(Jack Maple-deputy commissioner for crime control strategies in New York
in 2001) big thumbtacked map had evolved into the most important law
enforcement tool of the last decade: Comp Stat-Computer Generated
Comparative Statistics. Before, crime statistics had come in every six
months; Jack wanted them every day. He demanded that the lumbering NYPD
react faster and be more technologically advanced. He wanted an instant
reading on crime in the city, with instant reaction, instant assessment
and instant fixes. Every week he assembled 7 a.m. meetings in the NYPD
command centre-the war room -where commanding officers were held
accountable for the crime rates and patterns in their precincts and
divisions-like the separate offices of a large corporation. If the crime
rate fell or a ring of burglars was stopped, commanders could be rewarded.
If crime rose, they were held responsible and could be transferred,
demoted or even fired. In three years homicides were cut in half in
York City's 40th Police Commissioner.
when you last fearfully looked around you (in the day, in the night)
thinking at least murders and kidnappings was on the government and
opposition's agenda, think again. What you see is a hot air balloon
floating to nowhere.
Ellis Clarke, chairman of the technical team that drafted the police
reform bills has flatly said that they "do not deal with the crime
situation at all". He is frankly baffled that the bills are now being
called "anti-crime" legislation since when it was baptised
"that is not the name we gave it".
any event the cluster of bills meant to simply "improve the police
service" is unlikely to be passed. And frankly, as taxpayers, unless
there is a direct link between police bills and a safer country why should
we bite our nails over police procedures, promotions, and exams?
what is the police management going to do? Throw their hands up in the air
and howl in defeat or wade in, muck down and defeat crime?
bills may have made it easier to manage the police service but as it's not
happening they simply have to work around it.
this to happen, the top brass in the police service have to be good
managers with an objective: reduce crime. And fast. In all districts. And
a vision-a crime-free state. The objective has to be measurable (an
immeasurable objective is a waste of time).
objectives must be prioritised with an immediate being a reduction in
murders and kidnappings. For example they may decide "if we cut
murders in Laventille to zero we cut country wide murders in half."
Or "If we put our kidnapping squad in a certain area that will deter
kidnappers". They use statistics to come to these conclusions.
first question is do we have a system to give us measurable information.
Kinda. Laborious, lumbering, police taking long-hand notes. Not
acceptable. Not fast enough
optimum long-term solution is Com Stat (see quote above). It clearly
works. Linking computers, training people, will take time and money. The
simple and short-term solution is to put fax machines in each station so
that information from every police station is sent immediately to head
office where countrywide information is entered and collated into reports
in a central computer system and redistributed. Every police officer
should know what's going on everywhere. You know where the crime is;
patterns will emerge from that information. You will recognise a gang or a
bandit who is targeting housing in one area.
on these trends you look at your tools for fighting crime. In order of
priority they are:
Information. It is gathered in several ways:
Tip-offs from the public as manifested in Crime Stoppers. The government
has to pump more money into this. It works.
Walk-in witnesses or informers. This is hopeless because now people are
subject to fear and ridicule. A simple solution would be to create private
interview rooms with trained policemen.
Information from criminals. We have the legal framework for
plea-bargaining. We need to
it into effect so criminals trade off information for shorter or less
a) If you don't have the new legislation and you need to make the police
service operate less like a hairdressing salon and more like a law
enforcement agency with flexi-time, work with the unions, buy them out,
invest the windfall from oil dollars into our country's security. Give
police officers a lump sum, increase their pay, make them happy and change
the contract. Anaconda wasn't a bad idea except the million invested into
"crime" went into "overtime" and dried up.
The Police Service Commission was created to avoid political interference
and it worked reasonably well. Beef it up. Pay commissioners more. Give
them a building. Give them an administrative structure. Give them civil
independent investigators to conduct investigations so manpower could be
freed up. Make it a full-time job. Let them meet every day instead of
periodically. The structure exists. Use it. The police service needs to
work with the Commission to create a system of rewards and motivation to
retain the brightest officers (many leave) and an active disciplinary
system to demote or fire corrupt, lazy, incompetent officers. Implement
Bring back traffic wardens. Go on a training and recruitment drive. Make
people want to be policemen and women.
Equipment. a) Com Stat should be the medium term objective. No modern
police force should operate without computers.
Force officers to take care of vehicles by making them accountable. If
somebody has more than two accidents or drive crazily once too often, make
them patrol officers, and take away their travelling perks.
Bring in more non-lethal weapons such as pepper spray between the extremes
of a useless baton and a lethal gun.
the bills aren't happening and if they do, they are nothing to do with
needs to be curbed. If the will is there, without changing one dot on any
bill, the police force can be effective.
in order to curb crime, we need to copy best practices worldwide. In our
forensic departments, in our painfully slow courts, in our prisons which
currently operate as a university of crime. Models exist. Solutions exist.
But do the managers? In the police service? That, ladies and gentlemen, is
the million-dollar question.