Community Policing Nugget
How Planning and Research Units Can Do More to Promote Innovation and Advance Community Policing
According to recent Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics (LEMAS) data, a majority of local agencies have either a Planning and Research unit or personnel assigned the responsibility. Planning and Research functions support innovation and contribute to advancing community policing through varied and complex activities. Their roles can include developing and maintaining agency policies and procedures, managing the accreditation process, writing grants, serving as a resource for officers on special projects, and even conducting crime analysis and mapping activities. They can also support strategic planning; agency performance benchmarking and measurement; and evaluations of tactics, strategies, and programs. Nevertheless, their value is not often maximized. This month’s Nugget discusses four ways in which Planning and Research can play a more active and systematic role in promoting innovation and supporting community policing goals.
Support for Performance Measurement and Strategic Planning.
Outcome-based performance management is central to many local governments and can have a strong influence on department budgets. Individuals who have the skills to conduct systems analysis and collect and interpret data for policy purposes are critical to successful performance-based management. Their skills can be applied not only in developing strategic plans but in tracking progress toward goals and objectives, thereby rendering these strategic plans more functional and influential in day-to-day agency activities. Planning and Research professionals are also well-suited to engage in more advanced activities such as business process mapping to identify gaps in desired service levels and seek out process improvements in support of longer-term organizational change.
Promote Innovation and Develop Best Practices.
Planning and Research professionals can support innovation by assisting with the development of new policing strategies and the identification and implementation of best practices. Their involvement in developing and supporting pilot programs and, through their network of colleagues, extending the reach of innovative ideas and practices nationally can play an important role in further developing the body of knowledge about what works. There is great value in replicating proven effective or promising programs in other jurisdictions and in documenting the effectiveness of model projects for a wider audience. Planning and Research units can lead the development of such research designs, consider and assess the impact of projects, document displacement of the problem and diffusion of benefits to surrounding areas, and assess the costs and benefits.
Conduct Work Load, Call Load, and Patrol Area Analyses, and Population Impact Assessments.
These activities have a strong relationship to successful community policing. Planning and Research units often conduct workload and call analyses to monitor service volume and to limit imbalances. This is critical to not only ensure sufficient police presence and visibility within beats and neighborhoods, but to ensure that officers in patrol areas have sufficient time for proactive community collaboration and problem solving. To resource community policing priorities effectively, changes in population and the resulting effects on services must be monitored and can result in the occasional need for redistricting patrol areas.
Coordinate Community Surveying Efforts.
Obtaining a better understanding of community needs, problems, and priorities is a central tenet of community policing, and collecting and analyzing data and information through methodologically sound means is essential to delivering quality services. Planning and Research personnel often have expertise in the research methods that are necessary to administer and conduct, for example, citizen satisfaction, business, and victim and offender surveys, analyze the data, and report on the results.
Planning and Research personnel, both civilian and sworn, often possess significant technical skills and capabilities and advanced degrees and training. Many factors influence the success of the units in which they serve. They include turnover rates of unit personnel, the existence of limited and finite resources for both this function and for policing overall, competing demands and priorities, staff development difficulties, and turnover in the agency’s chief executive position. High-profile incidents or a change in crime statistics can demand a shift in an agency’s focus and, consequently, a change in the Planning and Research role. Yet these law enforcement professionals and the units in which they serve hold much potential for contributing to the development and testing of policing innovation, and can play a critical role in shaping the nature of 21st century law enforcement toward community policing.