Public safety agencies earn accreditation

Wildwood Police Department Sgt. James Riley instructs patrol officer Angela Velez as she holsters her taser during a virtual firearms training simulation. Both the Wildwood Police Department and Community Watch of The Villages were recently accredited by the state.

For public safety agencies, accreditation might be akin to a root canal. Undergoing one can invite some concern, take considerable time to perform, entail an extensive amount of digging and induce some pain — but when it’s over, it’s a wonderful feeling. In that vein, both Community Watch of The Villages and the Wildwood Police Department are basking in receiving accreditation last month, an achievement that acknowledges they operate at the highest professional standards for what they do. Accreditation, said Danielle Terrell, executive director of the Florida Accreditation Office in

Tallahassee, “provides an agency the blueprint with which to achieve excellence in public service, and it “mandates professional best practices” for the agencies that achieve it.

For Chief Nehemiah Wolfe and the staff at Community Watch, being accredited came with a special distinction.

The agency’s dispatch center became the first one in Florida that is not a Public Safety Access Point, meaning it does not take 911 calls, to be accredited by the Florida Telecommunications Accreditation Commission.

Wolfe said the process began in 2019 and involved the commission analyzing every aspect of policies, procedures and operations.

The online version of the accreditation guidelines runs 84 pages, and an agency comes up short if it achieves anything less than 100% compliance with all of the standards.

“I felt it was vitally important because The Villages is such a unique place because we interact with eight law enforcement agencies,” said Wolfe. “It’s important that we all use the same language, and that we operate on the same level that they do.”

That number will soon be nine, Wolfe added, as growth on the community’s southern end will mean a Community Watch partnership with the Leesburg Police Department. 

“It really speaks huge volumes that The Villages has reached that standard, and other entities haven’t,” Wolfe said.

In Wildwood, police Chief Randall Parmer recently presented his department’s accreditation plaque to the City Commission. He also gave awards of individual achievement to three top staffers who guided the department through the process.

Parmer, who noted that accreditation was a goal city officials identified for him when he was hired in 2019, told the board it was a “tedious” process that involved graders combing through some 230 details of the department’s operation.

“They basically go in and tear apart the department. Whatever they can look at, they look at,” he said. “A whole lot of work went into it, and our whole department is responsible for it.”

At the meeting, Mayor Ed Wolf thanked Parmer and his staff. “This is a great accomplishment for the city of Wildwood,” Wolf said. “Nobody realizes the hours that you all worked to get that (plaque).”

After the presentation, Parmer said accreditation was an asset for the city and its residents, as well as the department.

“It makes our ability to serve the citizens better, and one of the main things it does is improve our performance and allows us to operate more efficiently,” Parmer said. 

Accreditation is good for three years.

Staff writer Bill Thompson can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5228, or william.thompson@thevillagesmedia.com.