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Sheriff's Department seeks accreditation

April 02, 2007|by ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN - A new addition to the Washington County Sheriff's Department is spearheading the department's effort to earn accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies Inc. (CALEA).

Maj. Sam Billotti, formerly of the Frederick County (Md.) Sheriff's Office - where he served on patrol, as part of the Narcotics Task Force and as a member of the SWAT team - earned his law degree from the University of Baltimore by attending night school while on duty in Frederick County.

He passed the Maryland Bar Exam and now advises the Washington County Sheriff's Department as a nonpracticing lawyer.

Billotti handles internal affairs issues and complaints against officers, addresses areas of potential liability for the department and even wrote a piece of legislation that is pending before the state legislature.

Billotti's bill would allow fire companies to increase the number of fire police working for them, he said.

Billotti brings an outside perspective to the Sheriff's Department, Mullendore said.

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"He is the type of individual that thinks things through methodically and applies critical thinking," he said.

He always asks, "What do the rules say? What can I and can't I do?" and has always enjoyed discussing legal issues with his sister, who also earned a law degree, Billotti said.

Billotti's background of both law and patrol is not common in law enforcement agencies, he said. Many larger Maryland counties have lawyers on staff, but he did not know of any who also had a background as a police officer, Billotti said.

The bulk of his time is spent on the accreditation project. If successful, Washington County would be one of about 30 sheriff's departments accredited by CALEA, Billotti said.

Billotti is reviewing more than 400 standards outlined by CALEA to prepare the department for the accreditation process. The department's use of force policy, recruiting practices and traffic enforcement procedures are just a few of the policies that Billotti is analyzing. The accreditation standards are important to those outside the Sheriff's Department, Billotti said. For example, CALEA outlines how to assist victims and witnesses, he said.

CALEA requires agencies to develop a comprehensive, well though out, uniform set of written directives, according to its Web site at www.calea.org.

The fees required to apply for accreditation are included in the department's fiscal year 2008 budget requests, Billotti said.

Accreditation is a long-term project because it takes about three years, but it would help defend the department against civil litigation and make it more professional, Mullendore said.

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