Counting Kids: The Value of Data Collection for Policing Youth Effectively

Data, Data, Data!

Sergeant. Schwob“If law enforcement expect the public to not only understand but support our efforts,” said Sergeant David Schwob of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, “the more information we give out, the more they will understand and support what we do.”

For the past five years, Sergeant Schwob has been collecting data – lots of data – about the CMPD’s effectiveness in Charlotte, North Carolina. “I’m a numbers oriented person anyway,” he said, “ but when it comes to getting funding, or manpower, or anything I need to expand the effectiveness of the program, you need to have something to back it up.”

Hoping to accurately capture CMPD school resource officers’ performance in the Charlotte public school system, Sergeant Schwob began collecting data by hand, and continued to do so for his first few years in the school resource program.

At first it was slow going, he said; but when Chief Rodney Monroe was appointed head of the CMPD in 2008, a new emphasis was placed on data throughout the department and Sergeant Schwob found himself ahead of the curve.

“With command staff support,” he said, “we were able to grow into what we are now, and we’re taking that to a new level.” Recent data collection initiatives are focused on disproportionate minority contact and diversion, both priorities of Chief Monroe.

What You Can Do With the Information

Sergeant Schwob is now focused on not only the number of arrests, but on who is being arrested and why.  Schwob’s analysis led him to conclude that 49% of school-based arrests were for minor offenses, a number that was too high and needed to be addressed. Without his real-time, systematic approach to data collection, Sergeant Schwob would not have been able to develop a strategy for reducing arrests for minor offenses and slowing the effect of the “school to prison” pipeline.

Sergeant Schwob’s careful data collection has  garnered interagency support for the CMPD’s use of diversion with juveniles. Rather than face criminal charges and be sent to juvenile court, some young people end up in “teen court,” a peer to peer mediation tool that many say is much more effective than conventional methods.

“We’re now diverting about 350 kids away from the criminal justice system,” said Sergeant Schwob. “It shows that we’re trying to correct behavior, not just put an arrest on somebody that could dictate their life in a negative way.”

Ultimately, Sergeant Schwob hopes that all of this data – arrests, the demographics of arrest, diversion – will be open and easily accessible to the public. Arrest numbers are already available online and organized by division.

“The data tells the public what we are doing, where their funding goes to, what officers are doing and what their productivity is,” said Sergeant Schwob. “The community wants to understand that the schools are safe and their kids are being taken care of – this information is very important.”

Would you like to learn more about this promising practice? Write to  Sergeant Schwob at dschwob@cmpd.org.

UPDATE (February 25, 2013): Data collection was recently ordered by the New York State legislature in  an effort to better understand the level of school exclusion and school-based arrests occurring in the New York City public schools. The link below describes the provisions of the act and the obligations the New York Police Department and the city’s Department of Education must meet: http://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=821375&GUID=BE5ED174-255F-4944-A1D5-331DD105E8CB&Options=ID|Text|&Search=STUDENT+SAFETY

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