Woodstock Police Department attains state accreditation

Left to right, Woodstock police Capt. Chris Baker, secretary Susan Clem, accreditation manager Laura Shelton and Chief Eric Reiley stand with the department's new accreditation certificate on the wall in the front entrance of the Police Department. Melissa Topey/Daily

The Woodstock Police Department is now an accredited agency by a unanimous vote earlier this week of a state commission made up six police chiefs and six sheriffs from Virginia.

The department received the accreditation on its first attempt and with no corrective findings against it, a rarity in itself.

“The community can take pride and they can know we are meeting standards and have a commitment to achieve that every day,” said Woodstock Police Chief Eric Reiley.

Reiley became the police chief more than six years ago, leaving the Virginia State Police where he was a lieutenant.

He found a good department with dedicated officers but made it a goal to put the department through accreditation to make them an exemplary team, Reiley said.

Accreditation status can take years to obtain and occurs when a department or office meets 190 required standards that cover all aspects of law enforcement operations, including use of force, protection of citizens rights, vehicle pursuits, property and evidence management, and patrol and investigative operations. The department must show proof of compliance with each standard.

It took the department about three years to meet all the standards and get everything in place for the review. A lot of the responsibility fell to Laura Shelton, accreditation manager for the department.

“Ms. Shelton was instrumental in our accreditation and our success would not have been possible without her leadership, guidance, and oversight of the process,” Reiley said.

The agency will now be re-accredited every four years.

Shelton stressed it was a team effort.

Reiley praised each member of the department.

The Woodstock Police Department has 16 full-time police officers. Everyone was involved in helping the department obtain the coveted status, even offering feedback and providing the proofs required. As a result, they have a greater understanding of what is required to meet such high standards, he said.

“I am convinced because of that we have some of the most knowledgeable people,” Reiley said.

Woodstock police Capt. Chris Baker joined the department in June from the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s office,  which obtained accreditation in 2006.

“It was unique for me to see. The officers were knowledgeable and acting like they were already accredited,” Baker said. “It speaks a lot about the chief and the organization. It’s (accreditation) a huge undertaking.”

Woodstock Investigator Stuart Leake is glad the department committed to that undertaking.

“It makes us a better department. It assures residents there is a certain amount of professionalism and experience,” Leake said.

That is a sentiment echoed by Town Manager Angela Clem.

“We do not pursue accreditation to simply ‘check a box’ in our strategic plan and in local government accomplishments; we pursue accreditation, and now re-accreditation, to continue to exceed law enforcement best practices and to better serve our community with every single interaction. We look forward to the certificate presentation at the Town Council meeting on June 5,” Clem said in a prepared statement.

The department is the 98th out of about 400 law enforcement agencies in Virginia to be accredited. It  joins the Shenandoah County Sheriff’s Office, the Warren County Sheriff’s Office, the Frederick County Sheriff’s Office, the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office, and the Winchester Police Department and the Winchester Sheriff’s Office on the list of accredited agencies in the area, Reiley said.