Washougal Police Department earns prestigious accreditation

WPD joins 60 others, including Camas PD, recognized by state association

The Washougal Police Department has earned accreditation from the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs (WASPC), completing a multi-year mission to become recognized as one of the state’s most professionally run law enforcement agencies.

Washougal Police Chief Wendi Steinbronn and Police Captain Zach Freschette recently received an award of accreditation on behalf of the department during an WASPC conference in Spokane, Washington.

“I’m excited and pleased that we achieved this goal,” Steinbronn said. “Being able to demonstrate that we have sound policies and procedures and follow best practices is quite an achievement. Every department member touched on the project in some way. I’m especially proud of our accreditation manager (Freschette) and our internal accreditation committee that served as the guiding coalition to push the project through to success.”

Mike Painter, the WASPC’s director of professional services, congratulated Steinbronn and her officers during a Washougal City Council meeting on Monday, June 13.

“It’s important to say that before you were accredited, you certainly weren’t a bad police department,” Painter said, “but I certainly think that now you’re accredited, you’re much, much better.”

The Washougal police force is now one of 61 police departments in Washington state — including the Camas Police Department, which earned its accreditation in 2001 – to have achieved the WASPC accreditation.

“What that means in terms of percentage is your police department is one of about 20% of Washington law enforcement that is accredited,” Painter said. “We’re proud that you’re part of our program — you’re one of the few.”

The purpose of accreditation is to “professionalize the law enforcement industry by providing a review process for agencies to be certified as operating under industry best practices and standards,” according to the WASPC.

“Accreditation is really about performance, how the agency is performing,” Painter said. “It turns on best practices, agency accountability, agency respect and discipline within the organization as well — basically you say what you’re going to do and actually make it happen. It’s about execution, performance and best practices.”

The process occurs in eight phases: interest and contract; file maintenance; self-assessment; on-site assessment and evaluation; accreditation commission review; executive board review; award; and re-accreditation, according to the WASPC.

Steinbronn told city leaders that in order to achieve accreditation, her department had to demonstrate it could meet and consistently follow 137 standards of WASPC policy and procedure.

“The process is fairly rigorous,” Painter said.

The Washougal Police Department began the process under the supervision of the department’s former chief, Ron Mitchell, and continued after Steinbronn took over the department in late 2019.

“It was Ron’s goal to achieve accreditation. (He was) well involved in the process, but he did end up having to hand that torch over to chief Steinbronn to carry it over the finish line,” Washougal City Manager David Scott told the Post-Record in 2021. “Wendi’s doing a great job and the team does a great job. We’re really proud of them. This accreditation will just be a confirmation of the good work that they do and the organization that they have. … I feel very good about what’s happening there.”

Accredited departments can receive a variety of benefits, including increased public confidence, credibility, morale and pride, and decreased susceptibility to litigation and civil court settlements, and reduced liability insurance costs, according to the WASPC.

“It just recognizes that you’re following the best industry practices,” Mitchell told the Post-Record in 2019. “It could potentially reduce liability down the road. I think it’s something that (that department) could be proud of, that (it’s) satisfied what the law enforcement industry says is the best practices.”

In addition to Steinbronn and Freschette, the accreditation committee included senior administrative assistant Kelly Clark, officer Mike Costa, detective sergeant Kyle Day, sergeant Geoff Reijonen, sergeant Kyle Kinnan and retired detective Kate Tierney.

“I think we can all be proud of our entire police force, from the top all the way down,” Councilwoman Molly Coston said.

“This is outstanding,” Councilman Ernie Suggs added. “It just shows how Washougal, even (though it’s) a small community, can rise to the occasion, and that we can support and sustain our community. We’re grateful for this accreditation.”