Worth a Look: Did Performance Measurement Cause America’s Police Problem?

Katherine Barrett and Richard Greene recently published an interesting article in Governing titled Did Performance Measurement Cause America’s Police Problem?

The article is definitely worth a few minutes to read.


Sparrow points out that the two most commonly used measures of police work — crime reduction and enforcement productivity “fail to reflect the very best performance in crime control.” Katherine Barrett & Richard Greene

The assumptions in the piece are not necessarily new. Most of the recent material published in the last several years that discusses performance metrics for law enforcement recognize that the traditional measures (crime rates, arrest numbers, case clearances, response times, etc.) are not effective. Community policing, especially given the current environment, dictates that agencies have to look toward the community itself to measure successes and failures (much like the business world, imagine that).

My personal favorite peeve is crime numbers. Chasing figures that are usually hard to actually impact, much less explain, can make an agency a slave to those numbers. I’ve always associated it with the same madness of Don Quixote running down windmills. The noblest of intentions, the foolhardy belief that the quest is real.

If you brag on those bad boys when they are low, be ready to eat some crow when they roll back up again, because we all know they will. Granted we are stuck with them, but they don’t have to become the rule.

Looking toward the community as a measurement is not easy; it is qualitative, not quantitative. There is no one-stop tool; every individual method will have challenges and limitations, so the goal should be to use as many as possible. Most importantly though is to operate everyday as though you are being being measured and scored, because even though you may not have numbers in front or you, you are.

What metrics and measurements are the best in your opinion?


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This entry was posted in Leadership, Operations, Opinions & Random Thoughts, Organizational Behavior, The Business of Policing and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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