When Russo was appointed to the force in August 2013, he said, something needed to be done to restore public trust, make the agency more transparent and open a dialogue with the community.
Russo had "grown up" in an agency that was accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) and said securing accreditation was the best way for the department to fully review its policies and "look critically at itself."
Requirements for CALEA accreditation include implementing policies and operations best practices as identified by senior law enforcement practitioners, academic researchers and legal professionals.
That eliminates any "struggle between a new chief executive and an existing institution or culture," Russo said.
It also requires more from a police department than just a written policy change.
"It's about doing business consistent with the way you say you're going to do business and holding yourself accountable," the chief said. "That's why it takes three years."
Working toward accreditation has helped the police officers stay focused on victims, he added.
Departments seeking accreditation first must identify ways to improve their agency how they plan to implement CALEA's 190 standards of professional excellence. Once that step is complete, they work with accreditation assessors to identify any areas of weakness.
"They don't just want us to tell them this is the way we do business," Russo said. "We have to show them, and they have to be convinced independently."
Two CALEA assessors — Lt. Darrin Abbink of the Colorado Springs Police Department and Rob Sofie of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office in Nebraska — came to West Valley City in early October to kick off the final phase of its transition to accreditation.
They sought feedback from the community and received a "pretty overwhelmingly positive" response, Sofie said. "There's clearly a flavor, a theme [that] things have changed over the last three years, and it's being favorably received and reported."
The assessors spent days scrutinizing the police force, interviewing and observing employees and making final recommendations for adjustments. Over the next few weeks they'll compile a report, which CALEA's 21 commissioners will review.
WVCPD must also appear at a CALEA commission meeting to answer questions about policies and implementation before a decision about accreditation can be made.
CALEA's next meeting is set for March, Sofie said.