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Meeting and Exceeding "The Gold Standard" in Public Safety: Insights from CALEA Accreditation

Ms. Tamera Bulla spoke to the MCCAAA at our Thursday, April 16, 2024, meeting.

written by Walt Houser

Ms. Tamera Bulla, Deputy Director for the Policy and Planning Division, Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD), recently addressed the MCCAAA on the significance of achieving and surpassing the gold standard in public safety through accreditation. Specifically, Ms. Bulla shed light on the rigorous process conducted by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), an independent body established by four prominent law enforcement executive associations.

Before the inception of CALEA, the landscape of law enforcement policies often fluctuated with changes in leadership. However, CALEA introduced a standardized framework, holding police departments across the nation to uniform national standards. Bulla, who brings over three decades of experience as a CALEA assessor, highlighted the resemblance of CALEA assessments to comprehensive inspections, emphasizing their critical role in ensuring adherence to these standards.

Ms. Bulla speaking to the MCCAAA.
Ms. Bulla speaking to the MCCAAA.

The Montgomery County Police Department's journey with accreditation dates back to 1993, with annual assessments since then. This commitment places them among the less than 5% of the nation's 17,000 law enforcement agencies that are accredited.

So, what exactly are assessors like Bulla looking for during these evaluations? Accreditation, as Bulla explains, is a voluntary internal process aimed at objectively verifying and maintaining high operational quality through periodic evaluations conducted by an independent body. The benefits of CALEA accreditation are multifaceted, ranging from greater internal accountability and reduced risk exposure to increased community advocacy and support from governmental authorities.

During these assessments, every facet of the department's operations is scrutinized, including specific guidelines for personnel interactions with individuals suspected of mental health issues, training documentation, and procedures for internal affairs investigations. For instance, standards such as 1.3.8, which addresses the removal of employees from duty assignments following incidents resulting in death or serious physical injury, underscore the department's commitment to accountability and transparency.

Moreover, standards like 81.3.1 ensure robust security measures in the communications center, while 84.1.2 emphasizes the criticality of secure storage for evidentiary property. However, accreditation isn't a one-time achievement. It requires ongoing compliance, demonstrated through meticulous documentation, including citations, investigative reports, and public feedback.

Looking ahead, Bulla emphasized that each on-site assessment is expected to be more rigorous than the last. The process isn't just about meeting minimum requirements but continually striving for excellence in public safety. In conclusion, CALEA accreditation isn't merely about meeting standards; it's about surpassing them, ensuring that law enforcement agencies not only meet but exceed the gold standard in public safety. As Bulla aptly puts it, "What you don't know... can hurt you!" Hence, embracing accreditation isn't just a choice; it's a necessity in today's dynamic law enforcement landscape.

Ms. Bulla gets a token of our appreciation.
Ms. Bulla gets a token of
our appreciation from Vivian Wolpers.

Ms. Tamera Bulla is currently the Deputy Director of Policy and Planning for the Montgomery County Police Department in Maryland. She retired in 2022 after serving as the Director of Research and Planning for the Howard County Police Department in Maryland, where she had served since 1994. Before that, Ms. Bulla managed police communications and accreditation duties with the Laurel Police Department, in Laurel, Maryland.

Ms. Bulla has extensive experience managing policy; accreditation; grants; research; Legislation, PowerDMS administration, program development; and strategic planning. She is active with the Maryland Association of Police Planners, where she has served as President and Vice President. Ms. Bulla is also an established leader within the Chesapeake Region Law Enforcement Accreditation Alliance (CRLEAA) where she has also served as President and Vice President. CRLEAA serves Maryland, Delaware, DC and Virginia law enforcement agencies. She is also an Active member of the International Association of Law Enforcement Planners. Ms. Bulla has been an Assessor and Team Leader for the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) since 2003 and a CRLEAA Assessor since 1994. As a CALEA Assessor, she has reviewed over 50 agencies across the Country to ensure they met the highest standards set for the law enforcement profession.

Ms. Bulla is also trained and active with the public safety Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) and CISM services. In addition, Ms. Bulla has been active in public safety since 1981, as a Lieutenant within the Montgomery County Maryland, Fire and Rescue Service.

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