Public confidence in the city of Aiken's law enforcement should be higher than ever in the wake of a distinct achievement: becoming only the second public safety department in the U.S. to be nationally accredited.
Only one other police operation in our two-state area has gained this prestigious honor -- the Columbia County Sheriff's Department. But Sheriff Clay Whittle's agency is strictly about police work; it is not an expansive public service department which, like Aiken, combines law-enforcement with firefighting.
Any police force certified by the non-profit, Virginia-based Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies means the highest possible levels of professional standards have been met. Agencies work months, sometimes years, to win the certification. Only 11 other law-enforcement agencies in South Carolina have been so accredited.
Naturally, Aiken Public Safety Department Director Carrol Busbee couldn't be prouder. He credits his hard-working personnel for obtaining the long-sought goal.
We join in those congratulations, but with one caveat. The high level of professional standards do not include -- though they should -- being open and straight with the public.
In recent years Busbee's agency has been caught abusing its law-enforcement powers -- and then trying to cover up the abuses. Hopefully, the tougher Freedom of Information bill working its way through the Palmetto State Legislature will help put an end to that.