The Cedartown Police Department has become the first law enforcement agency in the county to earn a state certification.

The designation is not a “once and done event,” explained Officer and Certification Manager Teress Henderson. “This certification holds us to professional, progressive policing standards now and in the future. There is nothing mandatory about completion of a certification like this, this was the department’s choice to devote time and effort into becoming the best agency we can possibly be.”

The decision to become certified was a years-long process, explained Cedartown Police Chief Jamie Newsome. “The department worked on this for several years and it involved a total rewriting of our previous policies and procedures. We basically threw the old stuff in the garbage and started from scratch.”

The certification process includes 121 standards that must be met. These standards include written policies and procedures regarding police evidence, the legal process, patrolling standards, officer conduct, the grievance-discipline-appeal process, search and seizure, use of force and records management, just to name a few. “Not only do your written policies have to be lined up with the standards set forth by the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police (GACP), but your department’s actions and follow-through must reflect those policies,” Henderson explained. “With this certification, we are not only seeking to be an agency of excellence, but we are asking the state’s certification agency to hold us accountable.”

One might wonder why a police department, under so much pressure already, would elect to go through the rigorous certification process. Chief Newsome answers that questions succinctly. “When the citizens of Cedartown call on us for help, when they are asking us to provide a service, we want them to know they will receive the best, most professional, most trained, most well-equipped officer that this department can provide.”

In addition to greater public confidence, other benefits are attractive to an agency as well. Once certified, the agency confirms that their practices are consistent with progressive professional standards, operational and administrative effectiveness is increased, officers develop a deeper understanding of agency policies and practices and agencies receive a 20 percent discount on liability insurance.

The certification process got down to the nitty gritty in November, when Henderson said the department felt ready and prepared for an examination by the state board. The board is comprised of four certification standard experts. Those experts spent two full days in Cedartown, checking policies, procedures and compliance. Their observations are then sent to another statewide board that ultimately decides if a department is ready for certification.

Chief Newsome was notified in late January that the Cedartown Police Department fully met the qualifications for certification. An official presentation by Brian Harr, Chief of the Hogansville Police Department and Chair of the Certification Assessment Committee was made at the March 11 Cedartown City Commission meeting.

“While I acknowledge that the certification happened under my watch and I was a motivator, this achievement would not have happened without Teress Henderson and her day-to-day ‘get it done’ attitude,” said Newsome. “She has hundreds of hours invested in this and I couldn’t be more proud. Officer Russell Stroup assisted Teress in making final preparations and Sgt. Andre Nicholson is an excellent force in officer training standards. He ensures that trainings are in accordance with state standards and trains our entire staff.”

Newsome stated that re-assessments are required every three years in order to ensure departments are still in line with state policies and standards.

From WGAA radio