CALEA reps hear mostly good news about Bristol police

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Being an accredited police department isn't easy. In fact it's tedious.

But that doesn't deter any of the 40 law enforcement officers, or 12 civilians employed by the Bristol Police Department. Holding a national accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc., (CALEA), is a top-notch nod, said Chief Josue Canario

The department's review process is nearly complete and by November, Chief Canario said they'll be notified if they've passed or failed.

"It's looking good so far," he said. "And I'm really confident of the outcome."

This is the second time the department has been up for reaccreditation, and if awarded, will make three consecutive distinctions for the department.

"What separates (the Bristol Police Department) from other departments are the standards we are held to being a CALEA department," said Sgt. Ricardo Mourato who has been assigned to oversee the reaccreditation process. Sgt. Mourato and Officer John Nappi were tasked with compiling reports, policies and records created or amended over the past three years. The two worked side by side over the past six months leading up to the reaccreditation, tucked away in a small room jam-packed with tall filing cabinets, sticky notes, highlighted papers and two over-sized dry erase boards notating all 482 of CALEA's standards and the years the department was compliant. When not in "reaccreditation mode," Sgt. Mourato and Officer Nappi resume their regular duties on patrol.

"When we first started doing this (in 2007), we noticed a lot of policies were outdated, some collecting dust," Sgt. Mourato said. "We had one policy that talked about how long sideburns could be.

"By participating in this process, it forces us to be updated and familiar with our own policies, which help to prevent mistakes."

Some standards include the way an officer handcuffs an individual, or recommending that an officer secure their weapon before interviewing a suspect.

"It might sound like common sense, but these standards originated out of an actual event," Sgt. Mourato said.

Bristol police officers also undergo monthly trainings, totaling four hours, which is all unpaid.

The department's participation with CALEA is completely voluntary; there are no additional monies awarded for retaining the distinction. Regardless, Chief Canario said, the benefit of being an accredited department shows in the overall reduction in liability for the department and Town of Bristol.

"This is not something that a lot of departments are able to participate in," Chief Canario said, "because it does take time and officers away from their regular duty. However, conforming to CALEA's standards are a high priority for this police department. It contributes to the overall safety of the public and trust in the police."

Representatives from CALEA fielded public comment on the police department’s performance Monday, to aid in their decision-making.  Callers were able to phone-in comments anonymously earlier in the afternoon, while others opted to attend a public information session held later that evening at town hall.

CALEA representatives mostly heard praise from peers in law enforcement and colleagues within the school department, local and state government.

“So far all of the feedback we’ve received has been positive,” said CALEA representative Deputy Chief Patricia Garrison of the Charleston County Sheriff's Department in South Carolina. Lt. Andy Spiess of the Virginia Beach Police Department in Va., is the other CALEA representative.

Among the handful of those who spoke about the department Monday department were fellow police officers from Smithfield and Tiverton police departments, Roger Williams University official Peter Wilbur and its director of public safety Steven Melaragno. Speaking on behalf of the Bristol Warren School District were Superintendent Melinda Thies and Guiteras School Principal Sonya Whipp.

“When I ask for support they deliver for us,” Ms. Thies said. “I sleep better at night knowing I can pick up that phone any time.”

St. Elizabeth’s parish pastor Rev. Richard Narciso, also offered words of support to the department.

Rev. Narciso recalled one event when police handled an intoxicated intruder who would not leave the church.

“The officer was gentle,” he said, “and treated the man with dignity and respect.”

For more information regarding the commission, call 800-368-3757.

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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.