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It’s a first for NJIT’s Department of Public Safety. Following a 17-month-long process that required an extensive internal review of standard operating procedures and a comprehensive on-campus assessment by the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police (NJSACOP), the department received NJSACOP accreditation for professional excellence in law enforcement.

The achievement, described by NJIT Police Chief Joseph Marswillo as “undoubtedly the greatest accomplishment in our department’s history,” was recognized at Public Safety’s annual swearing-in ceremony July 12 in the Campus Center Atrium. There, before send-offs to retiring officers, the swearing-in of new and promoted officers, and the introduction of new recruits, NJSACOP Accreditation Program Manager Harry J. Delgado presented the department with its official certification of accreditation.

NJIT’s Department of Public Safety is “one of the best police departments in New Jersey” and “arguably the nation,” said Delgado. In fact, of all the NJSACOP-accredited police agencies in the state, Public Safety is in the 1 percent that completed their first on-site assessment of the accreditation process without any noted deficiencies.

Andrew Christ, vice president for real estate development and capital operations at NJIT, pointed out that the stellar work of the department led to a 23 percent reduction in on-campus crime in the first six months of 2017. Among the new tools and procedures resulting from the accreditation process — which solicited feedback from the university and Newark communities — are a certified 9-1-1 public safety system at NJIT staffed with professionally trained dispatchers and the adoption of body-worn cameras for every NJIT public safety officer.

Accepting the NJSACOP accreditation certificate are (from left) Andrew Christ, VP, real estate development and capital operations; Joel S. Bloom, president; Joseph Marswillo, NJIT police chief; Lt. Mike Villani; Harry J. Delgado, NJSACOP.

Here, Chief Marswillo and Lieutenant Mike Villani, who served as accreditation manager, discuss the standards for accreditation, the success of the assessment and the impact the accreditation will have on safety at NJIT.

Do other states have law enforcement accreditation?

Mike Villani: There is a national accreditation, which is the CALEA [Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies] association. By gaining the NJSACOP accreditation, we are now recognized by the national association as well. The national accreditation touches on so many areas, but some of those areas aren’t applicable to the State of New Jersey. NJSACOP created a subset of those standards that touch on the major critical areas, but also are geared for New Jersey law enforcement by attorney general guidelines.

NJSACOP has 105 standards with which NJIT must comply. Can you provide some examples?

MV: One of the standards calls for a tracking system so that every five years officers issued body armor have that armor replaced. We developed a system that can track body armor distribution and make sure that two months before an officer’s vest is set to expire there is a trigger in place to notify me to order new body armor accordingly.

One standard applicable to New Jersey is training mandated by the New Jersey attorney general guidelines. Some of this training is use-of-force training that has to be given, minimally, twice a year to officers. We have to prove through training records that officers have been given this training. Through Power-DMS [a cloud-based filing and reporting system], we’re able to do this relatively easily.

Joseph Marswillo: Power-DMS has transformed our entire training process. We’ve been able to devise curriculums and lay them into Power-DMS and make sure everyone is meeting curriculums based on their specialized areas. Like Mike said, the tracking is outstanding. We have sound documentation.       

How did the NJSACOP assessment go? What comments did you receive from the NJIT and Newark communities?

MV: It was a good day. The assessment team told us that they typically don’t get many calls during the call-in session and we had six calls I believe, which from their experience was an extremely high number. But every single call that we received was praising our agency for various interactions that the public had with us.

Accreditation is for three years. What must NJIT do to prepare for renewal?

JM: Every division head will have to be aware of setting up the documentation to be ready for three years from now.

MV: We’ll have to go through the same process as we did at the beginning, the only difference being we won’t have to build our standard operating procedures.

How will this accreditation affect campus safety?

JM: It gave us the opportunity to do a very thorough self-analysis, to put ourselves under a microscope and identify what areas were in need of improvement. The whole process drove the operational changes that we needed to meet the standards and pushed us to a higher performance level.

MV: It also opened the door for new safety initiatives. The 9-1-1 system allows a better level of service to be delivered. You’re going to get more trained officers because of the training requirements that we’re now meeting. Now the training is exponentially greater. This returns great service to the community as well. Another component is that liabilities are cut down because we’re following these prescribed ‘best practices’ by an organization like NJSACOP. So we’re basically ensuring that our department is following the best possible protocols.