Describe a key strength and a key weakness of Compstat in the New York City Police Department. Explain why you think they are key.
The advantages of the CompStat information technology system (in use with the New York City Police Department since 1994) far outweigh the disadvantages. Since then-and-now Police Commissioner William Bratton oversaw installation of the computerized statistics system that helps the department track trends in various categories of criminal activity and the precise locations where those crimes are occurring, the city has experienced a noticeable decrease in crime. The statistics the CompStat system processes enable police commanders to deploy assets where they are clearly most needed. As those "assets" are patrol officers, that means the police presence can be maximized where circumstances warrant it. That is the key advantage of the CompStat system. It makes policing more efficient.
A key disadvantage to the CompStat system involves the potential threat to civil liberties. As with the compilation of information pertaining to the population by the federal government, whether through the Department of Homeland Security or through more secretive intelligence processes (e.g., the National Security Agency's eavesdropping activities), the NYPD's use of sophisticated information technology systems to monitor the city's population, even for the legitimate public service of tracking crime, has raised concerns about the public's right to privacy. As quoted in a recent article in the New York Times,
“For me, it raises serious concerns for data access and data management and what they intend to do with that data,” said Charlene A. Carruthers, the national director of the Black Youth Project 100, a Chicago-based activist group, which has a chapter in New York City. “Particularly when we’re talking about an agency that has the power to surveil, monitor and can inflict violence on people with impunity.”
Especially since the horrors of September 11, 2001, when terrorists flew aircraft into the twin towers of the World Trade Center, the NYPD has maintained a large and vigorous intelligence-gathering unit. While the unit is focused primarily on the threat from terrorists, there is a history of abuses by intelligence agencies in the United States—a legacy that understandably concerns many civilians. This, then, can be considered the key disadvantage of the CompStat system.