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Central Point police force gets national ethics honor

CENTRAL POINT — The city's police department this week became the first in the nation to earn a Certificate of Excellence in Integrity from the nation's largest provider of law enforcement ethics training.

Neal Trautman, director of the National Institute of Ethics, based in Long Beach, Miss., awarded the certificate to the department on Monday.

"It's a significant achievement," Trautman said. "Central Point is a role model for agencies around the country to follow."

The non-profit institute, established in 1991, first proposed a list of rigorous requirements for a Certificate of Excellence in Integrity for law enforcement in summer 2008. The institute has similar certificates for corrections and public schools.

Central Point Chief Jon Zeliff came across the program one afternoon while perusing the Internet for a method of measuring the department's efforts toward transparency, Zeliff said.

"There wasn't much out there," Zeliff said. "I found this after searching for three and a half to four hours."

The department spent the next year and a half striving to meet 70 percent or more of the 221 standards required for the certificate. The standards are organized in 11 categories ranging from recruitment, hiring and field training to use-of-force polices, employee recognition and integrity-related written policies.

The department met 86 percent, or 187 of the standards. Requirements were gauged and documented by Detective Brian Day and Southern Oregon University intern Tom Hohl.

A secondary requirement for the certificate is that 80 percent or more of the department's formal leaders receive at least eight hours of ethics/anti-corruption training.

Day said the certification gives officers peace of mind that a "certain standard is in place" that sets a high standard for law enforcement officers and protects both police and the public.

Zeliff said the certificate of excellence was "not about giving the perception of being perfect," but about "significantly reducing the likelihood of ethical compromise within the organization."

"From a risk management standpoint, the cost of doing nothing could be millions of dollars. Even if we'd spent $25,000, and we didn't spend anything, nothing compares to one large suit."

Trautman added, "Misconduct continues to exist in law enforcement on a national level. Setting certain standards to strive for, whether they seek certification or not, is the only way to make things better."

For more information on the institute, visit www.ethicsinstitute.com.

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at buffypollock@juno.com.