The Volokh Conspiracy
Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent
The tumult over needed police reform reminded me of an idea I had a long time ago, but never wrote up. It's a preliminary sketch of a framework for discussion, I don't claim to have a detailed proposal that would answer all the questions the proposal raises.
Here goes: In a big city like New York, why not divide the police department into, say, five separate operating units, run by separate private companies under contract with the city (with the officers still officers of the state). Judge them annually via an independent consulting firm on various measures, like crime rates, crimes solved, complaints of misbehavior, etc. The company that performs best each year gets to extend its jurisdiction by, say, 5%, the worst performing company loses five percent. Over time, the best company patrols more and more of the city, the worst less and less. Maybe the latter eventually disappears; maybe it improves. The key, though, where unlike today police departments are primarily beholden to political bosses and union leaders, the folks running the operating units would be accountable to objective standards of performance.