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Measuring and Improving Police Performance: The Lessons of Compstat and Its Progeny

NCJ Number
Policing: An International Journal of Police Strategies & Management Volume: 26 Issue: 3 Dated: 2003 Pages: 439-453
Mark H. Moore; Anthony A. Braga
Lawrence F. Travis III
Date Published
15 pages
This paper examines measuring and improving police performance by arguing why police executives would want to measure performance, describing how measurement is important in driving organizational change, discussing what police departments should be measuring, presenting an exploratory qualitative analysis of the mechanisms at work in Compstat and its application in six other police departments, and illustrating how to capture the value added by police engaged in community problem solving.
As police departments have evolved towards a strategy of community and problem-oriented policing, the traditional measures of police performance have become outdated, needing change and improvements. Based on traditional indicators, police organizations are prevented from moving towards a strategy of community problem solving since there is no way to hold police agencies internally accountable or externally accountable. Efforts to improve old performance measurement systems and develop new ones that can capture more of the value produced by police departments, support their learning, and help them strategically re-align themselves represent both an innovation and an investment in the organization’s administrative systems. This paper begins by discussing performance measurement as a means to drive internal and external accountability. When addressing internal accountability, the question has been on whether to focus on the ultimate results of policing such as reduced crime and enhanced security, or police efforts to produce these results, or the investments made in the police. However, in policing there are many important reasons to pay attention to output and process, as well as outcomes. The paper continues by presenting an exploratory qualitative analysis of the mechanisms in the New York City Compstat system. Six COPS case studies were closely examined, as well as literature on the Compstat process. Several features of the Compstat make this measurement system behaviorally powerful, holding managers accountable for an outcome of policing, instead of an output or process. Police executives or police management have to decide how to move along a path towards improved performance measurement. A number of departments have made considerable progress in developing performance measurement systems that both address community concerns and drive their organizations towards a community problem-solving strategy. References