After thirty years of banging its head against a brick wall, the LAPD (in the person of Deputy Chief Charlie Beck) has finally figured out how to handle the gang problem. After years of despising the “gang intervention” workers, Beck’s South Bureau has learned to work with them, and the result is going to be a 30-year low in homicides city-wide.
Bill Bratton gets much of the credit, both for finding Beck and moving him quickly up the ranks and for the CompStat system, which creates such pressure for results in the form of crime reduction that it can sometimes overcome even the most deeply-ingrained organizational prejudices.
If I were a mayor or a governor, I’d want to have someone think hard about how to apply CompStat to other pieces of public business. It won’t work everywhere: you need a good outcome measure that you can monitor in real time and attribute to specific organizational units. (No Child Left Behind suffers both from crude outcome measures and from the fact that once-a-year measurements don’t allow mid-course corrections.) But where it works, it’s magic. As Mike O’Hare says, every organization not under external pressure to perform will tend to be run for the comfort of its managers rather than for the pursuit of its mission.