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COMPSTAT and Bureaucracy: A Case Study of Challenges and Opportunities for Change

NCJ Number
Justice Quarterly Volume: 21 Issue: 3 Dated: September 2004 Pages: 463-496
Date Published
September 2004
34 pages

This article presents results from a case study of COMPSTAT's implementation in a small city police department.


COMPSTAT, as implemented by the New York Police Department (NYPD) in 1994, has been recognized as an innovative policing management strategy. The four principles of the COMPSTAT model are: (1) the distribution of accurate, timely information to all levels of personnel; (2) the identification of the most effective methods for solving specific problems; (3) the rapid deployment of resources to implement the method; and (4) timely follow-up and assessment. Although the COMPSTAT model has enjoyed admiration, little empirical research has been conducted on the effectiveness of the COMPSTAT model. The current study examined the way in which COMPSTAT was implemented in a small city police department, the Lowell Police Department. Intensive field research was conducted on site between October 2000 and May 2001; biweekly COMPSTAT meetings and weekly operations staff meetings were observed and 31 interviews were conducted with city and police personnel. Survey data were collected from 97 patrol officers and internal documents, records, and reports relating to COMPSTAT were reviewed. Results revealed that the COMPSTAT model was unevenly implemented in Lowell; although strong on mission clarification and internal accountability, the COMPSTAT model actually interfered with its own operation by strengthening traditional features of police bureaucracy. The authors draw on Weber's theory of bureaucracy in order to show how the uneven implementation of COMPSTAT's key elements was impacted by the organization of the Lowell Police Department. The findings indicate that each police department will have to balance their existing bureaucratic features with the core elements of the COMPSTAT model in a way that suits their operational needs and crime challenges. Future research should continue to focus on COMPSTAT implementation in different police environments. References

Date Published: September 1, 2004