The Orangeburg Department of Public Safety was recognized Tuesday for receiving dual reaccreditation on the state and national levels.

ODPS was reaccredited by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Accreditation body and the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies earlier this month.

“This is a big deal and it is a major accomplishment,” SCLEA Chair Chris Watts told Orangeburg City Council during its Tuesday meeting. Watts is also the Rock Hill police chief.

“It shows that Orangeburg DPS is a leader in law enforcement and in South Carolina,” he said.

“It is difficult to get accredited. It is actually much more difficult to be reaccredited,” Watts said. “Orangeburg DPS shines bright in the law enforcement community here.”

Watts explained that law enforcement accreditation ensures that an agency meets basic or best practices in policy and that the policies are followed.

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“The commitment shows and represents the professionalism, accountability, transparency and dedication to the people they serve,” Watts said.

Quoting the lead accessor of the department, Watts said the “agency’s policies are excellently written and comprehensive. Documentation provided by the agency is extremely organized and compliance is well documented. All applicable standards have been found to be in compliance.”

Watts noted there are 329 law enforcement agencies in the state and 21, or less than 7 percent, have earned dual accreditation status.

The national accreditation is for another four years.

City Council members and most of those in attendance in Council Chambers gave the agency a standing ovation.

In a related matter, council gave third and final reading to an ordinance establishing the Citizens Advisory Panel. Councilman Jerry Hannah voted in opposition.

The volunteer-based CAP would review ODPS’s policies and procedures and serve as an independent panel to examine circumstances surrounding excessive use of force or police brutality concerns.

Each council district will be represented on the panel. Members would go through an application process and background check before being approved to serve on the panel.

The panel will consist of seven voting members and three non-voting members.

Voting members on the panel will need to be full-time residents of the City of Orangeburg.

The three non-voting members will consist of:

• A high school student, at least 16 years old.

• A sworn ODPS police officer with five continuous years of experience, below the grade of lieutenant.

• A certified ODPS firefighter with five continuous years of experience, below the grade of lieutenant.

CAP members will undergo training that will take place for two hours weekly, for up to 10 weeks.

Prior to council’s vote, Orangeburg resident Van Gaffney expressed concerns that the 10-week training period is too much for volunteers to commit to.

He suggested a four to five-week training period.

“Remember we are volunteer individuals, citizens. We are not trying to be law enforcement and too much information is just as bad as not enough information,” Gaffney said.

Although some larger cities require 10 weeks of training, “We are not Greenville or Columbia … nor do we have the problems or the issues those big cities have,” Gaffney said.

He said Orangeburg needs something that suits its needs.

“I am not against training, you need it,” Gaffney said.

He asked that the CAP also include a college student. He also requested each city council member appoint a member so each district can be represented.

Councilwoman Liz Zimmerman Keitt told Gaffney that the city wants to give this process time to “see what works.”

“If it doesn’t, then we will come back and adjust to what needs to be done,” she said.

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