Compstat and Organizational Change Case Study

Compstat and Organizational Change in the Lowell Police Department: Challenges and Opportunities
Police Foundation (2004)
James J. Willis, Stephen D. Mastrofski, David Weisburd, and Rosann Greenspan

Compstat is the systematic use of data and heightened accountability to reduce crime. Compstat was first implemented in 1994 by the New York Police Department (NYPD). Compstat’s primary goal is to make police organizations more rational and responsive to management direction. NYPD’s intent was to create a simple database with information about the major crimes that cities must report to the FBI. However, the database became an elaborate program where police entered crime reports into a computer system that sorted them by type. Officers than began scrutinizing the statistics to create maps and charts to show notable changes and emerging problem areas. Advocates claim that Compstat has spurred the development of innovative, local, crime-fighting strategies and improved public safety.

The Lowell Police Department (LPD) in Massachusetts, which had seen a decline in their crime rate beginning in 1994, saw a continued decline with the implementation of the Compstat program. However, in its deviation from New York’s prototype, Lowell’s program was subject to internal conflicts. This report, supported by the U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice provides a challenge to Compstat’s proponents by showing the program to be a tool whose potential is unfulfilled. This report provides a systematic analysis of the elements of Compstat and their implementation in smaller police departments, focusing on the Lowell Police Department.