Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Othello PD achieves accreditation for third consecutive term

Staff Writer | June 12, 2024 3:00 AM

OTHELLO — Othello Police Chief David Rehaume announced Monday during the regular Othello City Council meeting that the OPD had achieved accreditation through the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Cheifs. The city will also seek grant funding to continue funding a second School Resource Officer.

Rehaume and Assistant Chief Aaron Garza presented on the accreditation process during the council meeting. Rehaume said the accreditation lasts for four years.

“This is something we've been working on for a long time. In fact, we have to work on it for a long time in order to get it,” he said. “We're on a three-cycle run right now. The department has never done that before, so we're pretty proud of that.”

The department has been accredited three consecutive times since 2016. 

“You learn more about your department through state accreditation than anything else,” Rehaume said. 

According to the presentation, other benefits of accreditation include increasing public confidence and credibility, broadening perspectives, improving the agency’s efficiency, ensuring fair recruitment and promotion processes, decreasing susceptibility to litigation, reducing insurance costs and more. 

“It's a comprehensive audit of the way your agency operates,” Garza said. “Accreditation has 144 different standards. Each one of those standards is searched through with a fine-tooth comb to make sure that we're meeting them.”

The assessment process is rigorous.

“I can go on and on about how thorough and in-depth this entire process is, which overall makes me so proud that we're able to get it each and every (time),” Garza said. “It's a testament to how efficient and how modernized the Othello Police Department is.”

According to the presentation, of the 260 Washington law enforcement agencies, only 77 — about 30% — are currently accredited. 

“There is something new from the Washington State Criminal Justice Training Commission, Accreditation Incentive Funds,” Rehaume said. “It's $1 million given to … incentivize those offices reaching or trying to strive for accreditation. That $1 million is split between the number of agencies that either earn accreditation or earn reaccreditation.”

Rehaume said the department isn’t yet sure how much money it will receive from that fund.

Garza then talked about next steps after gaining accreditation.

“Moving forward, we're going to continue to live accreditation,” he said. “What that means is, every single day we're going to make sure we're maintaining standards of accreditation … to make sure we're following the best practices to serve our community the best possible way we can.”

Mayor Shawn Logan commented on the accreditation. 

“To do this three consecutive opportunities in a row is really quite an accomplishment,” he said. “I'm really proud of the entire department, and I just want to thank you for putting forth this effort.”

Council discussion then moved to the OPD’s request to apply for grant funding for the fiscal year 2024 to retain the department’s second School Resource Officer. Rehaume spoke about the need for the grant.

“Currently, we do have two SROs,” he said. “They're very busy. I would like to try to keep them both active in the school district. The school district does support us going towards this grant.”

Rehaume said the second SRO was hired in 2020 after securing a grant through the Department of Justice that funded a $125,000 position over three years. The OPD then partnered with the Othello School District to fund the fourth year required by the grant, and now the department needs further grant funding to retain the position. 

The new grant would help fund the position for three years but would not cover the entire cost. OSD and the OPD would both pay a portion over the four-year commitment. 

“From me as a city council member, I would like not to see this SRO officer laid off, regardless of whether we do get the grant or not,” council member John Lallas said, “and that we somehow figure out how to put that in our budget for the next four years or longer.”

Lallas said if the city has to cover the grant portion of the total cost it would mean a total of about $70,000 a year to keep the second SRO. 

“I think we can afford that,” he said. 

Gabriel Davis may be reached at gdavis@columbiabasinherald.com.

    Othello Police Department Chief David Rehaume, right, and Assistant Chief Aaron Garza hold plaques in Spokane after achieving accreditation through the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Cheifs.