The gold standard of policing

Washington Township Police Department enters elite rank with new accreditation from the New Jersey Association of Chiefs of Police

Township council and members of the police department come together as the agency was presented with a certificate for their new accreditation. (Special to The Sun)

When Pat Gurcsik took over as the chief of police in January 2017, he set out to change the culture of the Washington Township Police Department. From putting an emphasis on community caretaking to being as transparent as possible, he wanted the department to truly be the best it could be. At a recent council meeting, he and his department were recognized for their hard work.

The Washington Township Police Department earned accreditation from the New Jersey Association of Chiefs of Police. This was one of Gurcsik’s first-year goals for the department.

“When I became chief, I was alarmed to learn our accreditation had expired in 2013,” Gurcsik said. “I made it a priority in my five-year strategic plan.”

The accreditation process is rigorous – according to Gurcsik, the New Jersey Association of Chiefs of Police gives the agency several hundred standards to meet, and the agency in turn has to show proof it met the standards. This includes a two-day, on-site assessment that took place in December. Representatives came to Washington Township police headquarters and examined all aspects of the police department, from the website and social media accounts to the different departments and bureaus. They even opened phone lines for residents to call in and give their input, both positive and negative.

Once the on-site assessment was finished and a report was submitted, Gurcsik and his staff were invited to Trenton for an interview process regarding policies and procedures. Upon completion, the commission recommended the award to Washington Township.

“Accreditation is the gold standard of policing,” Gurcsik said. “Less than 1 percent of police departments are accredited.”

Mayor Joann Gattinelli was excited on the department’s behalf.

“I was honored to be at the meeting when they were honored. Knowing what it takes in order to get that accreditation, a two-year process having the entire police department communicate and show their dedication, compassion, knowledge, accountability and transparency. At the end of the day, to be given accreditation by the New Jersey Association of Chiefs of Police shows the heart and soul of our police department,” she said.

Gurcsik echoed Gattinelli’s statement, giving credit to his officers who rose to the occasion and did their part in earning the new accreditation.

“The officers deserve a lot of credit, there were a lot of changes in the last two years in regards to earning accreditation,” he said. “The goal for the police department is professionalism. That’s the difference between good and great, holding our officers accountable.”

“I knew this was something they’d be able to achieve – knowing Chief and everything he changed since day one,” Gattinelli said. “He’s very respected and everyone made sure we came out with that accreditation. This is something that was earned by our police department.”

The accreditation is good for three years, so the police department will be up for renewal this time in 2022. To remain accredited, the agency must update policies and remain in compliance with the standards, according to Gurcsik.

“We’re not done. We have to maintain our accreditation,” he said.