How to Rate Police: Some Questions

images (1)My first book, How to Rate Your Local Police, was published by the Police Executive Research Forum in 1983.

It was a great time in policing with the establishment of the Forum of few years earlier by my dear friend, Gary Hayes. The characteristics to evaluate police are just as important today as they were then — 30 years ago.

They need repeating and I list them in my new book as well.



A. Leadership Characteristics

1. What kind of person is the chief?

  • Does he/she have a clear vision?
  • Is there a willingness to challenge the status quo?
  • And a willingness to take risks, be innovative, build a coalition of support for change?
  • Does the chief have self confidence?
  • A track record of personal integrity?
  • Does he or she have the respect of community and elected officials?
  • And the ability to inspire and motivate?

2. What tone does the chief set for the agency?

  • Does he/she have a coherent crime control strategy?
  • A concrete crime prevention strategy?
  • Does the chief defend the rights of unpopular groups?
  • And see that police services are delivered equally to the community?

3. Does the chief articulate the policies of the agency clearly and understandably?

  • Does he/she speak out and take stands?
  • And an articulate a spokesperson on crime control and public safety?
  • Does he or she advise the community on personal security?
  • And preserve guarantees of due process?
  • Does the chief stand up and defend minority rights?
  • Assure protection for the weak and injured?
  • Is he or she an able manager in a complex bureaucracy?
  • Does the chief act as a guardian of the rule of law?

B. Policy Characteristics

  • Does the police agency have a clear sense of its objectives?
  • Are there written policies for all operational practices?
  • Does the police agency select the finest individuals to be police officers?
  • Does the police agency provide high quality training for its officers in an adult learning style?
  • Does the police agency reinforce the minimum requirements for a good police officer: effectiveness, integrity, civility and courtesy, and physically fit?
  • Does the police agency guide, train, and supervise police officers in the proper use of physical force?
  • Is the police agency willing to investigate and discipline officers engaging in misconduct?

C.   Organizational Characteristics

  • Do police officers in the agency respect individual rights?
  • Does the police agency address crime and order problems by using all community resources?
  • Does the police agency cooperate and coordinate with neighboring law enforcement agencies and with other agencies in the criminal justice system?
  • Does the police agency communicate well with the public?
  • Does the police agency work adequately with local news media?
These are important questions citizens need to ask and for which police leaders need to clearly and satisfactorily respond.
The bottom line is this: As a citizen, you should expect and demand that your police officers hold a college degree, be carefully selected, well-trained, expected to control their use of force, be honest in their actions, reports and court testimony, courteous to every person regardless of their station in life, led by mature, collaborative leaders, and closely in touch with the communities they serve.

David C. Couper. How to Rate Your Local Police. Washington, DC: Police Executive Research Forum, 1983.