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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Measuring What Matters: Data Analysis and the Future of Police Reform


A fundamental principle of organizational management is that you measure the things that matter. In the field of law enforcement, the most routinely and intensely tracked metrics often relate to reported crime rates. Data-driven management systems like CompStat have a huge influence over law enforcement decisions about resource deployment, patrol assignments, performance evaluations, and promotions. Potential harms of racially disparate or unnecessarily burdensome policing, on the other hand, are rarely analyzed as routinely or intensely. As a result, evaluation of law enforcement policies and practices can often become a benefit-only cost-benefit analysis: Decisions about police intervention are made based on anticipated benefits of preventing crimes and catching offenders with little regard for the direct and indirect costs of police intervention to individuals and communities.

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