Can Performance Management Best Practices Help Reduce Crime? 217
Public Administration Review,
Vol. 78, Iss. 2, pp. 217–227. © 2017 by
The American Society for Public Administration.
Can Performance Management
Best Practices Help Reduce Crime?
Obed Pasha is assistant professor of
public policy and administration in the Levin
College of Urban Affairs, Cleveland State
University. His research interests focus on
performance management and other public
administration reforms in criminal justice,
health care, and transportation.
Abstract: As performance management systems gain popularity in police agencies, they are increasingly being
criticized for their ineffectiveness at reducing crime and for encouraging abuse of authority. Scholars and practitioners,
however, argue that these systems can be effective if they are implemented properly with the use of best practices. This
article contributes to this debate by evaluating the impact of performance management systems and associated best
practices on improving police performance. An analysis of primary survey data of 308 U.S. police agencies shows
that performance management systems are effective tools in helping reduce crime across almost all crime categories.
However, the best practices of performance reporting to citizens and providing discretion to officers have no significant
impact on crime reduction, while consulting officers in the target-setting process has a negative impact on police
Evidence for Practice
• Performance management systems are effective at improving organizational performance, but only for the
performance dimensions that can be planned and strategized.
• The practice of consulting with employees before setting performance targets is detrimental to overall
organizational performance. Performance targets should be set through a centralized process. However,
consulting with officers might have other benefits, such as improving employee morale and internalizing
• Employee discretion has only a weak impact on organizational performance. Notwithstanding other benefits
of this practice, such as fostering innovation, police departments may consider reducing officer autonomy to
curtail potential abuse of authority.
• Providing performance feedback to citizens might help with other objectives, such as cultivating trust
between police departments and the public, but it does not impact performance in terms of reducing crime.
P olice agencies are essential organs of society
that are mandated to maintain order, enforce
the law, and provide services to citizens. In
pursuit of their mission, these organizations have
gone through many reforms over the last few decades
with the goal of becoming more service oriented
in their approach (Coleman 2008 ). Such efforts
under the New Public Management and Proactive
Police Management frameworks paved the way for
the adoption of performance management systems
in these agencies in the 1990s (Bayley 2008 ). Best
practices were subsequently developed by scholars and
practitioners to improve these systems and mitigate
Performance management systems are now well-
established concepts that are increasingly being
adopted by police agencies in the United States and
abroad (Van Sluis, Cachet, and Ringeling 2008).
These systems are hailed for improving police
performance, on the one hand (e.g., Behn 2014 ), and
blamed for encouraging abuse of authority, on the
other (Eterno and Silverman 2010 ). Some scholars
argue that these systems can be made effective if
certain best practices are applied with their use (Behn
2014 ; Mastrofski 2006 ).
This article contributes to this discussion by
empirically examining the role of performance
management and accompanying best practices
in helping police agencies improve performance.
Previous research in other contexts, such as education,
transportation, and local government management,
has produced mixed results on the effectiveness of
performance management systems. Some of these
studies (e.g., Dias and Maynard-Moody 2007 ; Soss,
Fording, and Schram 2011 ) found negative or no
effects of performance management, while others
Cleveland State University