SLED celebrates being accredited again

jmonk@thestate.comSeptember 9, 2013 

SLED achieved a milestone Monday when a national law enforcement standards group certified it as “accredited.”

“Thank you to you employees for what you have done, or we wouldn’t be here,” South Carolina Law Enforcement Division Chief Mark Keel told the nearly 200 employees assembled outside the agency’s helicopter hangars on Broad River Road during a brief ceremony.

Of 18,000 law enforcement agencies in the nation, only about 1,000 meet a standard of excellence that qualifies them for national accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), Louis Dekmar, CALEA president, told the crowd

Agencies that seek accreditation, as did SLED, must meet standards in approximately 480 different categories, from excellence in equipment to how they handle civil rights issues with suspects, he said. Out-of-state judges probe into SLED’s internal affairs to make their assessments.

Besides SLED employees on hand to witness Dekmar give Keel a formal certificate, attendees included State Attorney General Alan Wilson, Richland County Coroner Gary Watts, S.C. Supreme Court Associate Justice John Kittredge, former SLED agent and current S.C. House member Rep. Eddie Tallon, R-Spartanburg, former SLED Chief Robert Stewart, state Sen. Gerald Malloy, D-Darlington, and Sen. John Courson, R-Richland.

The broad importance of the award was also signaled by the presence of Lonnie Randolph, president of the S.C. NAACP, and Laura Hudson, head of the S.C. Crime Victims’ Council.

Both Randolph and Hudson praised the 56-year-old Keel, who they said has a commitment to minority and victims’ rights.

Keel took office in 2011 and announced that one of his first goals was to get the agency to meet CALEA standards. It had lost its accreditation in 2008. CALEA was created in 1979 by four major law enforcement associations seeking higher standards.

SLED, the state’s detective agency, has a $37 million budget and approximately 500 employees, including about 300 gun-toting detectives. It also has various specialty units, including a helicopter unit, a SWAT team, a dog squad, crime lab, cyber computer unit and an elderly abuse unit. Its agents cooperate with national law agencies like the FBI, assist local law enforcement agencies and initiate their own investigations.

“The accreditation is all about excellence, guaranteeing professional management standards and reducing the risk for liability when it comes to litigation,” Keel said after the ceremony. “It demonstrates our commitment to the public.”

Only 33 of 272 South Carolina law enforcement agencies meet CALEA standards, SLED spokesman Thom Berry said.

Reach Monk at (803) 771-8344.

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