Accreditation provides a set of standards, governed by an accrediting body, to improve the delivery of services. Accreditation is recognition for professional excellence. Sheriff Whittle embraces the benefits of accreditation and voluntarily strives continually to improve all aspects of the Columbia County Sheriff's Office. Accreditation was awarded to the sheriff's office in 1996, the communication center in 2004 and the detention center and medical unit in 2007. Each accreditation covers a multi-year cycle. The accrediting bodies are:
- The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) establishes standards for law enforcement and communications agencies. Compliance to these standards promotes the efficient use of resources and improves service delivery.
- The American Correctional Association (ACA) promotes improvement in the management of jails through the administration of an accreditation program and the ongoing development and revision of relevant, useful standards.
- The National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) promotes improvement to the health care services in jails, prisons, and juvenile confinement facilities.
Lieutenant Ken Summers, Staff Sergeant Teresa Reynolds, and Sergeant Chris Mezzetti work diligently to ensure compliance with all standards by requiring that the proper paperwork is compiled and submitted for review on a regular basis. Conducting these reviews ensures compliance and also allows for the modification and implementation of policy. Currently, there are over 1000 standards for the sheriff's office, communication center, detention center, and medical unit. This accreditation team keeps up with new law enforcement, communications, detention, and medical care trends, thus allowing the agency to continue to operate in a progressive and professional manner. What was acceptable yesterday may not be acceptable tomorrow; it is only through accreditation that we will meet the goals for the future.
The Triple Crown Award was established by the National Sheriff's Association to recognize those sheriffs who achieve simultaneous accreditation from CALEA, ACA, and NCCHC. Achieving these accreditations individually is a daunting task. Acquiring all three at the same time is an extraordinary feat. In fact, the Triple Crown Award is so rarely earned that since its establishment in 1993, fewer than 100 sheriffs nationwide have qualified. In 2008, Sheriff Whittle received this prestigious award.
Sheriff Whittle says, "Accreditation is not a goal. It is a way of life, a mindset, and the standards by which we professionally serve the public".