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Compstat and Organizational Change: A National Assessment

NCJ Number
Date Published
May 2001
283 pages
This study conducted a systematic analysis of the features and effectiveness of the Compstat system of police management and strategic problem-solving as it has been adopted and adapted in police agencies across the country.
One of the clearest findings of the study is that Compstat--which combines state-of-the-art management principles with cutting-edge crime analysis and geographic information systems technology--has spread widely and quickly across American police agencies since being introduced in 1994 in the New York City Police Department. Among departments with 100 or more sworn officers, 6 in 10 reported that they had or intended to develop within a year a Compstat-like program. The rate of adoption was much less among departments with between 50 and 99 sworn officers. This report suggests that one of the primary reasons for its spread is its fit with the traditional organizational structure of American policing. It harnesses that structure in attempting to make traditional American police work more efficient and effective. Compstat departments, therefore, were less likely to implement specific elements of Compstat that demand significant change in the daily work and management of police agencies. Compstat has been most influential in featuring problem-solving, which has become an accepted feature of American policing. It also provides an approach to reform that empowers rather than challenges the traditional hierarchical military structure of American police organization. According to Compstat's principal proponents, its various elements interweave to form a coherent program with its own logical integrity. The findings of this study, however, challenge this perspective in showing that some elements as implemented generate their own internal inconsistencies and may not integrate with one another as envisioned. Also, certain elements (e.g., mission clarification and internal accountability) may conflict with or de-emphasize existing innovative programs such as community policing. 38 references, site visit reports, and a case study of 1 department

Date Published: May 1, 2001