COMPSTAT and bureaucracy: A case study of challenges and opportunities for change

James J. Willis*, Stephen D. Mastrofski, David Weisburd

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations

Abstract

COMPSTAT has been heralded as an innovative and rational crime control program, but our research shows that its implementation presents police departments with a set of opportunities and challenges. Using Weber's theory of bureaucracy, we present a case study demonstrating how COMPSTAT's key elements are shaped by extant organizational arrangements. In renewing an emphasis on the crime-fighting goal and the command hierarchy of the Lowell Police Department, the study site, COMPSTAT presented an opportunity to reinforce certain traditional features of police bureaucracy. However, by strengthening control through its accountability mechanism, COMPSTAT interfered with its own operation. Furthermore, the persistence of other bureaucratic features -functional specialization, formalization, routine, uniformity, and secrecy-limited organizational change. Our case suggests that the most significant challenge for any department is picking the compromise between existing bureaucratic features and COMPSTATs core elements that most suits its needs and those of its constituencies.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)463-496
Number of pages34
JournalJustice Quarterly
Volume21
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2004

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
COMPSTAT has been heralded as an innovative and rational crime control program, but our research shows that its implementation presents police departments with a set of opportunities and challenges. Using Weber's theory of bureaucracy, we present a case study demonstrating how COMPSTAT's key elements are shaped by extant organizational arrangements. In renewing an emphasis on the crime-fighting goal and the command hierarchy of the Lowell Police Department, the study site, COMPSTAT presented an opportunity to reinforce certain traditional features of police bureaucracy. However, by strengthening control through its accountability mechanism, COMPSTAT interfered with its own This research was sponsored by grant No. 98-IJ-CX-0070 from the National Institute of Justice to the Police Foundation. Points of view expressed in this document are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. The authors would like to thank Superintendent (Chief) Edward F. Davis III, for granting access to his police department and the many sworn officers and civilians who shared their experiences of COMPSTAT. We would also like to thank Richard Ritti, Russell Schutt, and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper.

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