McElvain Takes Compstat, Ph.D., To Policing Challenges In Vancouver WA


James McElvain, new police chief in Vancouver, Wa., brings a doctoral degree, 27 years of police experience and a heap of modesty to his new job, The Oregonian reports. McElvain, 49, has worked in policing since 1989, mostly in the Riverside County, Ca., Sheriff’s Office. He has a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of California Riverside, with an emphasis on criminal justice and race and class inequity. His professors told him he couldn’t handle both full-time police work and full-time study. “When I graduated 5½ years later, they said I was the only person they knew who worked full time and completed the degree,” he said. McElvain is tapping into the knowledge of Vancouver’s 188 police officers and 23 civilians.

When he was chief in Perris, Ca., McElvain drew lessons from the Compstat system started by William Bratton in his first term as New York City police commissioner. “We did our own version,” McElvain said. Vancouver is working to perfect its version, called VanStat. He wants to emphasize it. “We got everyone together in Perris, and we defined where we were going, and how we got there was up to that group,” he said. “We watched our statistics on a biweekly basis, and responded by trying to get ahead of the curve.” While McElvain was chief in Perris, the crime rate dropped 20 percent. He said he couldn’t take credit for that. It was a community effort, he said.

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