The e-newsletter of the COPS Office | Volume 3 | Issue 5 | May 2010

CP-SAT: A New Measure for Community Policing

Believe it or not, there was a time when many features that are standard in today’s automobiles such as speedometers, mirrors, and headlights were either optional accessories or were not even conceived when cars rolled off assembly lines. It seems obvious now that a driver would need accurate and clear information about the status and speed of the car, what was happening behind the vehicle, and what objects lie ahead at night. Over time, these features became standard and are now routine when operating an automobile. In fact, it is an ongoing, evolutionary process. Similarly, appraising any police activity or operation, including community policing, has evolved over time and is imperative in understanding the relationship between how it performed in the past and how this translates into the evolution and innovation of policing.

One of the most challenging aspects of implementing community policing is fully defining and measuring the concept. Dating back to the early days of community policing, practitioners and other experts have noted the complexity in determining the status of community policing implementation at an agency level, much less how various ranks and functions of an agency practice it over time. One reason may be that a straightforward and objective tool was not available. However, the COPS Office, along with ICF International and the Police Executive Research Forum, is pleased to announce a new resource that we believe fills this void: the Community Policing Self-Assessment Tool (CP-SAT).

The CP-SAT provides a measurement system for agencies to track their community policing efforts over time. It is an online survey platform that assesses, if, how, and who understands, practices, and institutionalizes community policing, both within and outside their agency. The CP-SAT meets scientific rigors, is easy to use, and allows departments to implement the tool cost-effectively.

How the CP-SAT Was Developed

One of the priorities in developing the CP-SAT was to not only meet requisite scientific standards, but also to provide practitioners with a useful tool that they can easily distribute and score themselves. To develop the CP-SAT, the project team reviewed community policing and numerous models for community policing implementation. From this process, consensus emerged along the lines of a set of commonly accepted dimensions of community policing, which falls primarily under the rubric of problem solving, organizational change strategies, and community engagement and partnerships. The project team also met with many practitioners in the field to identify the elements of community policing and prioritize their importance. Numerous law enforcement agencies across the country participated in testing and validation of the surveys and helped hone the assessment process.

What Is Measured Through the CP-SAT

The CP-SAT is organized into three modules that correspond to the three primary community policing elements:

  1. Community Partnerships. The community partnerships module assesses the extent to which agency staff support and develop collaborative relationships among individuals and organizations in the community. There are three aspects of partnerships measured: the extent to which an agency has multidisciplinary partnerships; the resources/commitment of an agency’s community partners; and the level of interaction with an agency’s community partners.
  2. Problem Solving. This module measures the degree to which there is agencywide commitment to go beyond traditional police responses to crime to proactively address a multitude of problems that adversely affect quality of life. The first section of this module contains general questions about problem solving. The next section examines problem-solving processes and is framed around the SARA model. This section includes questions on identifying and prioritizing problems, analyzing problems, responding to problems, and assessing problem-solving initiatives. The final section examines problem- solving skill levels.
  3. Organizational Transformation. The organizational transformation module measures the extent to which the agency environment, personnel, practices and policies are supportive of community policing philosophy and activities. There are four aspects of organizational transformation measured on this assessment: 1.) agency management, 2.) organizational structure, 3.) personnel practices, and 4.) technology and information systems.

Who Takes the CP-SAT?

To ensure a comprehensive assessment, there are surveys tailored for each individual role and level of responsibility to community policing:

In addition to providing a comprehensive look at the practice of community policing, the inclusion of such a variety of stakeholders also serves as a communication tool that can inform each of these groups about what types of activities comprise effective community policing at their level in or role within the organization.

How Is the CP-SAT Administered?

Once the agency and its employees complete the assessment, the agency receives an automated summary report that shows the status of their community policing across the primary elements and sub-elements. This information is provided to the Chief Executive or his/her designee, and allows them to establish a baseline of community policing practice; monitor its implementation across ranks over time; and identify community policing relative strengths and areas for improvement. The newly released online CP-SAT enables agencies to reliably measure the extent of community policing implementation within the agency, and it serves as a communication tool to provide employees, the community, and others with tangible examples of community policing activities that are occurring within the agency.

The results from the CP-SAT informs a variety of stakeholders on the types of activities they should be participating in or are already successfully implementing to improve or enhance community policing strategies in their respective roles. It provides a comprehensive understanding of an agency’s limitations and areas for improvement. It also can assist with developing specific initiatives, conducting strategic planning, and identifying training and development needs. Moreover, having information about their community policing capacity and successes is useful in helping agencies educate stakeholders about the value of officer efforts.

The COPS Office is pleased to announce that for a short period of time agencies can receive free technical assistance in administering the assessment. For more information about the CP-SAT, please contact Rob Chapman at or 202.514.8278.

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