March 31, 1999 By Raymond Dussault
Right now there is no police department that has anything that can do that. The technology is there.
Q: There are a lot of issues that hinder departments from getting to this ideal. How can they overcome those challenges?
A: Well, first, you need Operations dictating to the MIS department what the real needs of the department are. You can't have MIS going out to a glorified Tupperware party, buying the latest, coolest, sexiest computer and software. You are better off with easy-to-use, off-the-shelf software that fits within a plan.
Q: What about turf issues? Law enforcement professionals are well known for drawing turf lines and protecting them at all costs. How do you maintain an accurate and timely flow of information if division commanders guard that data jealously?
A:If you have turf issues like that, you murder who is in command of that division and you don't have the turf issues anymore. It is right out of Sun Tsu (The Art of War). Sun Tsu wants to be the general, so he goes before the emperor with a battalion of concubines. Sun Tsu says, "Forward march," and they giggle at him. So he beheads the squad leaders and puts new ones in charge. When he says, "Forward march," again they do it.
We know that people are territorial, but you want them territorial to a region, not a function. You want them to be proprietary about their precinct, to feel responsibility for the crimes that occur in their area.
Q: You advocate accountability for the people in charge of the precincts. Why is that so important?
A: At the weekly COMSTAT meetings, you have the heads from every precinct and division. You put all the intel up on huge maps where everybody can see it, and you start asking them what is going on with the crimes or patterns in their area. You hold them responsible. You ask tough questions. No one is in trouble because there is crime, they are in big trouble if they have no idea what the crime is, they cannot tell you where the crimes are and they don't have a plan to deal with it.
It is a four-level process, with chiefs and deputy chiefs being held accountable. Then they hold the borough commander accountable and they in turn question the precinct commander. The next level is the precinct supervisors, and finally the sergeant saying, "Maple, tell us about the last 10 robberies on the post. Jones, you think that's funny? Tell us about the last 10 burglaries on yours."
Q: Can the numbers be fudged to protect an officer's career?
A: You have to have a quality-assurance squad that makes sure the intelligence is accurate. You can do this by matching up the data they are giving with the CAD [Computer Aided Dispatch] printout every day. Also, the quality assurance team needs to regularly go out and do relentless audits, and chiefs of police should regularly call in a couple of phony radio runs and see how they show up in crime reports. Then you make commanders review and sign every report that comes in. If they say the don't have time, then what the hell business are they in? If they have stocks, they read the Journal every day. They've got the time.
Q: What particular strategies can make an immediate difference?
A: One of the most important things we did in New York was what I call quality-of-life enforcement. Zero tolerance. Traditionally, if you had 10 guys hanging out on a corner drinking, they might be
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