What Data to Consider when Evaluating a New Officer’s Performance

You can think about officer performance evaluation from three different, though equally important, perspectives. First, an officer’s performance is evaluated by field training officers (FTOs) based on how well they apply academy techniques to real-world scenarios as new recruits.

After field training, an officer’s performance is likely evaluated by the department on a timeline determined by legislation, POST (Police Officers Standards and Training), and other relevant organizations.

Finally, and perhaps most important if your desired outcome is maintaining public trust and good working relationships, an officer’s performance is evaluated by the citizens of the community they serve.

Evaluating New Recruits

A Field Training Officer has one of the most important roles in any department. They are responsible for training new officers and teaching them the right way to do the job. FTO’s must evaluate officer performance by observing the new officer’s actions.

How can we measure new recruits?

Performance categories that FTO’s should evaluate are:
  • Vehicle Operations
  • Orientation and Geography
  • Field Performance
  • Cognitive Abilities
  • Verbal Communication
  • Use of Force and Officer Safety
  • Legal Authority
  • Local Procedures
  • Radio Protocol
  • Report Writing
  • Self-motivation
  • Self-regulation
  • Self-awareness

Evaluating these areas of officer’s actions can assist FTO’s in evaluating data points such as levels of execution, speed at which they are or are not progressing, and the quality of their work.


This information should then be transferred to Daily Observation Reports, or DOR’s.

The Daily Observation Report should contain:
  • An Assessment
  • A Narrative
  • Training Tasks the officer completed.
  • An End of Day Summary (that another FTO could decipher and use)

At the end of each day, the recruit should be made aware of their strengths and weaknesses throughout their shift and be told the areas of performance that need improvements.

Evaluating Officer Performance

Today’s police executives and public service leaders including but not limited to department heads, supervisors, chiefs, mayors, and city managers, tend to base officer evaluations on very specific metrics. You can contextualize these stats within four broad categories:

  • Reductions in the number of serious crimes reported, most commonly presented as local comparisons against an immediately preceding time period.
  • Clearance Rates
  • Response times
  • Enforcement productivity (number of arrests, citations, stop-and-search frisks, etc.)

The first category, reductions in the number of serious crime reports, tends to dominate a department’s internal and external narrative of success. Which makes sense, as it’s the closest thing to reliable crime-control data.

The second, third, and fourth categories, clearance rates, response times, and enforcement productivity metrics, are useful to show officers respond to calls quickly and are generally working hard. Unfortunately, they reveal very little as to whether officers are having a positive impact, working intelligently, or using the desired methods.

Four Additional Opportunities for Assessment

Supervisors can use these numbers to break down individual officer performance evaluations to four additional categories:

  • Impact
  • Job Knowledge
  • Productivity
  • Professional Characteristics


When evaluating any employee, a supervisor should consider the Impact – positive or negative – that an employee is having on the agency, his fellow officers, and the community’s feelings about both.

  • Is he propelling the department forward and assisting in accomplishing department goals?
  • Is he taking initiative and jumping calls, or is he hanging back and hoping someone else will do the work and take the report?
  • Do other officers enjoy working with him?

Job Knowledge

Laws are constantly changing, and criminals are always looking for ways to get smarter. What you learned in a training class last year may not be relevant this year.

The second area of evaluations should be Job Knowledge. An assessment of the officer’s knowledge on level I, II, or III stops, state laws, department policies, or overall knowledge of his responsibilities as an LEO should be tested on a quarterly basis to ensure officers are maintaining their job knowledge and seeking out ways to improve upon what they already know.

Police should feel the need to be constantly improving and should be allotted training opportunities to do so.


Another crucial evaluation of an officer’s performance is Productivity.

  • Is an officer making self-initiated pedestrian stops, traffic stops, or business checks?
  • Does he remain motivated throughout the course of his shift?
  • Is he writing traffic citations or making drug arrests? Is he taking case reports?

These numbers can all be measured and looked at to determine if the officer’s output has been substantial or light.

Professional Characteristics

Law enforcement officers are held to a higher standard of honesty, integrity, and professionalism by the public. Public trust is extremely important to any law enforcement agency. For this reason, Professional Characteristics are key to reviewing an officer’s performance.

  • Does the officer reflect your agency’s core traits and beliefs?
  • Does she maintain a good work ethic? Is she sociable and approachable when dealing with the public?
  • Does she present herself as a professional? Is she forthright?
  • Does he recognize the importance of her duty as a police officer and take this responsibility seriously?

A police officer must care for the community he serves and seeks out ways to make it a better place for the citizens he protects. These evaluations can and should take place in one-on-one, confidential settings between officers and their first line supervisors.

Citizen’s Evaluation of Officer Performance

In the eyes of the citizens, measuring officer performance begins with crime control. While community members do not expect their local government or municipality to prevent or solve all crime, they do expect the best protection possible.

Using scientific police management, officers can apply social science techniques using one of the best resources available: the public.

Involve the Community in Policing

Getting the community involved by using community policing can enhance the effectiveness of the agency through developing collaborative partnerships between law enforcement agencies and the individuals and organizations they serve — in order to develop solutions to problems and increase trust in police.

The individuals living and working in the community – the residents, volunteers, commuters, or business owners – are a valuable resource for identifying community concerns.

Setting aside times to meet with community members monthly, whether that be at town hall meetings or neighborhood watch meetings, will give community members a chance to voice concerns, enlighten law enforcement officers on current problems, and work together to solve the problems the community members are experiencing.

By doing these things police empower citizens to act in partnership with the police on issues of crime and more broadly defined social problems — for example, quality-of-life issues.

Research has shown that community-oriented policing has greatly improved the perception of police and has helped build strong bonds of trust between law enforcement and the community.

Evidence-Based Policing and Performance Evaluation

Police base a lot of what they do on evidence. And that is not just limited to the public. Great Police Chiefs are constantly seeking out ways to improve their department and their officers.

A review of police research trends found the highest proportion of published studies were about policing strategies, which included senior officer abuse of power, accountability and governance, police management styles and philosophies, police leadership, supervision and control, productivity and quality, and change and development.

As police use evidence-based policing strategies to educate themselves, they can find new ways to improve overall police performance. This can be an invaluable approach to improving policing and performance by police officers.

Supporting Data-Driven Evaluation with Technology

As you can see, there is no shortage of information you can use to evaluate your officers. The prevalence of gear like body-worn cameras and GPS means your officers are generating gigabytes of data every day. But capturing and contextualizing that data is easier said than done. shutterstock_121913302

This is why many departments are turning to enterprise technology and analytics to help them turn guesses into targeted coaching and support. Early Intervention Systems (EIS), Records Management Systems (RMS), and Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) are all examples of software currently used to streamline, and capture, much of the burdensome administrative work that takes away from time on the street.

If you could capture all of the data mentioned above, would you be able to make heads or tails of it? That’s because most systems don’t include intuitive analytics. They give you the data, but it’s up to you to understand it. A random set of numbers, whether it’s call-times, use-of-force incidents, or citizen complaints, means nothing without context.

Analytics, like those we provide to our clients, gives non-technical individuals the ability to interact with data in a meaningful way. This empower police executives to confidently implement new policies and manage their officers with the confidence brought by objective data.


Brown, J., Belur, J., Tompson, L., McDowall, A., Hunter, G., & May, T. (2018). Extending the remit of evidence-based policing. International Journal of Police Science and Management, 20(1), 38-51

FTO, Training Management (LMS) Sparrow, M (2015, March) Measuring Performance in a Modern Police Organization