John Finn Institute to Examine Police Performance and Accountability

Albany, NY, October 12, 2010 – Today the John F. Finn Institute for Public Safety, Inc., announced that it has received an award from the National Institute of Justice to examine how measures of procedural fairness can be incorporated into police accountability systems.  Police departments routinely assess officers’ performance, especially their productivity, but the ‘procedural fairness’ with which officers treat citizens is seldom measured, except insofar as citizens file complaints, and it is rarely an outcome for which police managers are held accountable.

Dr. Sarah McLean, the Finn Institute’s Associate Director, explained that “procedural fairness is a matter of treating people with dignity and respect, listening to what they have to say, and explaining what is being done.  Officers’ conformity with principles of procedural fairness is of fundamental importance to the police mission, as it affects people’s trust in legal institutions, their cooperation with law enforcement, and even their compliance with the law.  Measuring police performance in these terms, and making it susceptible to police management, promises to improve all of these outcomes.”

With NIJ support, Finn Institute researchers will provide for measures of police performance based principally on surveys of citizens who have contacts with the Schenectady and Syracuse Police, which will be incorporated into the departments’ management accountability systems (i.e., Compstat) and regularly reviewed as an outcome for which managers are responsible.  In Schenectady, where in-car video is used, the survey-based measures will be complemented with performance measures drawn from sampled video and audio recordings.

Finn Institute Director Robert Worden said that “we anticipate that when police departments measure these elements of police performance, and hold managers accountable for it, police performance will improve over time, and so too will levels of citizen satisfaction with and trust in the police, and public cooperation with law enforcement.”  He added that “we knew that Schenectady’s Chief Chaires and Syracuse’s Chief Fowler were committed to making the quality of police-citizen interaction a high priority, and so their agencies were naturals for this undertaking.  We are very pleased to be working with them and their departments, and we expect that the field will learn much from their experience with this progressive approach to improving police service to the community.”

Finn Institute to Continue as Research Partner
Finn Institute to Continue as Research Partner