- November 16, 2022
Last year was the biggest year the Windermere Police Department has had in quite some time.
The WPD moved into a new facility, had two major retirements, promoted from within the organization and even started succession planning.
It’s only March, but the agency already has accomplished one of its largest long-term goals: accreditation.
The WPD officially became an Accredited Police Agency by the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation in February. Accreditation has been a goal of the department since Chief Dave Ogden joined the organization in 2013.
Ogden said it was a surreal moment standing in front of the accreditation board in St. Augustine.
“Blood, sweat and tears went into this,” he said. “Ten years flashed before my eyes. How hard we worked, everything we had to do, the challenges and tributes we faced and had to overcome. It was an extremely emotional and reflective time.”
Despite what many may think, not a lot of agencies are accredited, and it is a tough and arduous process.
Locally, the Ocoee Police Department is accredited, although the Winter Garden and Oakland departments are not.
Accreditation is known as the highest standard of professionalism a department can receive as a law-enforcement agency.
Although there are a multitude of benefits of accreditation to the community, the chief and the officers, Ogden said his goal has always been to work with excellence and to try to maintain high standards.
“When you leave the bar set to your own personal threshold, it’s easy to lower it, but when you have an audit process where someone from the outside comes in and holds you accountable, it’s different,” he explained. “It’s accountability, but it’s also a great resource for us to utilize to get the best practices and understand what those best practices are. It also verifies and validates that we do the training in each of these standards. They ask you to not only say you can complete these tasks, but show them.”
To receive accreditation, departments must meet more than 230 standards in topics such as vehicle pursuits, traffic stops and handcuffs.
Ogden said accreditation was first thought about by the department in 1993, before he joined, although he knows the agency could never have been accredited before.
Ogden said he always knew accreditation was a goal he wanted to reach, but the department started embarking on the process more seriously about five years ago.
The first step was getting a couple of people completely certified in the accreditation process, such as Accreditation Manager Jennifer Treadwell and Sgt. Jeff Czwornog.
Ogden said one of the biggest obstacles in the process was the agency’s facility. The department needed a new facility that was acceptable and updated, which it finally received in April 2022.
Within two months of the facilities being completed, Ogden signed a memorandum of understanding and applied for accreditation.
Although departments have three years to get accredited after they apply, Ogden said the time was not acceptable to him after waiting and working so hard and long for the accreditation.
The agency’s analysis started with a mock audit to see if the department was ready in September 2022.
The final assessment was done after the agency made a public announcement and the commission chose its assessors. The review lasted for several days.
“Our audit in December revealed that we didn’t need a single waiver, no exceptions had to be made and we were 100% in compliance,” Ogden said in an email to residents. “The CFA Board of Commissioners gave us the highest comments for a new agency. Most notably, the commissioner praised the outstanding support of our community. This, by far, has been our most significant accomplishment in fulfilling an essential part of our written vision, to earn the trust of the community that we serve.”
Ogden said the process took everybody from the ground up and was about every officer.
He said clarity of vision is something that’s important for him as chief and helped in the process.
“I want to make sure that my officers know exactly what is expected of them, what they should expect of me and what they’re expected to know,” he said. “You only get clarity of vision by over communicating.”
Ogden said his measure of success is how successful his officers are. He said he was left speechless in front of the accreditation board.
“One of our most proud and humble moments was when we stood in front of that accreditation board and they rattled everything off about our agency and our process,” he said. “The fact of the matter is you can miss like three standards, and if you do, you can get your accreditation and they’ll give you a by or they’ll give you a piece of paper requiring you to fix things within a certain period of time, and most of the agencies up there that I heard had to do that. We had zero. We were 100%, and that was my goal. I told the team I didn’t want just anything, I wanted it to be done right. The commissioner even said, ‘This is how it’s done, people.’”
Windermere Mayor Jim O’Brien said it was an honor to receive accreditation.
“The accreditation of our Windermere Police Department is the culmination of a decade of hard work and commitment,” he said. “I am proud of our police department and its officers and support staff. I know that they share one vision — to serve our community with honor, integrity and service. While accreditation is a tremendous honor and achievement, it is important to note that accreditation is really a commitment to professional policing day in and day out. For our town of Windermere residents, that is the true value of the accreditation process.”
Cecil Robinson, a former Town Council member and long-term resident of the town, has watched the department transform and blossom throughout the years since Ogden joined.
“I was very proud that the town decided to provide the facilities needed to lead the department through its final steps of earning accreditation,” Robinson said. “Chief Ogden has changed the department by example. His example is faith and professionalism. There’s no one (who) demonstrates more of that than he does. I am proud to live in Windermere now.”
Ogden shared that the community’s support has meant a lot throughout the process.
“I feel like we’ve done things right here,” he said. “We’re a value-based police department and that’s different from anywhere else you go. People may say it, and I get that, but I do believe we lead with our values here. One of our values in our vision statement is to earn the trust of our community. That is an extremely difficult thing to do these days. Each policing agency has to understand their community and the level of service they want to provide in that community. … For the residents to be so involved, to sit in on the accreditation and to even write in in support of us, it was amazing.”
After accomplishing all three priorities Ogden had set for the department last year — accreditation, hiring new personnel and getting them trained — he is already working to develop a new 10-year strategic plan.
With an all-new command staff, he plans on teaching about succession planning, long-term strategic planning and how to rewrite vision and value statements.
The reaccreditation process has already started, and in composing the 10-year goals, Ogden said he hopes the department can strive to become an excelsior program. The program recognizes nine years of accreditation in a row, with the accreditation process being completed every three years. After three times of straight accreditation, the department could earn the title.