Oregon Accreditation Alliance Executive Director Scott Hayes, monitor, and Kenai Police Chief David Ross, right, field questions from the Kenai City Council regarding the department’s accreditation during a council meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Oregon Accreditation Alliance Executive Director Scott Hayes, monitor, and Kenai Police Chief David Ross, right, field questions from the Kenai City Council regarding the department’s accreditation during a council meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai PD gets accredited, is 4th in Alaska to do so

The police departments in Juneau and Soldotna also have the accreditation

The Kenai Police Department last week became the second department on the Kenai Peninsula and the fourth in Alaska to be accredited with the Oregon Accreditation Alliance.

The accreditation was formally presented during the Kenai City Council’s Oct. 5 meeting by Oregon Accreditation Alliance Executive Director Scott Hayes. The alliance, formed in 2001, aims to improve the quality of law enforcement and 9-1-1 agencies in Oregon and Alaska.

“Accreditation is one step towards building community trust and the legitimacy of our profession,” Hayes told council members last week. “This is a monumental step for any agency to be evaluated by an outside entity, and have its policies and practices scrutinized.”

Kenai Police Department Lt. Ben Langham said Thursday that the path to accreditation began in 2021 in response to larger national conversations about police transparency and accountability.

“Rather than just saying and believing we have a good police department, we wanted to kind of undergo that rigorous scrutiny to ensure that we, in fact, are doing this,” Langham said. “I think this independent review is really important to us.”

The department’s policies were most recently reviewed in 2017, which Langham said demonstrated that the department was “pretty close” to where they wanted it to be. The accreditation process, he said, highlighted ways the department could improve. Event tracking and reporting and evidence management are two areas where Langham said the department has made the biggest strides.

There are 106 standards — as well as corresponding sub-standards — that need to be met in order for a department to become accredited through the Oregon Accreditation Alliance. Langham said the process analyzed all areas of KPD’s operations, from training, to evidence management, to use of force policies, to paperwork procedures.

“Accreditation is really about, do you have the policies in place to ensure that you’re doing things right? And then do you have the proof that you are, in fact, doing those things that you say that you’re doing?” Langham said.

Hayes held up the Kenai Police Department’s accreditation certificate from his end of the video chat on Wednesday; Langham said Thursday that the certificate has not come in the mail yet.

The department’s accreditation comes as crime in Kenai has declined over the last couple of years. Like the rest of Alaska, Langham said the city saw a sharp fall in all types of crimes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the city’s pre-COVID crime was non-vehicle related larceny, or retail thefts, which have dropped to one-third of what they were pre-COVID, per the department’s end of year report.

“My speculation would be, with stores being closed and people staying home, there were just less folks out in public,” Langham said.

The police departments in Juneau and Soldotna also have the accreditation and the department in Nome is in the process of becoming accredited, Langham said. The Soldotna Police Department, first accredited in 2018, was the first police station to be accredited in Alaska. Soldotna Police Chief Gene Meek confirmed Friday that the department was most recently recertified in October 2021.

Ultimately, Langham said that in addition to being an accomplishment for the station, accreditation should assure Kenai residents that the department’s way of doing things has been vetted by an outside organization.

“At the end of the day, the community can look at the accreditation process and recognize that Kenai is not operating in a silo, that are our policies and the way that we practice those policies have undergone independent and rigorous review,” Langham said. “They should know that the standard operating procedures, if you will, of the Kenai Police Department are in compliance with national standards and expectations.”

More information about the Oregon Accreditation Alliance can be found at oracall.org.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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