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COMPSTAT Policing in Los Angeles
COMPSTAT Division is an integral part of the crime analysis and reduction efforts at the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) using the COMPSTAT process. Under the direction of Captain Demian Wyma, COMPSTAT Division works to provide the statistical data and management information needed for the weekly COMPSTAT information sharing forum meetings chaired by Chief Michel Moore and the Chief of Detectives Deputy Chief Kris Pitcher. COMPSTAT, short for “computer statistics,” is a multi-faceted system for managing police operations. It looks outwardly at crime and its effects in the community, while at the same time looking within the organization to identify best practices in managing police personnel and risk management issues.
One of the most important roles of the Chief of Police is to set organizational goals and objectives, which sends a powerful message throughout a police department as to the importance and direction of employees’ efforts. As a problem-solving model, the COMPSTAT process directs employees to identify problems, formulate solutions, carry them out, and analyze results for effectiveness. Its core elements provide a basic road map for getting police officers back in the business of proactively engaging the community in an effort to reduce crime rather than just reacting to it.
A vital component of the COMPSTAT philosophy is its emphasis on holding police managers directly accountable for reducing the crime in their assigned area by focusing on community outreach efforts and providing them the authority to deploy their resources to achieve the desired results.
The elements of COMPSTAT consist of four distinct principles:
Accurate and Timely Intelligence
Accurate and timely intelligence and information is essential in effectively responding to any problem or crisis. Since today’s policing techniques nearly always consist of vast amounts of information, it is necessary to provide a vehicle wherein essential information can easily and effectively be shared with all levels of the organization. Often times, detectives have information on suspects or crime trends and patterns but the actual field patrol officers who may be in contact with potential suspects have no idea of what information detective personnel possess or need to clear a case. Just as important, this principle also provides for an early warning system to identify emerging crime trends and patterns. In today’s environment of ever shrinking resources, being able to apply the necessary resources to an identified problem area is crucial in successfully reducing crime. Historically, marked police vehicles have randomly been deployed in hopes of deterring potential criminals who see the black and white police vehicles on patrol. This principle suggests that the intelligence/information be used as a radar screen to direct police resources to the exact problem area.
Traditional policing tactics have always dictated that most problems may be solved at a superficial level. In other words, take care of the suspect and don’t worry about the social or environmental situation that may be adding to or creating the problem. COMPSTAT tactics encourage “thinking outside the box” and mandates that every resource, both internal and external, be considered in responding to a problem. COMPSTAT tactics also provide for a sense of urgency in responding to problems. The old attitudes of public entities responding at slow speed are no longer acceptable. Every case or call for service is handled as the traditional “Big Case” and is thoroughly and rapidly investigated in a systematic manner. Police cannot arrest their way out of community problems. The COMPSTAT inspection allows for best practices in community engagement to be shared with multiple entities.
For decades, police departments have been driven by calls for service and reactively respond with their limited resources. With COMPSTAT, the police department is now armed with vital intelligence regarding emerging crime trends or patterns that allows for a strategic police response. The strategic response can be in many forms, both traditional uniformed or plainclothes officer response as well as engaging and interacting the with the community.
Relentless Follow-up and Assessment
An essential element in any crucial operation is the need to critically assess past tactics and review what was successfully employed and what just didn’t work. One of the main differences between private enterprise and the public sector is the bottom line of positive returns. The public sector and police departments have rarely been evaluated on their results. On the other hand, if a business implements an unsuccessful strategy or provides an unacceptable level of customer service, it isn’t long before bankruptcy is filed. The bottom line with COMPSTAT is results. Everything the police department does no matter whether administrative, operational or investigative in nature is evaluated by the results achieved. Static operations that do not provide for successful results are immediately assessed for their value and necessity to the overall operation of the department.