As sergeants, one of our duties is the routine monthly or bi-monthly evaluation of the officers under our command. It may be in a numbers-based format where an officer is evaluated strictly based upon the statistics that they generate during a given period or it may be through a narrative type evaluation that requires that the evaluating officer make written comments concerning an officer’s performance or lack of same during that evaluation period. Both styles have benefits and both have disadvantages.
Numbers or statistical based evaluations are just that, a total of the amount of activity that an officer has generated in the given period of time. Statistics look at how many traffic stops, how many tickets written and how many arrests that the officer may have made judged against arbitrary standards or “norms.” This system of evaluation allows for a standardized good boy-bad boy quotient.
All of the officers know beforehand exactly what it takes to be a “good boy” and what gets them the “bad boy” scolding. What numbers based evaluations do not do is allow for quality versus quantity determinations. An officer may take a community based approach to their job and attempt to seek other alternatives to arrest and citation. Is this a bad thing or does it indicate the officer is doing nothing? Of course not.
In fact alternative solutions often take more time to accomplish than does ticketing or incarcerating which translates into fewer statistics for that officer during the evaluation cycle. Clearly some of the officer’s work will require the ticketing of some and the incarceration of others however in not all cases is either indicated nor desired.
Narrative based evaluations, on the other hand, are much more time intensive and require that the evaluating officer make runs with the officer and actually observe the officers actions and skills. This causes the Sergeant to become more involved in the process of telling the officer what he is doing right or wrong in their work instead of simply evaluating if they are doing enough or not based upon the numbers.
In a narrative based evaluation, the total numbers are presented as minor factual information used as a basis for determining the quantity of work done but not the quality and evaluating quality is what we are trying to accomplish.
When you look strictly at the numbers it may appear that an individual is a giant slug that does nothing and robs the department of a perfectly good officer. However, when you actually make runs with them you may find that this is a highly effective officer at solving problems and while their volume is not as high as others the quality of their work is the actual tell of the tape.
As Sergeants we should be evaluating problem solving skills and the quality of same as opposed to telling the officers if they write just one more ticket they can magically become a “good boy” even though the biggest problem they solved this month was matching their uniform pants and shirt before work.
Scott Oldham is a supervisory sergeant with the City of Bloomington Police Department where he serves as the Tactical team leader for that agency. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.