What Techniques and Methods Are Used by Operations Analysis?

The techniques associated with these processes are varied, but basically involve police records, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) data, and several qualitative research methods.

Analysts who perform operations analysis tasks may begin by looking at the calls for service and raw data from the department’s dispatch system. By sorting and analyzing service calls, the data can be compared with that of other cities the same size. But there are a number of areas that are usually critical to an analysis of operations—response times, workload of patrol officers, and the peak times of the most critical calls.

Following a look at dispatch data, the analyst might collect and review a number of key operational documents. These operational documents often include the police department’s policies and procedures manual, a list of the department’s assets, and personnel lists.

The qualitative methods will include interviews, often with the police department’s management and supervisors, as well as rank-and-file officers. In some instances, there may be interviews with the mayor, the city council, and other city staff. Other qualitative approaches will include observations, surveys, and focus groups.

Depending on the exact nature of a particular operations assignment, the analyst will be looking for strengths, weaknesses, deficiencies, and under- or overutilized staff, related to each unit and the department as a whole. What the analyst will want to determine based on the analysis of data is whether the department’s operations are comparable to those of departments in other cities of a similar size, and whether the department is effectively and adequately meeting the needs of the community.

Often, the data provided by the police agency will be compared with information obtained from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, where the amount of crime in various categories can be compared with the data from the city being analyzed.

Many times, operations analysis will rely on intensive interviews with the police department’s personnel to determine the effectiveness of operations, morale, and even such things as the labor management climate in this particular department.

As you learned in Chapter 13, focus groups are unstructured group interviews in which the analyst actively encourages discussion among participants. A focus group can be helpful to explore issues that are difficult to define. Group discussion permits greater exploration of topics, and various police department staff might be asked to sit in and contribute to a focus group.

Analysts might solicit and collect documents from the police agency related to strategic plans, personnel staffing and deployment, evaluations, training records, and performance statistics. These kinds of documents will be helpful for the analyst to determine whether there is an adequate number of staff (particularly at critical times of the day or night), whether officers are deployed to hot spots, whether officers are being adequately trained for the duties they are expected to carry out, and whether the performance evaluations are utilized to make personnel decisions.

Finally, observations can be carried out by the analyst to see how patrol officers carry out their assignments, whether special enforcement duties are done, how officers handle special event assignments, how detectives work investigations, and how trainings are conducted.

What Kinds of Recommendations Do Operations Analysts Make?

Police operations analysts may make any kind of recommendation that they see as important or necessary to improve the functioning and efficiency of the police department. Operations analysis may also include pointing out deficiencies in police—community relations, problems in living up to the department’s own mission statement, and changes in the community that may require concomitant changes within the police department.That could mean adding or changing the focus of some units within the department or reassigning command staff or officers to other tasks or units. But, the recommendations that are made are also related to the assignment given to the operations analyst.

Examples of Recommendations

In an analysis of one Midwestern city’s police department, it was found that there were no specific crime prevention activities conducted by this particular police department. Having experienced a reduction in staff because the city was forced to lay off police officers, as well as other city employees, the police department was struggling to keep up with calls for service. While the analyst conceded that the department was doing a good job of responding to citizen calls for service, there were no resources directed at crime prevention. The analyst, responding to a city council request for an overall appraisal of the police department’s functioning, stated in the final report that crime prevention could be a valuable approach to community safety and community relations. Arising from this was a recommendation for a full-time position to be dedicated to crime prevention, with the ultimate goal of crime reduction in the city (ICMA, 2012).

The section of the same report concerning the same Midwestern city also pointed out problems in terms of where calls for service in the downtown business district occurred and the deployment of officers. The analysis of police operations determined that of the more than 800 calls for service in the downtown business district during one 120-month period, 55% of those calls for service occurred at just five of the 58 establishments serving alcohol. So, just 10% of the establishments generated 50% of the workload for the police department in that district (ICMA, 2012). Furthermore, it was determined by analysis data available within that state that only two of the five establishments received sanctions from the state, and that there was no incentive to make changes to reduce calls for service.

The analyst recommended that there should be a supervisor appointed within the department, dedicated to following up on enforcement of sanctions after calls for service when it was found that the establishment was responsible in some way (e.g., serving alcohol to already intoxicated patrons or allowing intoxicated patrons to engage in assaults on other patrons on the premises). The supervisor, it was suggested, would supervise officers at the scene and then do aggressive follow-up with both the state and the owners of the establishment (ICMA, 2012).

For another Midwestern city, an operations report addressed the identification and property unit of the police department. The report pointed out that the identification and property unit is staffed by one police officer and one community service officer. However, these two individuals were responsible for maintaining a 1500-square-foot facility to label and track property stored for safekeeping. This property comprises the physical, photographic, digital, and forensic property and evidence that comes into the custody of the police department. In any one year, that could mean that the unit would handle more than 6600 items related to almost 2900 new cases. In addition to property management, the unit is also responsible for processing subpoenas, expunging documents processed by the records unit, providing fingerprinting services to the public, processing licenses for cab drivers, and processing video and digital evidence required by officers for presentation in court (ICMA, 2014). In one recent year, that amounted to photo or video evidence for 1100 cases (ICMA, 2014).

The report went on to indicate that although regular unannounced inspections of the property are carried out, the property room has not been subject to a rigorous inventory in recent years. This led to a recommendation that a complete and thorough inventory of the property room needed to be conducted. Furthermore, it was recommended that more community service officers (civilian employees) be hired to replace the one police officer and beef up the staff to handle the workload (ICMA, 2014). Specifically, the recommendation was to fully staff the identification and property unit with nonsworn personnel and provide appropriate training in criminalistics and information technology'.

In an operations report for a West Coast city, an analysis recommended that the police department establish a credible intelligence function within the department. The report stated that the police agency needs to develop an intelligence function to sift through the enormous amounts of information processed daily to identify crime patterns and trends, help in locating offenders, and support proactive missions with intelligence information (ICMA, 2012). It was further recommended that a new intelligence unit work hand in hand with the patrol and investigative units of the department.

For one of the Midwestern cities mentioned above, the operations analysis report made statements regarding patrol staffing. The report stated that, in general, a “rule of 60” can be applied to evaluate patrol staffing. The report explained that this rule has two parts. The first part states that 60% of the sworn officers in a department should be dedicated to the patrol function (patrol staffing), and the second part states that no more than 60% of their time should be committed to calls for service. This commitment of 60% of their time, the report stated, is referred to as the patrol saturation index (ICMA, 2014).The report explained that the rule of 60 for patrol deployment does not mean that the remaining 40% of time is downtime or break time. It is rather a reflection of the extent to which patrol officer time is saturated by calls for service. The time when police personnel are not responding to calls should be committed to management-directed operations (ICMA, 2014). This is a more focused use of time and can include supervised allocation of patrol officer activities toward proactive enforcement, crime prevention, community policing, and citizen safety initiatives.

This report recommended that fewer sworn officers be assigned to patrol. A specific number of officers for patrol duty was suggested, along with a specific number for traffic duty.

Operations analysis can extend to the maintenance of facilities and the acquisition and maintenance of equipment. If there is too great a reliance on military equipment, or if the resources, such as police automobiles, are not properly maintained, that could also lead to recommendations.

In Chapter 17, the final chapter of this book, we will discuss the future of crime analysis as well as the education and training needed to become a skilled crime analyst.

Questions for Discussion

  • 1 How is police operations analysis different from other types of crime analysis? And how could you argue that in some ways it is the most critical of all types of crime analysis?
  • 2 If you were assigned the task of assessing how the police department you worked for handled training officers about the use of force, where would you start? And what methods would you use to gather the data you would need for a final report and recommendations?

Important Terms

Administrative crime analysis: Presentation of interesting findings of crime research and analysis based on legal, political, and practical concerns to inform audiences within the police administration, the city government or city council, as well as citizens.

Patrol saturation index: Related to the “rule of 60,” the patrol saturation index means that 60% of the time, officers in a police department should be dedicated to responding to service calls.

Police operations analysis: Analysis of police operations, including workload distribution of officers, the efficiency of units, and various other aspects of police department functioning.

Qualitative research: Qualitative research methods, as opposed to quantitative research, provide more emphasis on interpretation and usually look at contexts, the environment, and the people involved in a crime problem.

Rule of 60: Rule related to patrol staffing. The rule states that 60% of the sworn officers in a department should be dedicated to the patrol function (patrol staffing), and that no more than 60% of their time should be committed to calls for service.

Study Guide Questions

For questions 1—4, indicate whether the statement is true or false:

  • 1 Operations analysis concerns itself with a police departments policies and practices.
  • 2 It can be said that operations analysis goes hand in hand with strategic crime analysis, as many operations decisions are based on longterm crime trends.
  • 3 Police operations analysis is all about solving crimes or determining crime trends.
  • 4 Operations analysis may include examining FBI data.
  • 5 Which question is appropriate for assignment to an operations analyst?

a Should the city hire more fire department staff?

b Should citizens be allowed to apply for concealed carry permits?

c Should more officers be hired for the police department? d Should bars and taverns sell alcohol to minors?

6 Qualitative research methods are used in police operations analysis

a Never b Seldom c Often d Always

7 An operations analysts final report would almost never include recommendations for

a Higher pay for police officers

b Improving police—community' relations

c Methods to be used to solve a series of arsons d Hiring more detectives


Bruce, C.W. (2008). Crime analysis publications. In S.L. Gwinn, C. Bruce,J.P. Cooper, and S.R. Hick (eds.), Exploring Crime Analysis: Reading on Essential Skills. Overland Park, KS: International Association of Crime Analysts, pp. 342—363.

IACA (International Association of Crime Analysts). (2014). Definition and Types of Crime Analysis: Standards, Methods and Technology Methods. White Paper 2014-02. Overland Park, KS: International Association of Crime Analysts.

ICMA (International City/County Management Association). (2010). Operations Report and Data Analysis: Stockton Police Department. Retrieved from: http://blogs. esanjoaquin.com/stockton-city-hall-blog/fdes/2011/04/FINAL-Operations-and-Data-Analysis-Report-Stockton-Police-ICMA-2010.pdf

ICMA (International City/County Management Association). (2012). An analysis of police department staffing.Washington, DC: ICMA. Retrieved from: https://icma. org/sites/default/files/305747_Analysis%20of%20Police%20Department%20 Staffing%20_%20McCabe.pdf

ICMA (International City/County Management Association). (2014). Operations Analysis Report for the Skokie Police Department. Washington, DC: ICMA. Retrieved from: www.cpsm.us/wp-content/uploads/2019/11 /Skokie.pdf


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