Alternative Measures of Police Performance
In E. Viano, (ed.), Criminal Justice Research, Lexington Books, 1976

Notes  |  References  |  Back to Main Page

By Gary T. Marx
This chapter is a shortened version of a work begun with the support of the Police Foundation and continued under NSF Grant G138004. I am very grateful to Mark Furstenburg and Charles Perrow for their critical comments.

Given the nature of their task and the means available to them in a civil libertarian society, police are bound to be more problematic than other public service institutions. But I think a strong case can be made for the argument that some problems that can be ameliorated stem from current performance evaluation practices, or perhaps better non practices.

The public sector has generally lagged behind the privates ector in developing measures of performance that would aid in evaluation and accountability. The near monopoly that public service bureaucracies have, their multiple purposes and diffuse clientele, and the belief (unshaken until recently) that because their formal goals say they do good, they actually must do good, help account for this.

Few measures are available with which to make comparative ratings among departments, or within the same departments over a period of time. The few measures that are available are narrow and used too uncritically. Police are, of course, not alone in this regard. It is only very recently, and partly as a result of challenges from protest groups and tightened budgets, that public service bureaucracies have become seriously concerned with their effects and with measures of performance. 1

This chapter suggests a number of measures of police activity and output that might serve as variables for social scientists attempting to contrast individuals, units, or cities systematically, and that might also be used in administration.

The chapter first considers and criticizes current efforts to evaluate individual performance. It then suggests some ways of evaluating areas not now given sufficient attention, such as the use of force and the quality of emergency service rendered, and briefly discusses using citizen interviews as a technique of evaluation.

Current Measures

Individual performance evaluation is generally not well developed in police departments. The most common practice consists of an annual or semiannual subjective rating form filled out by police supervisors, where persons are rated with respect to global categories such as initiative and appearance. Many departments make no effort to assess performance at all. The self-protectiveness of the police subculture and the fact that little concrete depends on the evaluations mean that many departments have abandoned them, or they have become empty rituals, where almost everyone's performance is rated as satisfactory.

Table 17-l (not shown here) suggests some ways of characterizing police performance measures. The first entry under "characteristics of measure" is the one that is more common. For example, the measures now used by police tend to be internally rather than externally generated. They are done by supervisors rather than peers, self, or clients. They often involve conformity to bureaucratic standards that are only indirectly related to the actual means and ends of police work. They are based much more on subjective assessments, than on objective or quantifiable indicators, and when they are objective, they ask how much, rather than how well. Current evaluation instruments refer to general qualities, rather than to behavior-specific field-based situations and if they do involve the latter, they refer to law enforcement, rather than community service or conflict related activities. Performance evaluation is used more to punish failure, than to reward success and to make inter-individual, rather than inter-unit comparisons.

The factors on which officers are rated may have little to do with what police actually do on patrol. As Egon Bittner (1970 )notes, “recognition is given for doing well in the department, not outside where all the real duties are." This is related to the difficulty faced by police supervisors in evaluating their men, which results from the decentralized nature of police work, a lack of clarity and conflict in police goals, and the intangible and symbolic nature of much of the police "product," particularly as it relates to deterrence. These factors, and a bureaucracy organized along quasi-military lines, result in evaluations often being based on conformity to internal bureaucratic standards, which may have little to do with how well a patrolman does his job on the street, or what he does. Being where one is supposed to be, or showing up to roll call on time with an immaculate uniform and shiny shoes, may have little to do with a policeman's street sense, with how well he uses force, with his ability to calm tempers in a dispute, or to aid a troubled family gain the outside help it needs.

Where patrol activity is considered it is likely to be restricted to law enforcement. Two criticisms can be made here:  1. Other important patrol activities are ignored. 2. The indicators from which inferences about performance are drawn place undue reliance on a mechanistic tabulation of rates, rather than looking at the process through which the rates are created.

An evaluation of police patrol activity focusing only on law enforcement is too narrow to capture the diversity of the police job. Police crime statistics are notoriously unreliable. Furthermore, as many studies have indicated, only a minority of police time is spent dealing with serious crime and much evidence suggests that other general community factors are more important to crime rates than what police do. Apprehension is also more related to the type of offense than to actions of police. Much of the important emergency service and order maintenance work that police do goes unrecognized and unrewarded. The fact that such work, and not the catching of armed robbers, occupies most of the patrolman's time is ignored.

Focusing only on crime related measures may lead to a distribution of resources, or to practices that may interfere with obtaining other important police goals. It can encourage the mistaken view that crime is solely the responsibility of police, rather than of other parts of the criminal justice system and the public at large. Having police assume total responsibility for highly complex crime phenomena on which they may be able to have only limited effect makes for police defensiveness and a degree of solidarity and isolation unbecoming a civic police. 2  We ironically see much attention paid to what police spend little time doing, and may not be able to affect greatly, and we see what police can have the most effect on, and spend most of their time doing, all but ignored.

In the 1950s the move toward a more bureaucratic police, which in some ways is the opposite of the professionalism those involved sought, meant an emphasis on rules, procedures, planning, and record keeping. Objective measures of productivity were sought as keys to performance. For some departments, particularly those on the West Coast, this gave rise to an emphasis on police productivity as determined by quantitative indicators. Production rates for patrolmen were determined byfactors such as the number of traffic tickets written, arrests made, field interrogation cards filled out, stolen cars identified, or for detectives, crimes cleared by arrest, percent convicted, and stolen property recovered. Where these factors are not a part of the informal evaluation system, sergeants may nevertheless have expectations regarding an informal quota system. The emphasis too easily is put on rates of production, rather than on the quality of the process through which the rates are produced. The question, "How many arrests or tickets?" is asked rather than, "Was it wise to write a ticket, or make an arrest in this case?"

The substance of the area evaluated aside, a rather limited range of evaluation techniques are used. As noted the prime evaluation technique is internally generated a supervisor's subjective rating. Many problems may arise when a sensitive function such as policing is only subject to internal evaluation. These include the exclusion of important alternative sources of information and definitions of problems, the tendency of an agency to protect its own and perpetuate things as they are, the ease with which self-measurements can be manipulated and lack of public confidence in the process.

There are other problems when only supervisors' ratings are used. These include response set, varying standards and frames of reference among supervisors, no means of assessing reliability and validity, supervisors' possible bias, lack of knowledge, indifference, or hesitancy to criticize his men because of fear of alienating them, or because he thinks this reflects negatively on his role as a supervisor.

Another problem lies in the use made of performance evaluation data. Police departments generally tend to put a greater emphasis on punishing failure than on rewarding success.  Organizations generally find it easier to do this (indeed success often becomes defined simply as the absence of failure). The failure to live up to a standard is easier to see than going far beyond the standard. Norms that have a continuous quality (rather than merely declaring "thou shall" or "shall not") and involve degree, are more conducive to rewarding success. Police supervisors tend to be seen as people who can make trouble for you, rather than people who will reward you for a job well done.

With the strong job protections offered by civil service, promotion to higher ranks based on memorization of laws and police solidarity, there has been little incentive to develop broadly based performance evaluation systems.

There is a need to develop indicators for areas other than law enforcement, indicators that tell us about the quality of performance beyond sheer quantity, indicators that go beyond the subjective rating of a supervisor and more clearly tie performance evaluation to the reward system.

The discussion that follows considers ways that some of these needs might be met. Three generally neglected substantive areas on which individual patrolmen should be evaluated are discussed: the use of force; arrest and civil liberties; and the quality of emergency service. Citizen interviews and behavior are also briefly considered.

The Use of  Force and Arrest

An important aspect of the police role is to protectconstitutional guarantees of freedom and equality. One component of this has to do with enforcing laws regarding freedom of speech and assembly; yet another has to do with the means through which police obtain their goals. Police in a democratic society are in principle differentiated from those elsewhere, by the severe limitations they face in carrying out their goals. Probably to a greater extent than with most other agencies, the evaluation of police performance requires attention to means. Indeed, police operating within the framework of the United States Constitution should be a goal in itself. A spectacular arrest achieved through physical coercion, or illegal surveillance, search or seizure, is a questionable gain. While apprehension of a suspected felon clearly meets one police goal, the use of illegal means clearly violates another. The evaluation of police performance should be able to take account of both of these. As noted, traditional measures have focused much more on outcomes than on the process whereby outcomes are produced.

One area where such "means" measures can be developed is with respect to police use of force. Central to the police role is the right to use force, whether this be in apprehending a felon, negotiating a family dispute, or assisting with the mentally ill. However, measures for indicating how effectively force is used, or what constitutes the undue and unnecessary use of force, tend to be lacking. However, a number of gross indicators of the use of force are available. If used over a period these would offer a systematic means of measurement. These indicators include the proportion of an of officer's arrests in which charges of assaulting or interfering with an officer, resisting arrest, or disorderly conduct are brought, the proportion of arrests involving the use of force, the number of times a baton or gun are drawn and used, the proportion of arrests involving bystanders, as against suspected offenders, or those responsible for the initial police involvement, and the extent of injury and homicide involved in police-citizen encounters.

From considering the nature of the arrest, the actions of the person arrested, the context, the seriousness of the threat to police and others, alternatives available to the use of force, the amount of force used by police and extent of injury and damage, judgments could be reached about how appropriately force was used. Given the complexity of most situations and difficulties of judgment, evaluations of individuals (except in extreme cases) would be based on a number of police-citizen encounters over a period, such as each six months. Some cities such as Oakland have started a peer review panel with respect to the use of force. Statistics are collected on the use of force and officers using force disproportionately are reviewed.

Thus far we have been considering individual measures. These can be aggregated to form group measures. Thus, the ratio of disorderly or resisting arrest charges to total arrests can be determined for an entire department as well as for patrolmen. 3

Another measure of use of force, which is probably best treated as an aggregate figure at the group level, is homicides by police. There appears to be tremendous variation between departments, and no doubt within them. For example, between 1950 and 1960 the unjustifiable homicide" rate per 10,000 officers was about 45 times as great in Akron, Ohio, as in Boston (Table 17-2).

Table 17-2: Rates of Justifiable Homicides by Police Officers per 10,000 Officers, 1950-60*
CITY Annual Rate per 10,000 Officers
Boston 1.05
Buffalo 4.76
Milwaukee 5.50
Philadelphia 6.08
Washington D.C. 10.65
Chicago 22.53
Cincinnati 24.82
Kansas City MO 35.41
Miami 38.1 5
Akron 48.50

*Source: From Gerald D. Robin, “Justifiable Homicide by Police Officers," reprinted by special permission of the Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology. and Police Science, copyright  1963 by Northwestern University School of Law, Vol. 54, No. 2.

Patterns of justifiable police homicide are partly due to regional and subcultural variations in the resort to violence, crime patterns, the availability of weapons, and differences in reporting. These figures would be clearer if they were based on extent and type of contact with police. But such patterns are partly a consequence of training, supervision and departmental policies. Such rates should be computed on a regular basis. Many of such justifiable homicides, while within the framework of the law, are unnecessary and represent poor judgment on the part of the officer. Information on number of police homicides by city is collected annually and an aggregate national figure is published in the United States Public Health Department's Vital Statistics. But data are not presented by city. If this were done, it might call greater attention to the area and serve as an incentive for the more careful use of force.

Another important means area is the quality of arrest. Much work and experimentation would be required to develop appropriate measures here. One area to begin with would be some of the actions taken by prosecutors and the courts. These can be seen as rough measures of the extent of police conformity to law, or thoroughness of preparation in arrest situations. These include the proportion of those arrested who are charged, the proportion of cases actually coming to trial, and those dismissed as a result of the exclusionary rule, entrapment, or inadequate preparation. Several large cities are now monitoring how district attorneys and courts process their arrestees and how well cases are prepared In some cities a superior officer observes police testimony. There are, of course, many intermediary factors between actions of the police and judicial outcomes, and inferences drawn must be cautious. But as a rough comparative guide, in conjunction with other measures, this might be one way to deal with the means aspect of police performance.

Police knowledge of civil liberties, civil rights, and recent court decisions, might be periodically measured by paper and pencil means, or through role playing. While knowing what the law is, and what procedures are allowable, is no guarantee they will be followed, such information is at least a necessary precondition for police conformity to law.

The Quality of Emergency Service

A number of studies have shown that a majority of police interaction with citizens involves some type of emergency service --whether it be assisting at a traffic accident, returning a lost child, or arbitrating a family dispute. Yet, such activities seem invisible to the public. They are not part of the TV-shaped image of what police do, nor are they taken seriously enough by many police. Those areas where police spend the most time, are most directly helpful to people, and probably are most effective (compared at least to effectiveness against crime) are those least rewarded and most hidden from public view. 4

Public confidence in and satisfaction with police might increase were such services given more explicit formal recognition. If chances for advancement and more favorable assignments depended partly on how well such service tasks were carried out, they might be done more conscientiously.

As a result of the extreme demands on their time, limited training, and the diversity of situations they must deal with, most police cannot be expected fully to do the job of psychiatrists, legal advocates, employment counselors, doctors, etc. But they can offer support on an emergency basis and link people with difficulties with those in a position to give help on a more sustained basis, and at the very least their intervention should not exacerbate the problem.

Given the variety of service tasks police face and the need for quick action in unsupervised settings, finding measures of performance is difficult. Yet, to begin with, a simple counting of such service would bring greater understanding of it and attention to it. We should be able to know how departments, and people within a given department, differ from each other with respect to the amount and kinds of service rendered. A number of means, including supervisor's review of service activity, follow up interviews with a sample of those having contact with police, periodic assessment of patrolmen's awareness of referral resources, and perhaps response to simulated service situations could be used.

Issuing a receipt, or official notice after such police encounters with citizens, as is done with traffic tickets, would give greater visibility and attention to this function and make tabulation of such service contacts easier. (Reiss 1971)

Evaluation efforts could be directed at how well the symptoms of the problem in the immediate situation were handled. This would include things such as the quality of the interaction with citizens, expressed interest in the person's problems, and the type of action taken or suggested by the patrolman (e.g., extent and quality of referrals made, whether assaults and certain types of arrest were avoided).

Taking or encouraging action that helps get at the source of a problem such as unemployment, alcoholism, housing code violations, in addition to dealing with the symptoms (angry people), should also be a positive factor in performance evaluation. For example, in a landlord-tenant dispute over aren't increase, and the failure of the landlord to fix plumbing and exposed electrical wiring, does the policeman simply leave after indicating that this is a civil matter over which he has no authority, or does he refer the tenant to a legal aid society or rent control board and notify the appropriate city agency about building code violations? In a family conflict does the policeman threaten to arrest an unemployed drunken husband if he does not leave the house and go for a walk, or does he also tell the family about community agencies that can offer help with employment, alcoholism, and family problems, and notify the given agency?

Additional factors in evaluating service might be the ratio of situations initiated by the dispatcher vs. the patrolman, and a patrolman's knowledge of a community's helping resources and procedures for drawing on these, such as better business bureaus, mental health clinics, legal aid service, charitable organizations, and government inspection and regulatory agencies.

Experienced police supervisors no doubt make use of many obtrusive and unobtrusive indicators of patrolman performance in these and related areas, though these are not all at a conscious level, highly codified, or a part of the formal evaluation process. It would be useful to try and identify some of these indicators and means of codifying them. Just as a sergeant may know who the more aggressive men are with respect to crime, he may also know which men are most effective with respect to community service and order maintenance, but how does he know this? What kinds of indicators tell him that some men have more patience, tolerance, empathy, understanding, or coolness under pressure than others? Which men are thought to relate best to minorities and deviants, have the ability to resolve disputes and make arrests with a minimum of force, and are most helpful in referring people with problems and needs to appropriate agencies? On what grounds is it thought that a man would be good for community relations, or juvenile, or crime prevention work? Does knowing that a man's uniform is in order, that he is infrequently late or absent, that he writes a large number of traffic tickets and field interrogation reports say anything about the above, or are other indicators more appropriate?

While the legal and ethical implications would have to be explored carefully, simulated requests for service and artificially constructed situations might also be tried. These vary from New York City's leaving wallets with cash in them where unsuspecting patrolmen can find them and then seeing if the wallets are turned in with the cash intact, to asking police for various kinds of information, to having actors feign incidents that require police intervention (drunkenness, family quarrels, victimization) and then monitoring them.

Citizen Attitudes and Behavior

One of the unfortunate aspects of professionalism and bureaucratization is that the client is often ignored or taken for granted. All expertise and decision making rest with the professional. Communication too often goes exclusively downward. Unlike the case of business, the performance of a public service agency cannot for long be judged apart from the citizens it serves, however varied these citizens may be. External measures in the form of citizen feedback can help departments better understand what citizens see as their needs, what priorities they have, what experiences they have had in police encounters, and how they view particular situations. Surveys can give a voice to those who are usually unheard and can reveal different attitudes and needs of various segments of the community. For example, the needs of the aged are usually not a direct factor in setting policy; yet, surveys reveal the greatest concern about safety and wish for increased police services among this group. Many surveys of criminal justice attitudes have been done; yet, these are usually done on an ad hoc basis, done at only one point in time and have slight implications for policy or the evaluation of police performance. The attitudes, experiences, and behavior of the consumers of police service, whether this be those arrested, those victimized, those calling police in social service and order maintenance situations, or the public at large, are an important and all too often neglected factor. For example, Baltimore and several other departments have begun random follow-up interviews with a small proportion of those calling police for service. Citizens are asked to rank police on things such as courtesy, understanding, capability, explanations of their actions, whether police were thought to have done everything they could to handle the problem and whether they would call police again if a similar problem arose. 5

Another device is to have the internal investigation unit play a proactive, rather than a reactive role, by asking citizens on a random basis about the performance of specific officers. Citizens are often hesitant to make complaints because they do not know the procedure, fear retaliation, or feel that it does no good to express a grievance. Actively seeking out information about citizen experiences could increase citizen confidence, as well as offering an important type of data.

Such proactive investigations would apply best to men on foot, but could also apply where motorized patrolmen have a regular beat. While asking twenty people of varied background (merchants, youth, clergy, etc.) impressions about a man might be expected to turn up some complaints on almost anyone of a personal, or idiosyncratic nature, a consistent pattern of negative or positive responses (perhaps at several points in time) would be more meaningful. Knowing that some of those police have contact with will be asked about it, might serve to improve the quality of police-citizen contact.

Other measures relate to perceptions of the department as a whole, rather than to any given individual. With respect to the public at large, periodic surveys can be carried out asking people how secure they feel, how concerned they are about crime, how worried they are about personal victimization, what security precautions they take, how they may have altered their behavior in response to crime, how and when they are in public, and about recent victimization experiences of their own, or others they know, or instances of victimization they have heard about in their neighborhood or city. An argument can be made that one of the most essential services police provide is a feeling of security. Any evaluation dealing with crime must consider subjective feelings and perceptions, as well as the actual" objective" facts of crime.

It is important to discover how citizen behavior, feelings of security, victimization rates and experiences, reported crime, and various police practices interrelate. Considering these factors together gives a far richer and more meaningful assessment than the number of crimes known to police, or cleared by arrest, or a victimization survey considered separately. One can look at absolute increases and decreases in crime known to police, and in victimization and the ratio between them.

Surveys can also ask about general attitudes and images of police, felt needs, satisfaction and dissatisfaction with various aspects of police service, willingness to report various kinds of crime, to testify in court and serve on juries, and knowledge of the law, civil liberties, and police powers.

Actual public behavior, rather than expressed attitudes as such, can also be considered. Various measures of citizen cooperation or hindrance could be developed and considered at specified time periods, such as the quantity and quality of information about serious crimes from the general public, damage to police property and false alarms, attacks on police, or citizens assisting officers in need of help, and the proportion of those sought as witnesses who agree to testify. Other external measures such as the number and nature of complaints and compliments about police could be used.

Less obtrusive measures might also be used, such as the number of people out on the street at night in a given area, as measured each six months (controlling for density, proximity of area to commercial and entertainment centers, availability of public transportation, etc.), or increases or decreases in the sale of weapons, watch dogs, property insurance, special locks and alarm systems, the use of private guards, letters to newspapers about crime, and community police patrols.

The analysis of patterns and changes in various of the above measures over a given time period (such as each six months) could say a great deal about police performance, call attention to new needs, and offer a much broader picture than most departments now have.


Performance measures, of both an individual and organizational nature, are crucial for understanding the workings of a police department and for administration.

Such measures can indicate the extent of compatibility and trade-offs among various goals. They can indicate the extent to which various segments of the community (either geographical or social such as race, age, class, etc.) receive equivalent police service, or have equivalent needs for police service. They can help assess the consequences of particular programs and experiments.

They can identify areas where performance is particularly weak or strong. They can permit a more rational allocation of resources, and selection, training, placement and promotion procedures finked to actual needs. They can help establish equitable workloads among personnel. They can be important factors in developing a reward system more closely geared to the kinds of performance valued by police administrators and citizens. They can be factors in helping clarify what is expected of a police officer and the nature of the police role.

It is of course one thing to point to new performance measures that might be used, and quite another to have them adopted. 6 The kinds of measures emphasized are closely related to the goals of the police organization 7

There is obviously no simple answer to reforms involving police and various trade-offs are present. One approach that could be called "the kinds of people approach" is concerned with getting better educated police, or more minorities or those psychologically suited to exercise authority. Another approach focuses on altering the police role --restricting it to law enforcement, dropping concern with vice crimes, or developing specialized conflict management units. Another approach focuses on organization, calling for greater decentralization or regionalization. Still other approaches focus on altering authority patterns by increasing the power of the mayor, city council, or citizen groups, against that of the chief, or patrolmen's association, and by changing civil service requirements. Other approaches are more technical and involve computers, helicopters, and sophisticated crime labs. One large West Coast department is even rumored to have a submarine.

Still another aspect of police change has to do with the reward structure. Without conjuring up wooden images of a reward-seeking, punishment-avoiding man, if one wishes the restrained use of force, greater police conformity to law, better community relations, and more effective police behavior in conflict and helping situations, it is important to structure the job to measure and reward such behavior. Those concerned with social change, and understanding inequality in American life, could usefully focus more attention on micro-level issues involving selection, training, performance evaluation, civil service, public employee associations, promotion, sanctioning, client-bureaucrat interaction, and policy formation within police, as well as other public bureaucracies.


  1. The argument developed in this chapter about the need for better police performance measures applies equally to other city services. Many of the same issues, problems, questions, processes and perhaps solutions, are involved, regardless of whether one considers schools, sanitation, hospitals, welfare or police. There is much to be said for a comparative approach to the quality of public service bureaucracies (for example, Lipsky 1971).
  2. Even if the police crime role is seen as much more important than the order maintenance and social service aspects, it is possible that police effectiveness with respect to crime (and our measures of it) might improve were greater attention given to them. Community service activities can result in crime prevention. Improved police community relations can lead to the greater citizen cooperation important in the apprehension of serious law breakers. Increased citizen confidence in police might lead to an increase in reported crime, and were crime given less internal priority, there would be less incentive for distortion of crime statistics, both resulting in better data on crime. context, or was the law followed in the process?"
  3. This could be combined with other of the measures of use of force and standardized for an entire department. Such aggregate measures are necessary for contrasting departments with each other, or over time. Two additional composite measures that might be used are departmental morale and community relatedness.



    A composite measure of departmental morale might be systematically taken based on rates of police turnover, requests for transfer, mental and physical health, absenteeism, suicide, divorce, alcoholism, various attitude measures of morale, patrol car and personnel accidents, and damage to, and loss of, police property.

    In more or less homogeneous areas of a city, a community-relatedness measure might be based on knowledge of client population's culture, language, jargon, living in neighoorhood or being involved in its voluntary organizations, attitudes of police toward people they serve, extent to which they know the names of people in their area (other than of merchants or criminals) or spend their leisure time with nonpolice friends number of civilians and women in the department, minimum physical requirements to join the department (height, weight, glasses), and proportion of force in the field having contact with the public, walking, or on bicycles, motorcycles or scooters.

  5. Discussion of whether police should, or should not, be dispensing emergency services often seems unduly academic. One argument for their involvement is that in emergency situations the coercive power of police is occasionally needed to force help, or gain compliance, from the non cooperative. But beyond this, in the most rational and organized of societies with unlimited resources, perhaps the police might be restricted to violations of the taw where the use of force is relevant to deterrence and apprehension. Yet we are rather far from such a state of affairs.



    By default, police are left with many emergency service tasks and conflict situations. There is a major citywide twenty-four-hour need here not met by other public service agencies or helping professionals, who generally sit and wait for those in need of help to come to them. Police are in a unique position not shared by other professionals. Being in homes and neighborhoods where the need for help is often great, and where awareness of potential sources Of help is often limited, they can play a crucial role in identifying problems and linking those in need of help with appropriate agencies.

  7. For example, Frank Furstenberg and Charles Wellford (1973). Those interviewed are told, "Every day a large number of people call the police department for service. Routinely, we follow up some of these calls in order to check on the quality of the service that was provided. Our records indicate that you requested assistance from the police department recently. If I may, I would Iike to ask you a few questions about the service that was provided."
  8. Resistance may be minimized, at least initially, by gathering information about departments as a whole, or various subunits, over several time periods with data aggregated from individuals, rather than focusing directly on the evaluation of individuals. In the beginning, making new measures part of a General inspectional process, rather than something that goes into a personnel Ale, would permit familiarity with new measures to develop and some test of their practicality, validity and reliability. It would place emphasis on changes in organizational practice conducive to poor performance rather than on punishing individuals as such.
  9. This discussion has essentially ducked the question of goals. Any discussion of measures of performance must consider the goals of the organization. In light of what goals is performance to be measured? Are an organization's diverse goals to be weighted equally? The more complex and varied an organization's goals, the more difficult finding widely agreed upon, specific operational indicators of performance is likely to be.



    The value laden and relative nature of the issue is apparent in considering police goals. The strict civil libertarian is likely to emphasize different aspects of police performance than the liquor store owner held up several times, or the ghetto family concerned about their child becoming an addict. Much also depends on the priorities of police and which social groups they are most responsive to. Yet, even granting the heterogeneity of American society, it is possible to specify aspects of the police role about which there appears to be fairly widespread consensus. Among these are the following police goals identified by the American Bar Association Project on Standards for Criminal Justice (1971): (1) to identify criminal offenders and criminal activity; (2) to reduce the opportunities for the commission of some crimes; (3) to create and maintain a feeling of security in the community; (4) to protect constitutional guarantees of freedom and equality; (5) to facilitate the movement of people and vehicles; (6) to assist those who cannot care for themselves or to arrange for such assistance (7) to identify problems that are potentially dangerous; (8) to provide, on an emergency basis, services that police are peculiarly equipped to provide or to arrange for such services.

    As noted, current measures of performance focus much more on the crime related goals (1, 2) than on goals of creating and maintaining a feeling of security, protecting constitutional guarantees, and various kinds of non law enforcement emergency service.  Until equal, or at least much greater, recognition is given to police tasks involving emergency service, conflict management, the quality of interaction with the public, and the means aspects of police work, criteria measuring effectiveness in these areas are not likely to receive the attention they deserve. Even if the emphasis on performance evaluation was broadened, it might mean little until evaluation became more closely tied into the reward and promotional system. Even where police leaders wish to see such changes, traditionalism, civil service regulations and employee associations may make implementation difficult.

Top  |  Notes  |  Back to Main Page


American Bar Association, 197-1, The Urban Police Function. New York.
Bittner, Egon, 1970, The Functions of Police in Modern Society. Washington, D.C: U. S. Government Printing Office
F. Furstenberg and C. Wellford, 1973, "Calling the Police: The Evaluation of Police Service," Law and Society Review, Vol 7, No. 3 (Spring) pp 393406
Lipsky, Michael, 1971.  Protest in City Politics. Chicago: Rand McNally.
Reiss, Albert, 1971. Police and the Public. New Haven: Yale University Press.

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