A Foundation for Policing Research: The Policing Research Platform

Law enforcement agencies use various ways to measure the performance of their employees and their department as a whole. Traditional measures include statistics about crime incidents, number of arrests, cases cleared, citizen complaints and supervisor evaluations.

But there are no standardized and widely accepted definitions or benchmarks for good policing. Nor is there a way for one agency to compare itself against another, with the exception of conventional Uniform Crime Reports statistics from the FBI [1].

Moving beyond counting activities to measuring the quality of policing is one of the primary challenges for the national policing research project.

Most law enforcement managers lack comprehensive data about the career path or "life course" of their workforce. They also lack information about the effectiveness of various training programs, supervisory methods and approaches to developing leaders.

There is also no standardized source of data about officer health, productivity and attitudes, especially as these factors change over time. How, for example, do officers' perceptions of their work evolve from the time they are recruited to the time they leave the force? Many professions and industries have a great deal of data about their labor force. Law enforcement does not.

NIJ has funded a study to demonstrate the feasibility of creating a platform or foundation from which to launch studies about multiple aspects of policing using the same standardized definitions and measurement tools.

The three-year study is collecting data from recruits, supervisors and agencies as a whole to determine the feasibility of establishing a longitudinal study that will establish benchmarks for excellence in policing and a platform from which to test new ideas and innovative initiatives.

The goal is to advance knowledge about policing and translate data into evidence-based best practices that improve training, supervision and accountability systems. The data are expected to produce a better understanding of what motivates police officers and makes them healthier, happier and more effective in their job performance. The platform will eventually shed light on the factors that contribute to organizational excellence, including an organization's capacity to enhance its legitimacy and build strong police-community relations.

Notes

[1] National Research Council of the National Academies, Fairness and Effectiveness in Policing: The Evidence, edited by Wesley Skogan and Kathleen Frydl, Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2004.

Date Created: March 16, 2010