Three weeks into his new job as commanding officer of Manhattan’s 20 th precinct, Captain Timothy J. Malin stared at a map on his computer screen, puzzled. It depicted his jurisdiction engraved up by streets and parks, with the southern edge encased in an ominous shade of red.
For decades, the New York Police Department has used real-time statistics to chart spikes in violence and calibrate police activity across the city. This map, however, displayed not crime data but something new in the arsenal of police metrics: public approval. The crimson on Malin’s map indicated that some residents in his precinct, the Upper West Side–one of New York City’s wealthiest and safest neighborhoods–reported feeling little trust in his officers. It was Malin’s job to figure out why. “I look at that, and I am like,’ Okay? What’s causing this? ’” he said.
This story was published in partnership with The Marshall Project, an independent nonprofit newsroom covering the U.S. criminal justice system.
In April, the NYPD informally introduced its public opinion monitor, also known as the “sentiment meter, ” during CompStat, the weekly meetings in which top brass interrogate precinct commandants about crime trends. Precincts now receive a monthly “trust score” along with rankings that measure overall satisfaction with police performance and how safe residents feel. The data is culled from questionnaires administered through about 50,000 smartphone apps, including Candy Crush and WeatherBug, as well as traditional landline calls. Facebook and Instagram began to publicize links to the surveys in June.