A piece of the municipal court reform measure signed into law Thursday by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon isn’t a reform on courts, but on the local police departments that keep them hopping, reports St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

It establishes an accreditation process for police departments in St. Louis County, which have, until now, enjoyed the discretion to follow generally accepted standards, or their own standards, or no standards at all.

The county’s 58 police departments now have six years to achieve accreditation from either the established Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, based in Gainesville, Va., or a much smaller credentialing program based in Jefferson City. Just 14 departments in the county are currently accredited by one of those groups.

The process involves periodic reviews by auditors to ensure a police department has policies that set basic standards for every aspect of police work — and documents its successes and failures in following those policies. For example, the review will check if a department has a policy on when officers can use force. Having a policy isn’t enough; auditors require the department to prove a policy is followed and that people are held accountable when it isn’t.

A municipality’s failure to earn accreditation for its police force, or to hire another accredited police department, could result in a municipality being forced into disincorporation, under the law.

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