Airport Police Value Accreditation Status
by Bill Reardon
Chief of Police
Indianapolis (IN) Airport Police Department
The Indianapolis Airport Police Department made a decision to raise its expectations, work product, and level of professionalism. The avenue chosen to help us accomplish this was through the CALEA® Law Enforcement Accreditation Program. We began our self-assessment in early 2009, pursuing what is now considered advanced accreditation. It was a challenging task to change the culture and mindset of officers toward a more accountable, reputable way of policing. It’s safe to say that all levels of an organization must be on board and willing to change in order for such a transformation to occur.
After a year or two of writing, formatting, and organizing a new system of written directives, our department began to take shape around the newly formulated policies in adherence to CALEA’s standards of excellence. As processes such as arrest procedures and performance management measures began to streamline, officers began to notice a change in the efficiency of the department. They were encouraged to bring about change and assisted in shifting the way in which the department operates. Empowering patrol officers to affect change in something like policy making, created employee “ownership” of accreditation and a greater acceptance of the necessary changes needed to accomplish such a task.
After an unexpected setback caused us to cancel our initial on-site assessment and request an extension in 2012, it proved to be the motivation our officers needed to truly understand and respect the value accreditation offers to each department in very distinctly different ways. The CALEA staff was helpful in determining what our next steps should be, and after regrouping, our agency determined that the Tier 1 Accreditation option best suited our needs and allowed our agency to maintain its current identity and culture with very few major adjustments. In the spring of 2013, our agency scheduled its second “initial” on-site assessment, which resulted in a more positive outcome with only one Applied Discretion being issued by the CALEA assessors. This was a dramatic change from the previous year’s disappointment and was justification of our hard work and commitment to this process. We were awarded CALEA Accreditation in August 2013.
I think it’s important to recognize that failure is a much better teacher than success, and that value comes from achieving things for which you have struggled. The accreditation process has certainly taught this lesson to our department, resulting in a much better appreciation for those agencies that have achieved accredited status and those who have not. The dedication to the accreditation program and its process has significantly altered the way our agency conducts business with citizens, as well as its own personnel. Being in compliance with standards allows the department to be more visible and transparent to the community it serves, and look for ways to be more efficient and effective in performing our functions, all while continuing to provide high level law enforcement services. The chance to have an outside, independent review of our department’s inner workings provided the alteration, confirmation, and validation that the Indianapolis Airport Police needed in order to continue to cultivate professionalism and success.
An example of our push to be better is the three-tiered approach for active shooter education that we developed. We have all seen the countless events that have led law enforcement to change its way of thinking and take a proactive, assertive role in addressing shooting incidents. In a large complex like the Indianapolis International Airport terminal that can house thousands of people at any given time, our department felt that active shooter training for all airport personnel, including employees of airlines, concessionaires, and vendors, could be a vital link to our department’s success in terminating an active shooter incident as safely as possible.
In 2013, our agency provided the “Run, Hide, and Fight” active shooter training program to over 400 employees at the Indianapolis International Airport, hoping that it would get them thinking about their role and response to the possibility of an active shooter incident, just as we do as law enforcement officers. We have assisted employees in developing a plan to proceed to safe locations and to help other customers, passengers, and citizens to take cover until assistance arrives. This training was very eye-opening and thought provoking for those who never considered the possibility of such an occurrence. The fact that we have educated and prepared those who could be exposed to violence may be the difference between panic and a safe escape.
Focusing on the public, its needs, and customer service helped the Indianapolis International Airport be selected as the number one airport in North America by the Airports Council International (ACI) and it was awarded the prestigious Airport Service Quality (ASQ) award for performance excellence. Members of the Indianapolis Airport Police Department played an integral part in earning this achievement by demonstrating professionalism during interactions and going beyond the expected performance, just as you would expect from a CALEA Accredited agency.