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Measuring What Matters: Assessing Community Police Performance in Philadelphia, Final Report

NCJ Number
Date Published
April 1999
153 pages
Quantitative and qualitative methods were used to assess the impact of Philadelphia's shift to a community-oriented and problem-oriented policing style.
The goals of the program were increased visibility of community-policing services in neighborhoods and business settings; greater contact between officers and community residents; improved understanding of community needs and a tailoring of services to meet those needs; reduced fear of victimization and reduced potential for crime; and increased police and community ownership and pride in every neighborhood and business section of Philadelphia. The principal units of analysis were police officers and police beats. The COPS AHEAD Program in Philadelphia provided an opportunity to study the range of roles embodied by police officers, including the "community-oriented generalist," motorized patrol, and more specialized community-oriented roles. There were controls for significant factors such as experience and specialized training. Community policing was tested across a number of issues that focused on policing style, officer length of service, degree of community-policing training, as well as controlling for geographic, demographic, and social and criminological elements within and around specific beats. The four principal research methods were police officer focus groups; the collection and analysis of official records, including geographically based offense data and calls-for-service data for the beats to which these officers were assigned; surveys of COPS AHEAD officers and the communities they serve; and observation of officer activities. Findings suggest that the COPS AHEAD deployment can have an impact on selected crime types such as drug offenses, while encouraging the local community to report more serious crime; the selection of the communities to receive such efforts is crucial. Perhaps the strongest findings of this research were related to the adoption of community and problem-oriented policing styles by the officers assigned to the COPS AHEAD beats. It is clear that departments can, through the manipulation of assignments and exposure to new policing ideas, shape policing styles. The assessment of the beat-level impacts suggests that results were achieved, albeit in a community-oriented and problem-oriented response system rather than by the criteria of reactive policing. Community-policing and problem-oriented policing in Philadelphia will prove its ongoing effectiveness, however, only if the department will modify its data systems to measure the objectives of community policing, such as disorder and disturbance behaviors often associated with declining community "quality of life." 39 tables, 56 references, and appended evaluation instruments

Date Published: April 1, 1999