How to Evaluate and Improve Your Agency in 5 Easy Steps (Part 1)

Here’s the first two steps
of a five-step process that will help you identify your campus public safety department’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as actions you can take to resolve challenges.

As a head of an agency or unit commander, we have at least three major responsibilities: establish and maintain safe and secure jurisdictions; serve as an effective steward of the funding we receive; and ensure our agency has the flexibility to adapt to our changing political, social, cultural and economic environments. All of the things we do, whether it’s patrol operations, training, composition of general orders or community outreach, contribute to one or more of these responsibilities.

Any leader worth his or her salt will be aware of agency strengths and weaknesses by virtue of spending time with the troops, reading reports, conducting command staff meetings and receiving feedback from citizens as well as community leaders. The challenge is focusing on more than the episodic issue du jour. If you’re consumed by current issues and problems, it will be almost impossible to develop an integrated, long-term plan that accomplishes the above responsibilities.

What is needed is a mechanism that allows a leader to assess an agency’s ability to meet its key mission objectives (outputs), to develop a prioritized plan to improve weak areas, to provide a means of assessing the impact of the corrective actions and a means of explaining the rationale of selected courses of action to one’s political masters and department subordinates. The key to this methodology is identifying priorities so as to facilitate decisions that have the greatest impact. The following five-step process demonstrates this methodology and identifies resulting courses of action for a leader’s decision.

Step 1: Identify Your Department’s Priority Mission Objectives/Goals
Here is a list of 11 goals, listed in what I consider to be priority order for a campus police department.

  • 1. Keep campus(es) safe. This goal encompasses things like officer visibility, responses to calls for service, arrests and adjudication, etc. Safe campuses are our ultimate objective.
  • 2. Establish and maintain a good departmental reputation on campus. If citizens fear us or don’t respect us, they will not report crimes, attend our outreach training or view us as a key contributor who supports the academic mission. Ultimately, failure to establish and maintain a professional reputation on campus will have a negative effect on departmental funding, resulting in dire effects.
  • 3. Officer safety. We owe it to our officers on the front lines to keep them safe, with good equipment, good supervision, and appropriate training and support.
  • 4. Effective police operations. Closely tied to the first two goals, effective police operations include crime analysis, investigations, interviews and interrogations, evidence storage and documentation.
  • 5. Values. Instilling ethical behavior, integrity, dedication, proactivity, sacrifice and perseverance in officers’ interactions with each other and the campus community also contributes to a positive reputation on campus.
  • 6. Officer training and development. This objective goes beyond initial field training of new officers. We must be committed to training all officers to do their jobs in difficult and dynamic social, political and cultural environments. Additionally, we must train our officers as leaders who can accept greater responsibility within the department.

About the Author


Lt. John Weinstein is the commander of Northern Virginia Community College Public Safety District 3. The views expressed herein represent the personal views of the author and should not be construed as representing the official view of the Northern Virginia Community College or any of its components.

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