Silverthorne Police Department awarded accreditation
Process ensures policies are up to date and officers are properly trained
After years of updating policies and practices to ensure it was meeting the highest standards, the Silverthorne Police Department received an accreditation from the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police and the County Sheriffs of Colorado this month.
The honor is meant to serve as a reminder to the community that the department is dedicated to improving the organization in the face of a rapidly changing landscape for police across the country.
“Obviously, with some of the conversations going on with policing, I think it reaffirms to our community that we are operating at or exceeding the accepted standards,” Silverthorne Police Chief John Minor said. “… They’re not easy to achieve. It safeguards the integrity of our organization through having professional standards that you’re exceeding, and it’s a reassurance to our community that we take our profession seriously, and we’re really trying our best to meet their expectations.”
The effort to receive the accreditation took place intermittently over the past two years, and the achievement came primarily on the back of Sgt. Rachel Dunaway, who spearheaded the effort.
Attaining an accreditation isn’t an easy feat. Of the approximately 323 law enforcement agencies in Colorado, only 38 have an accreditation, according to Silverthorne. The Silverthorne Police Department is the only law enforcement agency in Summit County to hold the accreditation.
There are a total of 214 standards that police departments have to meet to qualify for consideration. A Professional Standards Committee made up of members of the Colorado Association of Chiefs of Police and the County Sheriffs of Colorado handles the accreditation process. Silverthorne’s accreditation was reviewed by Federal Heights Police Department Chief Don Vallero and retired Frederick Police Department Chief Gary Barbour.
Minor said the process could be grueling at times. The department was required to show that its policies were up to date with the latest case law and ever-changing state laws, and that officers within the department could show a widespread understanding of the laws. Additionally, the committee reviewed the department’s code of ethics and performed on-site inspections to ensure the department’s evidence room, vehicles and other equipment and facilities were up to snuff.
“It goes on and on and on,” Minor said. “… You get a standard, and then you have to look and find where our policy meets that standard. And if it doesn’t meet that standard, you have to rewrite that policy, you have to retrain officers on that policy, and, in our case, we test them on that policy. You can imagine doing that 214 times.”
Minor said most of the department’s policies were already up to date but that the accreditation process allowed the organization to double check and make tweaks where necessary. For example, after the passage of the Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity bill last year, the department eliminated the use of lateral vascular neck restraints — essentially compressing the side of an offender’s neck — which the department previously allowed in deadly force situations.
The department previously had earned an accreditation but let it lapse.
The new accreditation will last for five years until the department will be reassessed by the committee. And while not easy, Minor said achieving the honor was an important step for the department and one of his biggest goals since he took over at the organization in 2016. Now, as he begins to think about his eventual retirement — still a few years off — he voiced that the accreditation made him feel more comfortable that the department would be left in a good spot when he leaves.
“It’s huge,” Minor said. “I’m coming to the end of my career. There’s no secret about that. I’ve been doing this for 31 years, and it’s my job now to make sure that the Silverthorne Police Department is ready for when I leave. It’s in a good position. We went through a strategic planning process in 2017, and part of that involved becoming reaccredited, along with other goals. And now we’re talking about what are the next steps for the Silverthorne Police Department. … It was our goal to meet the highest standards we could. I’m proud of this organization. I’m proud of Rachel. This was a big lift for us, one of the hardest earned things we’ve done.”
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