SPANISH FORT, Ala. (WKRG) — When Chief John Barber became Spanish Fort’s top cop in 2020, he focused on the department being recognized by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, known as CALEA.

CALEA’s website calls the commission “the gold standard for public safety,” and to receive accreditation, agencies often must implement significant changes.

“When I got here, there were about 75 pages of policy, and because of how we’ve gone through this accreditation process, we’re at 630 pages,” said Barber.

Years of rigorous paperwork, training, policy reviews and commission visits paid off this month. The department now joins just 13 other law enforcement agencies in Alabama that have reached this status.

“I think there’s about 417 or so police agencies, so less than 3% of the agencies in the state have achieved accreditation,” he said. “It doesn’t say anything about the other agencies that haven’t; it just means that we have really made this a commitment and this is what the community now wants from their departments to ensure that we’re doing things the right way.”

Barber says it’s important for CALEA to monitor what’s happening in his department — from policies to transparency to leadership.

That will continue to happen each year under this accreditation.

“It ensures that we’re staying contemporary with what’s going on currently,” Barber said. “I think it’s very easy for you to set policies up, and then maybe you start straying from them, or you don’t change them the way that it needs to be changed — because we know how much law enforcement is changing over this last decade. We have to ensure that we’re staying up with the times.”

The Mobile Police Department is already accredited.

The Gulf Shores Police Department is currently going through the process with CALEA.