The Anglo-American Measurement of Police Performance: Compstat and Best Value

Published 13/06/2005
Type Article
Author(s) Matthew Long, Eli B. Silverman
Corresponding Authors Matthew Long, Sheffield Hallam University

The argument is put forward that by comparing policing in the UK to policing across the Atlantic in New York, one can gain significant insight into the underlying processes which drive the managerial regimes of Best Value in the UK and Compstat in the USA. The paper begins by setting the introduction of the ‘new’ public managerialism into its socio-economic and political contexts in both countries. A brief articulation of both Compstat and Best Value are offered before the discussion draws upon some of the most striking parallels between the two. The respective underlying conditions which promoted a sense of ‘crime crisis’ in both countries are explored, together with the philosophy that contemporary police management must be about attempting to secure ‘continuous improvements’ in service delivery. Despite appearing to be ‘new’, the principles which underpin both Compstat and Best Value have a long history and they are both often presented as being politically progressive compared to previous modes of policing and public sector governance. Both regimes appear to empower middle police managers in terms of autonomy and decision making to a greater degree than ever before whilst at the same time increasing responsibility at this middle managerial level. The paper culminates by considering the potential for censure to be exerted under both Compstat and Best Value, together with some of the negative unintended consequences, including the undermining of attempts to make genuine improvements in community justice, which may result because of the threat of naming, shaming and blaming of police managers.