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Back to Archives | Back to May 2012 Contents 

Technology Talk

Performance Management for Policing

By David J. Roberts, Senior Program Manager, IACP Technology Center

ew and emerging technologies are playing an increasingly crucial role in the daily work of frontline law enforcement officers, equipping them with enforcement and investigative tools that have the potential to make them better informed and more effective. Technology is impacting individual officers and is having a transformative impact on law enforcement agencies as well. Contemporary law enforcement agencies have implemented a host of technologies to enable expanded communication with officers in the field, to expedite and improve crime reporting and analysis, and to better manage the tactical deployment of forces and the strategic utilization of resources.

Technology also is changing the structure and the operation of law enforcement agencies, enabling administrators to more efficiently manage and deploy resources, monitor crime trends with greater precision, and target intervention and investigative assets with greater effectiveness. Technology is facilitating closer and more collaborative relationships among law enforcement professionals and their communities. The explosive growth and the technological sophistication of smartphones and the surging popularity of social networking sites have empowered the general public and raised their expectations regarding the transparency of law enforcement organizations, the services provided, and the public’s ability to communicate with the police.1

In response to a variety of federal and national programs designed to increase information sharing and intelligence fusion capabilities nationwide, state and local law enforcement agencies are expanding, extending, and retooling their information systems and contributing staff and resources to state or regional fusion centers.2 The raw data (for example, incident reports, arrest reports, and field interviews) that are the natural product of law enforcement operations at state and local levels comprise the fundamental currency that drives much of the intelligence fusion and information sharing efforts nationwide.

Financial support for technology, which may initially have been purchased with federal funding, also frequently represents a challenge when agencies find themselves responsible for ongoing maintenance and support of sophisticated systems.3 The financial burden facing law enforcement agencies extends to hardware and software maintenance and support contracts, migration to new versions of hardware and software, security enhancements to support mobile information sharing, and replacement and repair costs associated with supporting the use of technology in a dynamic operational environment.

Police chiefs and sheriffs, like chief executives of any organization, are measured on results. For law enforcement executives, this means public assessment on a range of factors:

  • Is crime going up or down?

  • Do citizens feel safe in their communities? Do they feel safer today than they did one year ago or ten years ago?

  • Does the agency respond quickly in emergency situations?

  • Does the agency rank favorably in the volume of crime reported in the jurisdiction (both in gross number of crimes and per capita crime rates), the proportion of cases solved, and the number of arrests made?

  • Does the public respect the agency and the officers on patrol? Do citizens feel they are treated with respect and courtesy? Are they satisfied with results when they call for assistance?

  • Does the agency demonstrate efficiency of operations and conscientious use of public resources?

The variety of factors that contribute to an overall assessment of the quality of the job done by law enforcement demonstrates the extraordinary breadth and depth of an agency’s responsibility and authority. Certainly other factors (for example, unemployment, the age and social structure of the community, and general economic trends and conditions) also can influence the amount of crime in a given jurisdiction, but law enforcement generally is held to task as the agency most responsible and, therefore, most accountable.

As criminal justice and policing authority David H. Bayley has noted, “Performance evaluation is more than an academic exercise, a matter of methodologies, and numbers. How performance is measured affects not only what the public knows about the police but also the character of police operations and the management climate. Because performance evaluations establish priorities, incentives, and requirements, they are much too important to be left to technicians. Performance measurement should be viewed as an integral, ongoing part of the management of policing.”4

Institutionalizing performance management requires agencies to create an organizational culture that values measurement and management and provides ways for everyone—from the chief to the officer on the street and from the commander to the records clerk and the dispatcher—to participate. Aligning operations to meet broad agency vision and mission statements and defining performance measures and targets requires the operational input of practitioners at every level of the organization.

Building effective business intelligence tools, which are designed to constantly assess performance on multiple dimensions across the breadth of the enterprise, requires the integration of critical agency information systems and the implementation of online analytical processing technologies that provide real-time analysis and results. Ongoing performance monitoring and assessment should not require the agency to mount independent research initiatives to constantly address the agency’s core mission and objectives; rather, this should be a component of the information technology planning and implementation processes that are tightly aligned with the agency’s overarching strategic planning process. In this way, the performance management framework becomes ingrained in the management culture of the organization, which in turn ensures that it will be effectively institutionalized. Moreover, by building business intelligence and performance measurement as embedded elements of the agency’s broader management and information technology planning process, the quality and the timeliness of information is likely to improve, given the operational investment in core agency information systems.

Performance measurement affords the agency an opportunity to closely examine business processes and identify data entry duplication, redundant processing, and circuitous business processes that are evidence of the piecemeal automation practices endemic in many jurisdictions. Building an effective performance measurement program, which constantly monitors performance on a variety of factors, is a tool to identify problems that emerge in the early stages of development. Instead of responding to catastrophic events and implementing major course corrections, agencies should be proactive and results oriented, identifying problems in the early stages of emergence by monitoring performance continuously. Identifying critical performance measures and tightly aligning performance monitoring solutions with agency information systems provides agencies with the opportunity to identify emerging problems before they fully manifest themselves.

In addition to identifying critical performance measures, agencies should implement performance dashboards that tightly integrate with operational information systems and embed management mechanisms with the ability to trigger alerts when performance metrics exceed narrow performance parameters. Spikes in the amount of reported crime, significant shifts in key dimensions (for example, locations, times of day, victim characteristics, and arrest figures), and other attributes might well be incorporated into these online solutions similar to supply chain management systems in the private sector, which can identify deviations in predicted commercial activity and respond immediately, adjusting inventory to better meet the needs of consumers.

Performance management is about more than effectively responding to problems as they arise; it’s also about anticipating problems and effectively responding early. ■


1For detailed information regarding law enforcement and social media, please see the website for the IACP Center for Social Media, (accessed April 11, 2012).
2National efforts to build information and intelligence sharing capabilities have largely been guided by the National Strategy for Information Sharing released by the White House in 2007, (accessed April 11, 2012). The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has supported the development of state and local fusion centers to collect, share, analyze, and act on information and intelligence. For more information, see “State and Major Urban Area Fusion Centers,” DHS, (accessed April 11, 2012) and “Fusion Centers and Intelligence Sharing,” Justice Information Sharing, U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, (accessed April 11, 2012).
3A national evaluation of the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program after four years indicated that law enforcement agencies “experienced extra costs due to the new technology” (Jeffrey A. Roth and Joseph F. Ryan, “The COPS Program After 4 Years—National Evaluation,” National Institute of Justice Research in Brief [Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Justice, U.S. Department of Justice, August 2000], 13). In addition, the authors note that “three categories of cost have been especially problematic for agencies funded for mobile computers, especially those pursuing wireless field reporting. These are upgraded telecommunications capacity; integration of field reporting with existing (or developing) records management systems; and vehicle mounts, which were frequently designed from scratch.” (Ibid., 13–14).
4David H. Bayley, “Measuring Overall Effectiveness,” in Quantifying Quality in Policing, ed. Lawrence T. Hoover (Washington, D.C.: Police Executive Research Forum, 1996), 37–54.

Please cite as:

David J. Roberts, "Performance Management for Policing," Technology Talk, The Police Chief 79 (May2012): 60–61.

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From The Police Chief, vol. LXXIX, no. 5, May 2012. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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