Wall Street Journal
Apr. 21, 2015 8:51 p.m. ET


NYPD to Change How It Evaluates Officers

Current method has been criticized as being a quota system

By PERVAIZ SHALLWANI

KEVIN HAGEN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
An NYPD officer makes a traffic stop in Times Square in Manhattan.

The process for evaluating New York City police officers, which has been criticized as a quota system, is being overhauled and will soon be replaced with a less numbers-focused program, according to police officials familiar with the change.

The new evaluation program, tentatively scheduled to go into effect in mid-May, will replace a system criticized by a U.S. District judge in a 2013 ruling that found the way the New York Police Department used the stop-and-frisk crime-fighting tactic was unconstitutional.

SEE THE EVALUATIONS

Quest for Excellence Form: Conditions Impact Measurement Report

Quest for Excellence Form: Police Officer’s Monthly Performance Report

While some details about the new program were unclear Tuesday, the officials said the goal is for the system to be more focused on addressing crime conditions in the neighborhoods where officers are assigned.

The change comes as the department grapples with the fallout from recent high-profile cases of alleged police abuse, as well as calls from some community members and the City Council to change the so-called broken windows policing—the philosophy of aggressively targeting low-level offenses in hopes of deterring more significant ones. The practice is championed by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton.

Created in 2011 following a pilot program, the current evaluation program, known as Quest for Excellence, requires the city’s nearly 35,000 officers to fill out daily and monthly activity reports measuring their productivity in terms of hours worked, arrests made, summonses issued and reports prepared—including reports detailing the stop-and-frisk tactic.

“Monthly recommended levels of performance have always been used, among many other factors, to help determine officers’ annual evaluations,” said one official familiar with the changes, adding that the evaluations are often submitted when officers apply to be on specialized details such as narcotics, intelligence and counterterrorism.

But Quest for Excellence has been criticized by both officers and civil-rights advocates as a tool that forced police to increase the numbers of arrests, summonses and stop-and-frisks as a way to corroborate their performance.

QUEST FOR EXCELLENCE

The evaluation in use now:

Established in 2011

Activity reports filled out by nearly 35,000 officers daily and monthly

Productivity measured by hours worked, arrests made, summonses issued, reports prepared

Stop-and-frisk tactics detailed

Evaluations submitted when officers apply for specialized details

Ordered to be revised as part of 2013 stop-and-frisk ruling

Patrick Lynch, president of the union that represents NYPD police officers, said Quest for Excellence is a “veiled attempt at legitimizing illegal enforcement quotas that this union has opposed since its introduction.”

“Its elimination is long overdue and we applaud the change,” he said in a statement. “Time will tell if this is the first step toward the elimination of enforcement quotas.”

Word that a change in the system is in the works has been slowly making its way down to officers. During a training session last week at the NYPD police academy, officers told by an instructor that the system was being overhauled responded with applause.

“It was too cumbersome and still too numbers based,” said a senior police official with knowledge of the changes.

The evaluations were among the conditions ordered to be corrected during the 2013 stop-and-frisk trial. In her decision, U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin said evidence presented during the trial showed the program “created pressure to carry out stops, without any system for monitoring the constitutionality of those stops,” but added that using performance goals in “relation to stops may be appropriate, once an effective system for ensuring constitutionality is in place.”

Judge Scheindlin said the issue should be addressed as part of a joint remedial process that is under way with a federal monitor assigned to implement her recommendations, but no resolution has been reached.

The new program is expected to be rolled out at the same time as an expansion of a pilot program now taking place in four precincts—two each in Queens and northern Manhattan—that pulls officers from responding to 911 calls for a few hours during a shift to spend time communicating with residents.

The framework for the new evaluation system includes a push by Mr. Bratton to use more discretion when making arrests and issuing summonses, the officials said.

The change is being led by the NYPD’s Office of Management and Planning with input from senior officials across the department, including the NYPD’s chief legal advisers.

Civil-rights advocates said numbers will always play some role in policing, but the problem with Quest for Excellence was that it was a formal department program.

“By forcing officers to fill out a daily scorecard of their arrests, summonses, and stop-and-frisks and by mandating discipline for officers who were deemed unproductive, this program was nothing short of a formal, departmentwide quota system,” said Chris Dunn,associate legal director of the New York Civil Liberties Union. “It’s a relic of the prior administration and should be discarded.”

Write to Pervaiz Shallwani at pervaiz.shallwani@wsj.com