Reliance on data to solve complex problems is subject to what’s sometimes called the “drunk under the streetlamp” effect: An obviously intoxicated man is on his hands and knees on the sidewalk, under a streetlamp. A passing cop asks him what he’s doing. “Looking for my keys,” the man replies. “Well, where did you drop them?” the cop inquires. “About a block away, but the light’s better here.If anything, we have too much data on arrests, response time, clearance, even (sometimes) use of force. These are easy things to count. That doesn't make them particularly useful or qualitatively significant. Things you can count won't lead us to solutions that involve foot patrol, discretion, and positive interactions with the public. In policing, a job well done is just too hard to count.
August 17, 2016
"The Light's Better Here"
A nice critique of quantitative data over at City Observatory. It's about transportation planning, but the lesson can be applied to anything, especially policing: