Executive Summary of Law Enforcement Metrics

Today, more than ever, law enforcement must improve and adapt to societal changes. Agencies operate under a microscope as citizens take more active roles in policing oversight. In order to determine required changes, we examine law enforcement metrics.

Law enforcement agencies shouldn’t wait until public opinion or local legislation imposes changes to policing. Agencies should be proactive and begin to look for ways to improve and evolve. Implementing a system of metrics proves to be one of the best ways to effect real change and improve processes in any organization. These metrics inform departments of their current state when we gather and analyze them. Then, recommendations based on the findings get implemented to improve upon the old ideas.

This paper explores the importance of metrics and how they can be used to effect advances in law enforcement.  Many other organizations may benefit from these methods as well. Our recommendations provide a step-by-step process that anyone can implement within their organization.

Red Carrot’s Research on Metrics and Analysis of Law Enforcement Agency Information

Government, private industry, and corporations all use some form of metric-collection and analysis when evaluating their programs and effectiveness. Information sharing has proven to be crucial to the mission of the work. This data sharing and analysis require proper tools, a database system, and trained employees conducting research and evaluations of programs.

For example, offices within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) measure their workload by tracking cases.  They analyze how many cases get processed as well as the time it takes to complete each case. Tracking management employs simple spreadsheets. Data collected includes the case’s open date, the entity that sent it, officer assigned, type of case, and date completed.

Two Important Components of Metrics

  • Reliable Tracking System: A reliable tracking system effectively organizes information together. It facilitates employees finding data via filtering information by date, sender, case number, and others. Using a database makes it simple to measure and track performance.
  • Proper Training: To effectively use a tracking system, employees need to be able to learn and understand the metrics and their use.

One Final Component of a Complete Metrics System

Collecting and analyzing metrics is an ongoing process that will lead to continuous improvements.
Collecting and analyzing metrics is an ongoing process that will lead to continuous improvements.

Determining processes effectiveness to stakeholder satisfaction, many agencies provide a survey to obtain feedback and ensure operation completion in a timely manner and with appropriate quality.

Collecting Law Enforcement Metrics

We use multiple methods to collect metrics. Our simplest, quickest, and easily updated collection method uses a database with entry automation and a flexible data retrieval tool. Other forms of data collection include interviews, information gathering sessions with a group of stakeholders, and direct observation. These methods tend to be less instantaneous and require frequent updating of the database, but serve as viable alternatives to a fully automated system. Figure 2 (right) illustrates a simple approach to information collection.

Analyzing the Data for Law Enforcement Metrics

Critical reporting requires data analysis and meaningful, actionable metrics. A common misconception is that if you throw numbers into a table or chart, you have communicated useful information to your audience. Real insight comes from looking closely at the data to identify trends or patterns and to uncover the possible causes for changes in the data. For example, you may report that the number of help desk cases spiked in a specific period. By itself, this brings attention to the period in question but does not explain why the spike occurred. You need to know why it happens so that you can use the metrics to help improve the system.

When identifying the cause of the spike – for example, the cases spiked the day after a major software upgrade – you are now reporting information that the stakeholders can discuss and act on and perhaps perform a deeper dive to find the underlying cause. Did this software upgrade contain many significant and complicated changes? This may tell you that you should break the updates into smaller pieces to ensure better quality. Or did the project run short on time, forcing testing to be compressed to meet the announced release date? This may tell you that better scheduling estimates and resource management may improve the next update.

Reporting Metrics

Metrics can be reported using numerous methods. One extremely effective method is to build a dashboard that reports on Key Performance Indicators (KPI). KPIs are individual metrics to map with program objectives. Determined in the design phase of the metrics program, KPIs get continually updated to refine the metrics. Dashboards displaying KPIs provide the numbers in real time. Great options for dashboard hosting include SharePoint page or an inter-organizational web page. This also ensures that metrics continually update because it becomes visibly evident when the metrics become stale and are no longer current. Dashboards can display metrics tables, graphs, and charts.

Other reporting methods include presentations, paper reports, and scoresheets that can be distributed.

Many agencies provide annual reports to share statistical data on how their agency performed throughout the year. Annual reports can show which agencies and/or departments performed due diligence with reporting. You can view who has implemented a tracking system and/or training and how quickly each organization updates its processes. Other measurements can include the number of resources required to complete the work.

Process for Developing Effective Metrics Collection and Analysis in Law Enforcement

Challenges exist to effectively collect and analyze law enforcement data that may not produce quantifiable results. Many data elements can be qualitative and anecdotal in nature. Additionally, difficulties arise when attempting to measure results that may be attributed, in part, to factors external to the system or program being evaluated. To investigate these issues and provide recommendations to refine data collection to provide more precise results, a study was performed as part of the Comprehensive Regional Information Sharing Project (CRISP). The study was performed by Noblis’ Center for Criminal Justice Technology, in partnership with the National Institute of Justice (NIJ). The study examined the use of metrics as a tool to assess the effectiveness of law enforcement Information-Sharing Systems (ISS) and their subsequent impact on operations.

Special challenges exist when assessing an ISS—particularly regarding elapsed time between metrics collection, analysis, the resulting modifications, and the noticeable impact on operations.1 Additionally, an ISS may be one of many resources used that have an impact on operations, so its role may not be measurable or directly attributable to process improvements that were implemented based on data findings.

The study began by conducting research on the state of metrics collection in law enforcement, with an emphasis on metrics related to ISS programs. This provided some insight into lessons learned on the use of metrics and identified basic elements needed for an ISS metrics program.

Evaluating Metrics for Law Enforcement

Metrics evaluation lessons learned were gathered from information-sharing programs and interviews with law enforcement agencies as part of the larger CRISP effort; programs contacted included the Comprehensive Regional Information Management Exchange System (CRIMES), Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) InSite, the Factual Analysis Criminal Threat Solution (FACTS), Citizen Law Enforcement Analysis and Reporting (CLEAR)/Illinois CLEAR (I-CLEAR), the Florida Integrated Network for Data Exchange and Retrieval (FINDER), and the Automated Regional Justice “Information” System (ARJIS). The primary effort—which is the focus of the study—was to devise a detailed, automated approach for developing a metrics collection and analysis program that results in more precise and impactful data.

Finally, issues and impacts associated with the devised approach were examined to guide its appropriate application. It’s important to have a formal plan in place for metrics collection so that appropriate metrics are collected without burdening users with the collection process.2

To overcome some of the collection and analysis challenges, the study used a phased approach. This approach should be followed to properly design and implement a successful data collection system.

Here is a step-by-step guide to effectively use metrics in order to improve law enforcement agencies.

Conclusions and Key Recommendations for Introducing Metrics

Metrics provide an important tool that helps agencies track and report performance and identify candidate areas for improvement.

Recommendation 1.

Institute a formal plan for metrics collection that yields useful and appropriate metrics without burdening users with the collection process.

Recommendation 2.

Consider the overall benefits of a preliminary behavioral study on best practices to obtain quality input.

Recommendation 3.

Provide stakeholders with a survey to complete after finishing tasks or issuing reports.

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