Ways to measure officer performance


One challenge facing administrators has always been, “How do you measure the performance of your law enforcement program and the officers involved?” This question has been raised by our fellow Coast Guard Program Administrators during state site visits in auditing the Recreational Boating Safety grant.

Several models address this issue as it relates to regular police officer positions. The problem with these models is that they deal mainly with localized police and sheriff agencies where those officers work in a designed beat area and shifts. Many of the state and territorial marine patrol units are found within natural resources agencies and state police departments. In trying to manage the performance measures in these organizations, one must look at a wide range of variables that may not fit equally across the state or territory. Some of these variables may include officers not being assigned to shift work, the unique differences of the geography within a state or territory, and changing demographics across the same area of patrol.

KS kevin with boat & kids 2005Another issue in assigning a performance rating deals with supervision. Differing opinions, biases, prejudices, interpretation, and so on come into play from one first line supervisor to the next which influence how performances are measured. It would be unfair to fail to recognize this factor as part of our human nature. Trying to utilize statistics can also be a very dangerous mechanism in performance measurement due to manipulation of numbers by officers, quota systems challenged by the courts, and the simple fact that numbers do not always tell the entire story.

During a three-day seminar on officer evaluations and disciplinary actions, the speaker made some very interesting observations. He said that true evaluations of officers should be based on 10 behaviors set by the agency and that the work produced by the officers are the by-product of following these behavior guidelines. The instructor stated that the only true measurement that can be done toward law enforcement is how efficient the officers are in doing their job when it comes to time.

This has a lot to do with self-motivation. Along those lines, when Donald Trump was asked, “How do you motivate your employees?”, he replied, “I don’t; I hire employees who are already motivated.” He went on to explain that you can’t motivate people who do not want to be motivated.

In looking at some of these philosophies, I have been working on a system to measure the efficiency at which our officers perform their on-the-water vessel inspections. There are many parameters that must be considered, and this is by no means an undisputed topic. First, our officers are required to perform a hard-copy vessel inspection on vessels. They gain credit for these vessel inspections. The inspections are placed into a database where I can pull individual officer numbers for the year. Second, coding of the officers’ time as it relates to performing this particular task must be specified exactly for this, otherwise it will skew the data, rendering it worthless. Recording time is a two-fold problem as the coding system must allow for the specific coding and allow the administrator access to query the data. The second issue involves officer awareness in the importance of proper coding and time recognition. 

Looking at trend data for the past 10 years in comparison to time reporting and vessel inspections, I calculated a standard of 1.46 hours per vessel inspection. This involves officers actively patrolling and completing vessel inspections. To be fair in assessment of officer differences in areas they work, job performance duties and demographic differences, I looked at the variances and assigned a rating system based on actual time recorded vs. inspections. Here’s an example of this rating involving time:


The second variable to consider involves separating officers involved in specialized duties from each other including supervisory staff and assigning a minimum standard for them to meet during the course of the year as it relates to performing vessel inspections. Using the same reduction by percentage as listed above, the system looks like this where the baseline for performance is the 5 rating.


The theory behind this would work as such:  One of our boating officers completes 75 boat inspections for the year and recorded 57 hours towards vessel inspections on the time sheet. Taking 75 divided by 57 would give that officer a rating of 1.32 which would receive a 5 rating. The number of boat inspections would give that officer a rating of 3, so 5 and 3 equals 8 divided by two would give the officer an overall proficiency rating of 4. 

To gain an insight of the overall program, you would take the total number of inspections divided by the total hours recorded and figure what the rating numbers would equate to on a statewide basis.

As stated before, this theory is not foolproof. Officers can always find ways to circumvent the numbers (goes back to supervising behavior) as well as problems with time coding. One issue involves multiple officers working together and separating out the time vs. the actual recording of the vessel inspection to one particular officer. This system is still being worked on with code strings being added to recording of time and officer education.

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