It all started in New York City where it's
Compstat.  The Compstat
paradigm has spread like a virus, and it's
now known by various names.  In
Baltimore, where I became intimately
familiar with this new and spectacular way
of substituting confusion for
accountability, it's called
Comstat.  No
matter what the name, the basics are the

In Baltimore, a Comstat Room was
constructed replete with overhead
projectors for displaying what often
appears to be impressive visual
presentations.  A large spotlighted
podium stands in one corner of the room
facing a huge L shaped table where the
police commissioner and command staff
sit for the inquisition.  Behind the table
are several rows of chairs for spectators,
guests, or VIP's.  The technological nerve
center is enclosed in sound proof glass
behind the peanut gallery where
technicians coordinate the visual aids with
the subjects being discussed.

As a new police officer, you won't be
intimately familiar with the process,
because someone has to do police work.  
If you do join a department that has
firmly embraced this paradigm, you'll find
yourself working in a pretty chaotic
working environment.   Since your
immediate supervisors will be distracted,
and frequently consumed, with
preparation for the next Police-STAT,
they won't have much time to
concentrate on the day to day functions
of supervision and management. Since
these shows take place once a week, or
even more frequently, you'll be getting
new directions after every episode.

Episode is an accurate description of
these meetings; although, some might
even find sitcom as a better descriptor.  
Well, I suppose you know by now that I
think the whole process is a monumental
waste of time.  In the beginning, it was
conceived as a method to identify those
commanders who were not performing.   
Intimidation of a commander in front of
his or her peers, and anyone else in
attendance, was meant to either shake
that commander into compliance or cause
his or her replacement.

It's all theater.  Look…in nearly every
police department in the country, high
ranking commanders are appointed by,
and serve at the pleasure of, the police
chief.  So, whose fault is it if a
commander isn't doing his or her job?

While Baltimore would be described as a
large police department, it's small
compared to New York City…every police
department is small compared to New
York City.  At any rate, it became
apparent early on to the inquisitors that
there just weren't enough commanders
(Majors) to keep the show on the road.  
It became necessary to include
lieutenants and, ultimately, sergeants in
the cast of characters to be questioned
and intimidated.
Many police departments across the
nation are falling all over themselves
touting a new way of doing things which
most claim to be the ultimate means for
combating crime and ensuring
Think of a Police-STAT as a press
conference.  Both sides spend a lot of
time preparing for the press conference.  
A lot of questions are asked and
answered; everybody gets his or her
fifteen minutes of fame, or humiliation,
and, in the end…nothing changes.  
Here's the biggest problem with using
intimidation as a tool in any
endeavor…you better know what you're
talking about.  As a police officer, you're
going to use intimidation all the time.  
Intimidation can be as subtle as the
uniform you wear, but most often what
you say will be your most often used
overt form of intimidation.  If you
threaten a person with arrest, you'd
better have a lawful reason to arrest that
person.  If you do and you don't, you're
going to have problems.  If a person calls
your bluff, and you have to back off,
then you become the one who is

This total waste of time, energy, and
resources will have more negative effects
in a larger police department than it will in
a small agency.  In the smaller
departments, where just about
everybody has personal relationships on
some level with one another, the
intimidating nature of the process rapidly
wears thin.  Because of the unavailability
of fresh meat to intimidate, things can
get back to normal sooner than later.
In Baltimore, where I became
intimately familiar with this new and
spectacular way of substituting
confusion for accountability, it's
called Comstat.
 ~  Barry M. Baker
Copyright © 2017  Barry M. Baker