaged in a secure environment.”

The accreditation status is valid for three years, during which time Clarion’s department is required to show it is maintaining compliance.

More information about the accreditation program is available at http://www.pachiefs.org/accreditation.