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Virginia’s Inspector General hires accreditation manager

Published: Jul. 7, 2021 at 2:44 PM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - The Office of the State Inspector General has created a new position aimed at getting the agency accredited, while also reaching for state and federal grants.

OSIG has hired a former Lexington Police Department employee, Elizabeth Knudson, as its accreditation manager. Knudson, who started as a police officer in Lexington before becoming that agency’s accreditation manager, has been on the job a little less than a month.

Knudson spoke with WDBJ7 Wednesday about her history with Lexington and her new role. She was a patrol officer in Lexington for four years and then its accreditation manager for three years.

She explained that OSIG currently is not an accredited agency. The office will work to get OSIG’s Investigations Unit accredited on the state and national level, working toward a total of about 500 standards between the two. Both accreditations can take up to three years to complete, according to OSIG.

Knudson, who is also a Senior Assessor for the Virginia Law Enforcement Professional Standards Commission, said the goal of accreditation shows an agency’s desire to aim for a higher degree of excellence, which can increase transparency and improve efficiency in administration, training and other functions.

“Some agencies in an effort to be more transparent with the communities, they actually publish their policies and procedures so that the public can view them. I think that that could be a potential step for the Office of the State Inspector General to go down,” Knudson explained.

She explained agencies can work to be more actively engaged in community relations to build a bridge of trust and confidence with the community. Knudson said OSIG has about 41 employees, split between the Audit and Investigations and Administrations division.

“There are accreditation standards that relate not just to the roles and responsibilities of law enforcement officers that you would think of in general. But it also pertains to the efficiency and the effectiveness of agency procedures as a whole,” she said. “So there are also accreditation standards, for example, which relate to the budget, how procurements are made. It also related to training of all employees, not just law enforcement officers. So are your employees getting certain kinds of cultural diversity training, blood borne pathogens and communicable diseases - are they getting that kind of training on a regular basis? So accreditation is more than just focusing on what law enforcement officers might do for a police department.”

In recent months, Governor Northam and the General Assembly approved an investigation into OSIG following its review of the Virginia Parole Board. That $250,000 review, completed in June, found that OSIG’s investigation into the Parole Board was not influenced by outside actors but that the agency should have been more thorough, calling the lead investigator impaired by personal bias. It recommended more training for the office and a separate general counsel.

When asked whether her position had been created as a result of or following this recent controversy, Knudson replied that that was not the case.

“Accreditation has been a topic here at the Office of the State Inspector General for well over a year,” she said, “and it’s been a discussion in the making. And I am just privileged to be able to be able to have the opportunity to be here and to help this organization achieve those higher levels of excellence.”

Knudson will also work on securing state and federal grants to get things like body cameras, vests and other items for OSIG’s law enforcement officers such as law enforcement membership fees and computer software.

Despite having the agency’s integrity called into question during its review of the Virginia Parole Board by some state leaders, Knudson said she feels the agency is doing well.

“I will say in just the short time that I have been here and after looking critically at the policies and procedures in place, OSIG is already doing a fantastic job at already meeting some accreditation standards and they are not even accredited yet,” she said. “And so my hope is that in this position we can only improve upon the practices we are already doing and to better foster relationships with the community members so that they can in turn trust us to perform our duties to the best of our abilities.”

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