Compstat: A Street-Level Perspective




Fender, Stephen R

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Since its creation in 1994, Compstat has emerged as a major policing reform. This innovation has been the recipient of numerous awards and has diffused rapidly across the U.S. policing landscape (Weisburd et al., 2003; Willis et al., 2010). Despite its popularity, there has been relatively little systematic research on Compstat from the perspective of a department’s largest resource – its patrol officers. This research attempts to address this gap by using a survey to collect and examine the views of patrol officers of Compstat within a single police department in the Northern Virginia region that makes an effort to involve patrol officers in the Compstat process. Assessing street-level officer's understanding of Compstat is important as this reform, at least in theory, promises to transform the entire organization. Identifying whether the perspective of these officers is consistent with the agency's efforts is useful as it can reveal where implementation problems are likely to occur and what might account for these problems. Surveys asked questions regarding the key elements of the Compstat program as it was designed by the organization in order to assess patrol officer perception. Findings show that many officers understood the main goal of the program and reported using problem solving and crime analysis data at the street-level; however, they did not feel that the accountability component required by command staff extended to them at the street-level. These results are in contrast to the traditional top-down management model of Compstat that places these responsibilities at the command staff level. Traditionally patrol officers are only tasked with responding to calls and following orders from command staff directed problem solving that stems from their use of timely data-driven information.



Compstat, Police, Street-Level, Management