Over the past several months, the Oregon Police Department has updated almost 100 of its department policies, including use of force, officer-involved deaths, open records and handling of domestic abuse situations.
That paperwork-heavy task is a key part of a plan for the department to gain full accreditation from the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Accreditation Group. Brian Uhl started that complex and multilayered process shortly after he became police chief in 2015, and it involved dozens of other new and updated policies prior to this year.
One component of the accreditation process is an opportunity for the public to hear about the new policies and offer feedback.
To that end, the department will host a public information meeting at 5 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 25. It will be held in the Oregon Village Hall board chambers, 117 Spring St.
Anyone who cannot attend can phone in comments by telephone, from 1-3 p.m. Sept. 25, at 835-3111, ext. 206. Both telephone and in-person comments are limited to 10 minutes and must address the agency’s ability to comply with WILEAG’s standards.
An accreditation team, composed of law enforcement practitioners from similar agencies, will be present at the public information meeting. The team arrives Sept. 24 to examine all aspects of OPD policy and procedures, management, operation and support service, Uhl announced in a news release Sept. 16.
The department gained core accreditation in 2017, which required it to meet 49 specified standards for such characteristics as training, use of force, records and evidence collection. Full accreditation requires meeting 229 standards, including organizational structure, fiscal management, addressing citizen complaints, patrol, media access and investigation.
The OPD’s accreditation manager, Lt. Jennifer Pagenkopf, wrote in the release that the accreditation process helps the department reach its mission of excellence.
Uhl, who himself is a lead assessor for WILEAG, added that the accreditation – “which he called highly prized” – symbolizes professionalism, excellence and competence.
“Officers and the community can take pride in the agency knowing that it represents the very best in law enforcement,” he wrote.
The assessors review written materials, interview individuals and visit offices and the places where compliance can be witnessed, the release stated.
The team leader assessing OPD is West Allis deputy chief Robert Fletcher; and lieutenants William Laughlin of Lake Delton and Angie Hanchek of Menasha.
Once the WILEAG board’s assessors complete their review of the agency, they report back to the full board, which will then decide whether the agency is to be granted accredited status, Pagenkopf explained in the release.
Accreditation status lasts for three years, and during that time, each agency must submit annual compliance reports.
The WILEAG website lists 42 agencies that have received full accreditation, including nearby departments Middleton, Evansville and Milton.
Before Uhl became chief, the department was mired in controversy. Doug Pettit retired in 2014 as the longest-serving chief in the state while being investigated by the state Department of Justice and in the midst of a federal indictment for tax fraud. The following year, while an interim chief led the department, a lieutenant died while off-duty and was months later alleged to have stolen from the evidence room.
In his early days as chief, Uhl told the Observer in 2017, he discovered some policies that had not been updated since the 1980s. In addition to updating those policies to improve the professionalism of the department and its image, he also had it change its logo and badges.
A copy of the standards is available at the OPD, 383 Park St. Pagenkopf is the department contact for information, at 835-3111.
Written comments can be sent to P.O. Box 528, Hartland, WI 53029.