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Compstat in Practice: An In-Depth Analysis of Three Cities

Publication Date

December 2003


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


In this report we provide an in-depth assessment of how Compstat worked in three police departments—Lowell, Massachusetts (LPD), Minneapolis, Minnesota (MPD), and Newark, New Jersey (NPD). More specifically, this report serves three purposes: to describe how Compstat functioned; to examine how it changed police organization and practice; and to provide some insights into the direction Compstat is leading policing in the US. At each site, researchers observed weekly or biweekly Compstat meetings and interviewed city and police department personnel. Using the six key components we identified as Compstat’s general framework, we compared the different Compstat programs in Lowell, Minneapolis, and Newark with each other and with data from our national survey. The findings in this report suggest that the alterations to fundamental organizational structures that would facilitate changes in the organization were not fully in place in our three study departments. There was a gap in each agency between the theory of the mission and the reality. The departments struggled to create a nimbler organization that could move resources about strategically. The new information technology and the emphasis Compstat placed on using it produced a major change in decision-makers at the agencies. Middle management’s immersion in the data, however, was limited. Departments failed to provide enough staff, training, and support to the crime analysis unit, as well as alter the low tolerance for risk in departments, but did succeed in providing a forum for ideas about crime control.

Research Design


Research Methods

Interviews, Observation / Participant observation, Surveys

Recommended Citation

Willis, J., Mastrofski, S., Weisburd, D. (2003). Compstat in practice: An in-depth analysis of three cities. National Policing Institute. https://www.policinginstitute.org/publication/compstat-in-practice-an-in-depth-analysis-of-three-cities/