A quarter-century after its launch, the New York Police Department’s CompStat system will ask thousands of New Yorkers via their phones “How are you feeling?” and “How are we, the police, doing?,” reports the New York Times. Whether this approach will be mimicked elsewhere is unknown, but it will be closely watched. Nor is it clear if New Yorkers will embrace this approach, reject it as intrusive or simply be annoyed by it. The system, using location technology, sends out short sets of questions to smartphones on three themes: Do you feel safe in your neighborhood? Do you trust the police? Are you confident in the New York Police Department?
The questions stream out every day, around the clock, on 50,000 different smartphone applications and present themselves on screens as eight-second surveys. The department believes it will get a more diverse measure of community satisfaction, and allow it to further drive down crime. Police Commissioner James P. O’Neill is calling the tool a “sentiment meter,” though he is open to suggestions for a better name. Answers stream back to a private firm the department has contracted, where they are bundled and funneled out to the front-line commanders of the 77 police precincts. There, on desk computers in station houses, commanders can see findings presented like a credit score on a scale from 100 to 900. Tests have shown a high rate of responses and have yielded some preliminary findings: On the trust question, surveys show it at 680 citywide. Satisfaction with the Police Department is at 712, and people’s sense of safety is at 692. The initiative was launched after years of deeply strained relations between the police and mostly minority communities in some U.S. cities.