AIKEN - The Aiken County Sheriff's Office has earned state accreditation, an honor shared by only six sheriff's offices in South Carolina.
After revising its policies, renovating its offices and retraining its deputies and staff, the agency underwent a top-to-bottom review last month by law enforcement assessors. On Thursday, the governing body of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Accreditation program awarded its certificate of accreditation to the agency during its quarterly meeting in Columbia.
Sheriff Howard Sellers announced the distinction in an afternoon news conference in Aiken. He was all smiles as he held up the new logo to be placed on the county's fleet of squad cars.
"This will (assure) citizens of Aiken County that this agency is progressing on the right path. By objective standards, we are of a caliber that they deserve," the sheriff said. "It assures our citizens that we have a mechanism in place to evolve, to become better, to change as we need to."
Gaining accreditation meant adopting 200 standards designed to reflect the best professional practices in each area of law enforcement management, administration, operations and support services.
But earning accreditation meant more than writing new policies. It meant proving to assessors that such policies were in practice when they visited Nov. 1 and 2, said Lt. Cheryl Stephens, the accreditation manager.
For example, policies on recruitment were backed up with proof that a sheriff's lieutenant attended college career fairs and that the agency had an appropriate mailing list for job openings. The policies were as specific as the color of socks and shoes worn by sworn deputies - black.
South Carolina Law Enforcement Accreditation is an initiative of the South Carolina Police Chiefs' Association and South Carolina Sheriff's Association. It is a voluntary program. Other local accredited agencies include the Aiken Department of Public Safety and Wackenhut Services Inc.
Sheriff Sellers said the next goal is to attain national accreditation, which he hopes to attain in two years.
Reach Greg Rickabaugh at (803) 279-6895.