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Credit Where Accreditation Is Due

Featured Photo from Credit Where Accreditation Is Due

A certified triple-threat, the City of Lake Mary now boasts three fully-accredited departments at state, national, and international levels

The City of Lake Mary has been making headlines for years as one of the top places in the nation to live, work, and raise a family. In 2007, Lake Mary was rated #4 in the United States by Money magazine among the Best Places To Live. In 2014, the city was named one of Family Circle’s Ten Best Towns for Families. And in 2019, Lake Mary was listed #7 among the 100 Best Cities in Florida to Live by the state’s Chamber of Commerce.

With its community-oriented focus on maintaining the city’s charm and natural beauty, promoting excellent education, creating economic development, and prioritizing public safety, it’s no surprise that residents are proud to call Lake Mary home. But, what many residents may not already know is that the City of Lake Mary boasts three departments – Police, Parks and Recreation, and Fire – that have earned sought-after accreditations at the state, national, and international levels, respectively. 

“The City of Lake Mary is one of the few communities in America to have three fully-accredited departments,” says Mayor David Mealor. “The unique aspect is that this accreditation is at all levels. We believe this commitment to excellence is an indicator of our desire to provide the very best in both leadership and service for our residents.”

“The pursuit of excellence drives our team each and every day,” adds Kevin Smith, Lake Mary’s city manager. “And, we are blessed with the best team in the business. I humbly believe this is yet another example of just that.”

Accreditation programs for city governments are conducted by independent reviewing authorities and vary by department, but they have long been recognized as a means of maintaining the highest standards of professionalism. The accreditation process is just that – a process – and one that is extensive, comprehensive, and recognizes an agency’s overall quality of operation, management, and service to the community. Earning accreditation signifies that each department has met rigorous standards and is operating within the best practices of its industry.

Police Department
The Lake Mary Police Department has been state-accredited by the Commission for Law Enforcement Accreditation since 2005. Of the nearly 400 police agencies in Florida, only 166 are accredited. 

“An assessment occurs every three years,” explains Police Chief Mike Biles. “A team of law enforcement professionals from other agencies around the state come into the Police Department and spend three days assessing the Department’s policies and procedures and speaking with staff to verify that they know our policies. Other records such as training, internal investigations, and hiring procedures are reviewed. More than 200 standards of excellence are reviewed by the team. I’m proud to say that LMPD passed with very high marks during its last accreditation process in 2017.”

LMPD will go through its sixth accreditation process in July 2020. Seminole County is also happy to report that all eight of the law-enforcement agencies within the county are accredited, which is unique in the State of Florida.

Parks and Recreation
“The accreditation process helps us better ourselves and benchmark against the best of the best,” says Bryan Nipe, Lake Mary’s Parks and Recreation director. “This is a big deal for my department and for the Police and Fire Departments. We’re all being held accountable to a higher standard, and it positively impacts the public safety and quality of life for our residents.”

In 2014, the Parks and Recreation Department earned national accreditation through the Commission for Accreditation of Park and Recreation Agencies (CAPRA) and the National Recreation and Park Association. There are 176 CAPRA-accredited parks and recreation agencies in the United States and only 24 in Florida. 

“The accreditation process was a team effort that really helped us identify ways to improve our quality of service to benefit the community,” says Bryan. “Our team is stronger because of it, and this mark of distinction signifies to our residents and visitors that their Parks and Recreation Department provides excellent programs and safe facilities for all to enjoy.”

Fire Department 
Most recently, in August 2019, the Lake Mary Fire Department became the first department in Seminole County to be internationally accredited by the Commission on Fire Accreditation International under the recommendation of the Center for Public Safety Excellence. Only 272 fire departments are internationally accredited in the United States, 26 of which are in the State of Florida.

“It took us about three years to get here, but it’s been a real validation of the great work being done by our department,” says Kevin LaForest, Lake Mary’s accreditation and quality assurance manager, who led the accreditation process and reviewed its more than 400 standards. “We looked at everything we do, from our budget to how we treat a person on an EMS call in the field to our response times. We’ve achieved a goal that a lot of other agencies are striving for.”

The LMFD covers the city’s 9.9 square miles and also coordinates with the Seminole County Fire Department to provide service countywide.

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