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Accreditation is a progressive and time-proven way of helping institutions evaluate and improve their overall performance. The key to any successful accreditation system lies in the consensus of published standards containing a clear statement of professional objectives.
The practice of accrediting institutions began in this country more than 200 years ago when New York State established a State Board of Regents to charter colleges and private academies. The concept has since been successfully applied in fields as diverse as corrections and health care services.
The move to accredit law enforcement agencies began in 1979 when the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA®) was established by the following four major law enforcement membership organizations.
CALEA® established the first body of professional standards by which a law enforcement agency could be evaluated. They also developed an administrative process by which an agency could demonstrate its compliance with their standards and achieve law enforcement accreditation. CALEA® accredited its first agency in 1984.
In the years that followed, many agencies successfully completed the accreditation process. Unfortunately, many others with a desire to achieve and demonstrate professional excellence were stymied by the cost and administrative burden associated with pursuing accreditation at a national level. This, coupled with an interest in programs that were tailored to meet the specific needs of law enforcement agencies operating within various regions of the country, led many states to develop their own systems. In 1995, Wisconsin joined the ranks of states developing accreditation programs designed to embrace best practices emerging throughout the country, while addressing circumstances unique to policing in our state.
On June 02, 1995, the Accreditation Committee of the Wisconsin Chiefs’ of Police Association approved the initial draft of Standards, First Edition, at a meeting in Fond du Lac. This approval was followed by a similar endorsement by the Wisconsin Police Leadership Foundation on August 14, 1995. Finally, the standards were again reviewed, revised and ultimately adopted by the Governing Board of the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Accreditation Group as WILEAG Standards, First Edition, on December 3, 1996. Two years later, WILEAG would accredit its first agencies.
In 2000, the WILEAG Governing Board undertook its first review of the original standards. The goal of this process was to ensure the standards remained consistent with evolving law enforcement professional doctrine on a national level. The result of this review was the adoption of the WILEAG Standards, Second Edition on March 14, 2001.
Over the next several years, the Governing Board began to recognize the increasing value of tailoring the WILEAG accreditation program to the policing environment within the state. That recognition led to another review process, initiated in 2007, which focused extensively on the unique nature of policing in Wisconsin. During this review, an effort was made to incorporate the various statutory mandates and administrative rules that significantly impact policing in the state. An additional goal of that process was to simplify and clarify standard language and format. That process resulted in the WILEAG Standards, Third Edition, which became effective October 1, 2008.
While the introduction of the Third Edition was a significant accomplishment, the Governing Board did not stop there. At that time, they also made a commitment that the accreditation process would continue to evolve; thereby ensuring the program would always remain focused on achieving professional law enforcement excellence in the State of Wisconsin. That commitment involves an ongoing review of national trends in the field, new legislation that impacts policing and new administrative rules that require our attention. The process resulted in the adoption of the WILEAG Standards, Fourth Edition in 2013, and now, in 2016, it has led to the introduction of the WILEAG Standards, Fifth Edition. It is our hope that this latest offering of the standards manual will ensure that accredited agencies in the State of Wisconsin are embracing the best policing practices emerging throughout the country, while also addressing those issues unique to policing in Wisconsin.
WILEAG remains committed to providing a meaningful and affordable accreditation process to the law enforcement agencies of Wisconsin. Toward that end, we look forward to addressing the professional needs of Wisconsin police and sheriffs’ departments for many years to come.
For the Governing Board,
President, Wisconsin Law Enforcement Accreditation Group