By REID TUCKER
The DeFuniak Springs City Council and City Marshal Mark Weeks discussed the steps needed for the police department to pursue state and national accreditation.
The chief informed the board at its regularly scheduled meeting on Nov. 26 that the process of meeting the standards needed for accreditation is both lengthy and in some cases expensive. The program requires training an employee, usually one holding the rank of captain or higher, to handle the task full-time and accreditation may also mean incurring renovations to the PD headquarters itself in order to meet state and national standards. However, Weeks said the long-term benefits of becoming accredited outweighed the time and money involved.
“If you’ve ever heard of a college being accredited, it’s basically the same thing for a law enforcement agency,” he said. “If you want to go to college, you want to pick one that’s accredited, because it means it’s doing something right. Your degree would probably mean more in the workforce coming from an accredited university than a non-accredited one…. [Accreditation] gives us some guidelines to help us attract some better people.”
The whole accreditation process is incredibly complex, comprehensive and time-consuming, Weeks said, and regulations include such things as even the color of file folders or the size of certain doorframes at police headquarters. Nevertheless, accreditation is something the DFSPD had already begun looking into since the time when Sheriff Mike Adkinson served as police chief. Other local law enforcement agencies including the Walton County Sheriff’s Office, the Walton County Jail and the Crestview Police Department all earned accredited status in recent years, though Weeks reiterated that the process did indeed take years.
Weeks, at the Council’s request, will present a more detailed report and progress assessments on the accreditation process in sixth months’ time if not sooner.
Unanimous votes were given in support of an ordinance granting ad valorem tax exemption for Professional Products, Inc., in accordance with a referendum passed by the county’s voters at the November general election. The referendum enables new or expanding businesses to receive such an exemption if the expansion provides jobs to a substantial number of new employees. The exemption, effective upon approval by the Council, will stand for a period of 10 years.
Additionally, the Council approved the purchase of a portable refueling trailer for the DeFuniak Springs Municipal Airport at a cost of $17,900. The city will go out for bids on financing, with staff reporting back to the Council in January.
The Council moved swiftly through the rest of the agenda, approving such items as the hiring of a new Public Works Department employee and the termination of another, the cancellation of the regularly scheduled meeting on Dec. 24. The board members also heard updates from City Manager Sara Bowers regarding the completion of the third phase of the water line replacement project, the upcoming Florida League of Cities annual meeting (set for Dec. 6 at the Chautauqua Hall of Brotherhood).
Bowers also informed the Council of the need to adopt an ordinance enabling the local implementation of Constitutional Amendment 11, which grants an additional tax exemption to low-income homeowners 65 years or older if they’ve lived on the property for at least 25 years. Though the Council will be unable to draft and approve such an ordinance in time to meet the Dec. 1 deadline, the ordinance, when approved, can take effect in coming years.