The Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association has awarded the Pennsylvania Western University Police Department top marks for its commitment to following the highest standards in law enforcement.

James Adams, accreditation program coordinator for the Pennsylvania Law Enforcement Accreditation Commission, presented the official honor on Aug. 14. PennWest University had completed a successful on-site assessment on June 23, 2023, and was approved for accreditation at the PLEAC Commission Meeting on July 25, 2023.

PennWest University’s accreditation by PLEAC is an integration of the Clarion University Police Department’s accreditation from 2017 and re-accreditation in 2020. In 2017, Clarion was the only university in Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education to earn the three-year accreditation from the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police and one of six universities in the state with that distinction.

The PennWest Police Department is led by Chief Jason Hendershot and Chief Ed McSheffery, along with assistant chiefs Eric Kraus and Mike Miles. Officers provide services to students at the California, Clarion and Edinboro campuses.

“The accreditation affirms that we hold ourselves to the highest standards of policing,” said Hendershot, who led the PennWest process along with accreditation managers Lt. Dan Siegel and Lt. Shane White. “Our campus community can have every confidence in our commitment to providing a safe, welcoming environment, with a unified approach to responsible law enforcement at each location.”

The accreditation standards manual addresses best practices -- Clery Act requirements for campus incidents, limits of authority, use of force, handling of evidence and more – and is regularly updated to reflect changes in policing, according to Adams.

“There are 370 best practices within those 125 standards, and every three years we send a team in to get proof of compliance,” Adams said. Of roughly 1,100 police departments in Pennsylvania, 14% are accredited.

“This achievement demonstrates the commitment we have to providing our students with a safe, comfortable place to learn and grow,” said Dr. Susanne Fenske, vice president for Institutional Effectiveness, Student Affairs and University Police.

“It’s a nice moment to be able to say that our police are the best at what they do.”

Photo: PennWest Police department members Michael Miles, assistant chief, PennWest California; Ed McSheffery, chief, PennWest California; Jason Hendershot, chief, PennWest Clarion; and Eric Kraus, assistant chief, PennWest Edinboro.