This paper addresses issues related to data quality in contemporary policing and criminal justice, with attention to the challenges faced by the countries of Central and Eastern Europe that are in transition from authoritarian to democratic political systems.
Data quality is important for police organizations in new democracies, because the public expects access to accurate data on how and to what effect the police are using their resources. Further, accurate and comprehensive data on policing are necessary for researchers and other interested parties to detect inconsistencies in organizational performance. Also, accurate and comprehensive data are required for the managers of police and criminal justice organizations in determining whether objectives are being met and where improvements in performance must be made. This paper examines the kinds of data police and criminal justice organizations usually collect and then notes the type of data they need on events and operations. The paper then focuses on six dimensions of data quality, which are relevance, accuracy, timeliness, accessibility, interpretability, and coherence. The author next proposes a proactive approach to data management. The starting point for a proactive approach to data management is the development of data systems that are relevant to management philosophies and strategies as well as the operations designed to implement them. Further, the data systems must facilitate data analysis and auditing. In designing such a data system, police organizations must determine what data are required for measuring the types and levels of crime and disorder. This should be followed by an action plan for meeting data requirements, designating who is responsible for improving the availability and quality of data, setting objectives for improving data management, and ensuring that strategies for addressing crime and disorder include a strategy for data management. 3 tables and 11 references