COMPSTAT Policing in the City of Berkeley
There are many factors that impact any downturn in crime. Chief Michael K. Meehan implemented the proven, well known successful crime control model called COMPSTAT within BPD. COMPSTAT, short for computer statistics, is a well-established method and has a proven track record of reducing crime and improving the overall operating systems of many metropolitan police departments. Departments such as New York, Boston, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Miami, New Orleans and Los Angeles have all experienced significant reductions in crime as a result of COMPSTAT model. Although many of these departments have custom tailored the COMPSTAT process to their own department and community needs, the core elements of COMPSTAT remain the same. The core elements provide a framework for getting police officers to focus on proactively fighting crime rather than just reacting to it. A vital component of the COMPSTAT philosophy is its emphasis on holding police managers directly accountable for combating the crime in their assigned area and providing them the authority to deploy their resources to achieve the desired results. BPD has divided the city into four (4) areas, each with an Officer who is an Area Coordinator and Lieutenant who is the Area Commander. This map illustrates areas of responsibility and acccountability.
The elements of COMPSTAT consist of four distinct principles:
Accurate and Timely Intelligence
Accurate and timely intelligence, or information is absolutely essential in effectively responding to any problem or crisis. Since today's policing techniques nearly always consist of vast amounts of information, it is necessary to provide a vehicle where essential information can easily and effectively be shared with all levels of the organization. BPD strengthened its Crime Analysis Unit by adding an officer to the unit. Often times, detectives have information regarding suspects, crime trends and patterns and yet the officers in the field do not. One example is that the field officers may be in contact with potential suspects and have the necessary information that detectives need to clear a case. Just as important, this principle also provides for an early warning system to identify emerging crime trends and patterns. In today's environment of ever shrinking resources, being able to apply the necessary resources to an identified problem area is essential in successfully reducing crime.
Traditional policing tactics have always dictated that most problems may be solved at a superficial level. In other words, take care of the suspect and don't worry about the social or environmental situation that may be adding to or creating the problem. COMPSTAT approaches encourage creative thinking and strongly encourage that every resource, both internal and external, are considered in responding to a problem. COMPSTAT approaches also provide for a sense of urgency in responding to problems.
For decades, police departments have been driven by calls for service and responded with their limited resources in a reactive manner. With COMPSTAT, BPD has more vital information in the form of crime analsis, crime alerts and wanted suspects material and intellienge regarding emerging crime trends or patterns which allows for a strategic police response. The strategic response can be in many forms - traditional such as focused enforcement projects/patrol using uniformed officers - or plainclothes/undercover officers working surveillances and decoy operations.
Relentless Follow-up and Assessment
An essential element in any operation is the need to critically assess past approaches and review what was successful and what just didn't work. One of the main differences between private business and the public sector is the bottom line of positive returns. The public sector and police departments have rarely been evaluated on their results. On the other hand, if a business implements an unsuccessful strategy or provides an unacceptable level of customer service, it isn't long before the business goes under and closes. The bottom line with COMPSTAT is results. Everything the police department does not matter whether administrative, operational or investigative in nature, is evaluated by the results achieved.
BPD holds a monthly COMPSTAT meeting. These are information sharing meetings. The group of officers and detectives of all ranks review data and outcomes presented by the Area Commanders. Successful strategies are identified and offered to other commands to assist them in addressing similar or overlapping crime problems in other areas of the City. The continuous COMPSTAT cycle of reviewing, strategizing, taking action and being held accountable for results is evolving at BPD. BPD is streamlining its crime fighting abilities and increasing effectiveness in responding quickly to crime problems.
To learn more about Crime in the City of Berkeley in recent years as well as crime in other communities, please review this FBI Uniformed Crime Reporting (UCR) Statistics link
AC and Area Commanders Map