Police Work

Creating a Standard National Set of Police Measures

Policing in the United States has a problem. Some people think it can’t be saved and needs to be abolished entirely. Others cite rising crime rates as a reason to double down on shoring up the police.

We believe the best way to fix a system in crisis is to know as much about it as we can. Not only via focused information about one part or another, but through a rigorous, holistic overview of all the system’s moving parts.

Measures for Justice has been working for three years to develop a national set of police measures with input from community leaders and police departments. Now we are finally in a position to test, refine and pilot these measures in two communities, the West Sacramento Police Department in California and the Rochester Police Department in New York.

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This work matters because a national, standardized set of police measures will cover all aspects of policing, including trust in the department and perceptions of legitimacy; use of force; least harm practices; accountability; officer wellness and safety; fiscal needs and responsibility; recruitment and training–all based on the premise that you cannot solve for one problem in policing without measuring and understanding all the factors that contribute to that problem.

What makes this work different?

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    Community Engagement. This will be the first time that communities have participated in both developing national policing measures and co-creating trackable, public goals with law enforcement on a public-facing dashboard.

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    Dashboard Design. The Commons dashboard design is user-friendly, accessible and provides clarity to complexity–users will be able to see the policy goal right next to its measure.

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    Outcomes and Policies. The Commons dashboard doesn’t just track outcomes but also what policies impact those outcomes. This gives users a much more informed look at what impacts outcomes and what can be changed as a result.

National Police Measures: Key areas of focus

Circle map connecting the following points: Trust, Legitimacy, and Community Engagement; Crime Reduction and Calls for Service; Use of Force; Least Harm Practices; Accountability; Officer Wellness and Safety; Fiscal Needs and Responsibility; Recruitment, Training, and Education

Project Background

Measures for Justice began to develop a draft set of police measures in 2019 by convening a Policing Council. The Council is a senior advisory group comprised of some of the most experienced minds in the area of policing in the United States. It was chaired by Laurie Robinson, a policing scholar and former co-chair of the White House Task Force on 21st Century Policing, 2014-2015.

“Public trust in law enforcement is critical in a democracy. But at a time when that trust has been shaken nationally by highly-visible events, I applaud creating multidimensional police performance measures in a collaborative process with both law enforcement leaders and communities.”

MFJ has also been working with community leaders and organizations across the country to understand what aspects of policing need to be measured alongside what policies. The project climaxes in a Roundtable on Improving Data for Racial Equity in Policing co-hosted by the Center for Open Data Enterprise (CODE). The Roundtable explores the use of data in the various dimensions of policing we’ve identified, reviews existing data sources, gaps, and challenges in the relevant data, highlights high-priority use cases of data application, and identifies opportunities to improve data and put it to better use.

MFJ collated findings from the Roundtable and will pilot our draft set of measures in two communities, the West Sacramento Police Department in California and the Rochester Police Department in New York.