Baltimore Police Suspend Comstat, Call It “Stale,” “Laborious”


The Baltimore Police Department has suspended Comstat, a statistics-based management tool that has been a hallmark of the department for more than a decade, saying weekly information-sharing meetings had grown “stale” and “laborious,” the Baltimore Sun reports. Using numbers and maps to spot problem areas, connect incidents and discuss tactics, police commanders and investigators had gathered in a room each Thursday for years. The concept has become a national law enforcement standard, and it was the inspiration for Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley’s acclaimed numbers-driven management programs.

The meetings have been criticized by some officers who say they often devolve into browbeatings. Commanders often take a day or more to compile thick binders of information and are holed up for hours memorizing facts so as not to be caught off-guard. Confrontations are frequent. “It’s a beat-down session,” said Robert F. Cherry, president of the Fraternal Order of Police union. “It’s become a forum for finger-pointing and just running through a lot of numbers without giving some concrete strategies for fighting crime.” The concept, known elsewhere as Compstat, drives policing philosophies in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Newark, N.J., as well as in an increasing number of smaller jurisdictions. Baltimore’s potential move away from it comes two months after a study in New York – where the statistical method was developed – showed that more than 100 retired high-ranking officers believed it created intense pressure to manipulate crime figures. Former Baltimore police Commissioner Edward T. Norris, who led Comstat sessions in New York and Baltimore, said the weekly meetings were necessary and revealing.

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