In the end, the only thing that matters in such a system is the checklist and making sure that you can tell top-down management that no check box has gone unchecked.
Here's a retired sergeant from the NYPD writing about how checklistitis stripped cops of autonomy and created a CYA environment where nothing mattered more than the data:
Under Bratton, NYPD executives were subject to Compstat meetings, where they were challenged, often reprimanded regarding crime statistics in their commands and compelled to develop strategies to correct these conditions. But ultimately, the focus was on having well-trained and effective line-level enforcers.
A lot of that changed under Commissioner Raymond Kelly, when a harsher, more corporate management ethos took over.
Units previously run by lieutenants were now managed by an executive. These commanders were less concerned with allowing detectives to run their investigations than with trying to anticipate and generate answers to the questions they expected to be asked when called on the Compstat carpet or briefing the commissioner on high-profile cases.
And most of the new bosses had very little hands-on experience. Detectives who spent their careers investigating serious offenses were being told at every step to check in first with an executive who typically never worked as a detective.
The sharp decline in detectives’ case clearance rates is strong evidence that this management style has outlived its usefulness.
Under Kelly, the NYPD has become top-heavy, with more executives than ever micromanaging minutiae barely worthy of a sergeant’s attention.
Now, when a situation challenges a patrol officer, he calls a sergeant, who calls the lieutenant, who notifies the captain.
Many of my former colleagues are dubious that Bratton’s proactive, cop-friendly tactics will be met with approval by Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio. But the incoming commissioner’s adaptability should not be underestimated.
The challenge Bratton faces on his return, which may be more perplexing than the out-of-control crime he faced in 1994, is how to get detectives who have been trained to follow checklists rather than investigative leads — and supervisors with years of seniority who have never made a significant decision — onboard with his agenda, which depends on intelligence and autonomy, rather than automatons.