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FARMINGTON — The Farmington Police Department has received "meritorious advanced accreditation" from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, and was further recognized for excellence by the international organization.

Law enforcement agencies that meet advanced accreditation standards and 90 percent of applicable non-mandatory standards, among other qualifications, are eligible to be recognized for excellence by the commission, according to CALEA's website.

The commission determined the department complied with all its mandatory standards and 94.5 percent of its non-mandatory standards, according to an assessment report by CALEA. Those standards cover topics such as use-of-force tactics, hiring policies, internal affairs investigations and officer training.

CALEA's assessment report was provided Thursday to The Daily Times by the Farmington Police Department.

To be recognized for excellence, the law enforcement agency must also receive a unanimous recommendation of support from an assigned CALEA Review Committee, CALEA's website states.

Farmington police officials appeared before the review committee on Saturday at CALEA's Colorado Springs Conference in Colorado.

In the assessment report, the commission recognized police Chief Steve Hebbe for his response to the discovery in October that hundreds of pills and thousands of dollars were stolen from the department's evidence room.

"The Chief quickly moved to investigate the breach, determine how it occurred, and take necessary actions to ensure it doesn't happen again," the report states.

As reported by The Daily Times, Farmington police officials performed a full evidence room audit following the discovery of missing items and later installed new security devices and changed employee policy as a result.

An evidence technician, Ashley Goodvoyce, was charged with multiple felonies in connection to the incident and is scheduled to appear at trial on Aug. 17.

CALEA also recognized the department for its efforts to encourage department diversity through the hiring of women and minorities.

Between 2012 and 2014, the department hired 33 officers, according to the assessment report, fourteen of whom were white males.

Of the other 19 officers, six were white females, seven were Hispanic males and six were categorized as "other," which includes Native Americans, the report states.

Currently, about 73 percent of the department's officers are white, 17 percent are Hispanic and 9 percent are "other," the report states.

Eleven percent of the department's officers are female, according to the report.

Deputy Chief Keith McPheeters said Thursday that of the approximately 15,000 law enforcement agencies in the United States, only about 45 a year will be recognized for excellence by the international accreditation commission.

"We have been working on this, it has been a stated goal," McPheeters said. "It felt good to have all that hard work recognized."

The department has been accredited since July 1995 and also received a meritorious award this year for being accredited by the commission for 15 continuous years.

McPheeters said the department had to adapt constantly over those 15 years to changes brought about by court rulings, new laws, technological developments and societal pressure to continuously meet CALEA's rigorous standards.

Hebbe said he is most proud of the support the community showed the department in April, when a CALEA assessment team visited Farmington.

The team performed an on-site review of operations at the department, including its policies and procedures, administration, operations and support services. The team also interviewed community members in Farmington and on the Navajo Nation and attended a public forum on April 15.

According to the assessment report, community members were mostly unified in expressing support for the department during the public forum, and through letters and phone calls.

"That is what I was most pleased about, was our perception in the community, even at a time that is dicier for police," Hebbe said.

Farmington City Manager Rob Mayes said Thursday he was proud of the police department.

"This is evidence of the city of Farmington's and Farmington Police Department's commitment to excellence, accountability and service," Mayes said.

Hebbe said, looking forward, the department will work to exceed standards set by the commission and implement technology that can improve officer safety and performance.

He cited as an example the department's recent installation of software on police vehicle computers intended to limit distracted driving by patrolmen.

The department has also required officers to wear body cameras for years, Hebbe said, despite no requirements by CALEA that law enforcement agencies utilize the technology.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and stgarrison@daily-times.com. Follow him on Twitter @SteveGarrisonDT on Twitter.

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