Establishing Priorities and Specific Clearance Objectives. An exemplary agency annually reviews clearance rate history and trends
for UCR crimes and establishes overall community and specific neighborhood goals with respect to the identification, apprehension, prosecution and conviction of offenders.
Investigation and Identification. An exemplary agency employs professional policing and scientific methods to investigate reported crimes, including interrogating suspects, interviewing victims and witnesses, obtaining search warrants, computer research, and the use of scientific analytical and identification techniques to identify and apprehend the perpetrators.
A primary way to prevent and reduce crime is to apprehend offenders and subject them to the judicial system so their guilt or innocence can be properly determined and so that those convicted (or pleading guilty) can be held accountable. Clearance rate objectives and performance should reflect the agency’s established priorities (e.g., clearance rates on homicides and other violent crimes are expected to be higher than the clearance rates for vandalism, auto break-ins and even home burglaries). An exemplary agency is fully transparent about historic and projected clearance for various crimes.
Apprehension and Arrest. An exemplary agency employs principles of procedural justice and Constitutional policing to achieve clearance rate objectives by making lawful arrests of the perpetrators of reported crimes. The agency does not use arrest or citation quotas as a measure of officer productivity.
Every policing agency has the responsibility to identify and lawfully arrest persons who committed the reported crimes and subject them to the criminal justice system. Unfortunately, no department has the resources to fully investigate every crime. Thus, the performance objectives set by the agency must reflect community priorities. There are two qualitative aspects of a lawful arrest: 1) the arrest must be accomplished in a manner that comports with the principles of procedural justice and Constitutional requirements, and 2) the arrest must achieve proper and professional policing objectives, not simply a means to meet a productivity quota.
The validity of arrest and clearance rates as a measure of effectiveness depends on policies that ensure the accuracy of the data; fabrication or manipulation of data to create a false or misleading impression of success must be strictly forbidden. To assure accuracy and uniformity, the agency creates policies and criteria for the clearance of multiple crimes from a single suspect (preventing the agency from clearing multiple offenses with the apprehension of a particular offender unless there is a confession or persuasive evidence – more probable than not – that the offender committed other crimes).
An agency should not measure the productivity of an officer by the number of arrests as this promotes a quota system creating an incentive for questionable arrests or detract from the agency’s crime prevention goals by distracting officers to focus on unreported crimes such as parole or weapons violations. These may be valid arrests but they do not truly reflect effective crime prevention or reduction.
Successful Prosecutions. An exemplary agency ensures that officers have the training and resources to provide the prosecutor with professionally organized and documented cases with sufficient admissible evidence to obtain a conviction or guilty plea for the crimes charged.
Dismissed Cases. If the prosecutor elects to dismiss a case either because of insufficient admissible evidence or other perceived impropriety by officers, an exemplary agency establishes protocols to obtain a full explanation of the decision to determine whether further discussion with the prosecutor or remedial training of investigators or arresting officers is justified.
An important measure of effectiveness in holding offenders accountable is the percentage of arrests resulting in prosecutions and convictions. Thus, it is the agency’s responsibility to collaborate with the prosecutor to determine the strength of each case and the precise nature of the charges to be filed.
If the prosecutor declines to prosecute or the case is dismissed by a court either because of insufficient evidence or a defect in the process (e.g., illegal search), the arrest is effectively nullified. An exemplary agency develops a protocol to obtain specific feedback from prosecutors as to the reasons for dismissal or rejection.
Collecting and Reporting Prosecution and Conviction Data. The agency collects, reviews and includes in its reporting, data on the percentage of arrests that resulted in voluntary dismissal, acquittal and conviction
It is sometimes difficult to assess the quality of a case presented to the prosecutor because the prosecutor has complete discretion regarding the filing and pursuit of criminal charges. The willingness of the prosecutor to pursue a case or accept an inappropriate guilty plea for lesser offenses often depends on factors other than the strength of the case. If the case is declined or diminished because of workload considerations, prosecutorial priorities or an unwillingness to jeopardize conviction rates by pursuing anything but a “sure thing”, perfectly good arrests and cases are made to appear improper. Thus it is essential that policing professionals work with prosecutors.An Exemplary Policing Agency collects data and reviews all cases dismissed before trial. In some cases, leadership should advocate for prosecution of individual cases or a change in prosecutorial polices. In others, the feedback should be used to counsel or train investigators or arresting officers.
In establishing clearance objectives, leadership should establish realistic success objectives that reflect prosecutorial policies. In addition, leadership should continuously advocate for a more honest and aggressive prosecutorial strategy and, in some cases, advocate for the result they believe best vindicates the law and victims.