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by Peter Moskos

April 15, 2010

Baltimore Police Department Suspends Comstat

Last week the BPD announced that they were suspending comstat. I'm not certain if that's cutting edge or retro.

Perhaps it's time to suspend compstat here in NYC. I don't think anybody wants a police department that doesn't hold commanders accountable and use the timely analysis of crime data, but (and this is putting it politely) perhaps there is room for improvement. Compstat has accomplished a lot of good. But times change. Perhaps it's time to think beyond a sh*t-rolls-downhill style of management.


Anonymous said...

As a guy who was with the NYPD before Compstat, I have to say it forces many barely active cops to work a little. I don't think we want to give that up.
The games with the numbers and the filler arrests must be dealt with, but the system is very effective at holding all levels of the Department accountable for their activity.

PCM said...

Compstat undoubtedly did good. The question is whether it still does good.

Are you still in touch with active NYPD? What do they say? Cause my ear to ground hears that compstat is starting to do more bad than good.

The question of course is what to do? Nobody wants to go back to a pre-compstat era.

But I still say that quotas that force bad cops to do more do nobody any favor (and a bad cop in this case is not the same as a lazy cop--though they often overlap).

What I'm saying is I'm all for giving lazy cops a kick in the ass. But if all you're going to do is give B.S. citations to decent working people (and my students), I'd prefer you didn't work at all.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Peter, I wasn't clear. I'm still active, and have seen the changes Compstat has made since it's inception. I understand the problems it causes (downgrading of crimes, activity for the sake of generating a number, etc.) but the basic idea of Compstat is still valid. Using up to date crime/summons/arrest figures to hold cops accountable for their activity (or lack thereof) and re-directing legitimate crime fighting efforts to be more effective, was a revolutionary change.
Intelligent police commanders found ways to game the system, but these same people are now moving into more senior roles. They are/will be the ones asking the questions at Compstat and then hearing the same cute answers they gave when at the "podium" and these Chiefs will see right through the B.S.
One correction is already playing out in this year's rise in crime. There is no denying that murder is up citywide but I suspect the rise in other crimes is being influenced by a reduction in complaint downgrading. A horrible situation for present precinct commanders, but it probably reflects the reality of many people(community boards, media, and yes...cops)not going along with the re-classification of crimes to meet the command's "number" for the week/month/year.
In regard to your students getting summonses, I've had moral/ethical problems with some summonses also. I don't know the specifics of the incidents you are referring to, but one guy receiving a B.S. citation is usually the result of another guy making a legitimate complaint about some condition. The key in these situations is discretion, cops have to work hard to maintain that fairness. Compstat does put pressure on guys to be active, but any cop worth his salt knows the difference between a technical and an actual violation of a law or code.

Anonymous said...


I do not think that the CompStat paradigm should be totally abandoned in NYC, but I do think it needs to be revamped. In my opinion, CompStat and its spin-offs (ChoccStat, DomStat, GrafittiStat, ICOstat, etc) were a good idea that have spun out of control.

There has to be a better way (than using fear and intimidation) to measure and evaluate Precinct Commanders down to police officers. The pressure to perform and be proactive has resulted in UMOS getting into trouble more than ever before with incidents of report shredding, Testilying, etc. To thank those officer who are proactive.

To those officers who are active, they are rewarded by receiving CD's for improper memobooks, missing UF250's, Lawsuits, and/or modification by IAB. Because IAB also have their numbers to get.

qintuq said...

I really like the fact that O'Malley accepted this, rather than taking it as an insult. That shows some real balls and courage for a politician.

Also, I hope (and it seems like) they won't do away with it completly. but rather change it.