The Executive Session on Policing ran from 1985 to 1991, bringing together a group that included police chiefs, mayors, policy makers, and scholars to formally flesh out the contours of an emergent community policing model that borrowed heavily from the Broken Windows theory laid out by Kelling and Wilson. Focusing on “new approaches to crime, disorder, drugs, and fear,” the session was sponsored by the National Institute of Justice and held at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. The sessions were funded by the National Institute of Justice as well as private sources including the Charles Stewart Mott and Guggenheim Foundations. The product of this Executive Session was a series of seventeen papers titled Perspectives on Policing, to be widely distributed across the country and to become a foundation for police training nationally.
Information Systems and the Development of Policing by Malcolm K. Sparrow, a veteran of the British Police Service and a faculty in the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, represents the sixteenth of these seventeen papers. Sparrow focuses on the compatible concepts of “community policing,” describing the development of meaningful relationships between police departments and the communities they service, and “problem-solving policing.” Sparrow’s “problem-solving policing” describes a strategy to address the underlying problems plaguing police as opposed to treating each incident involving the police in isolation. Explicit in Sparrow’s strategy is that officers work creatively and imaginatively to analyze and identify underlying problems, allocate power and resources according to a subjective hierarchy of perceived need, and transform data into useful information. This creative police officer imagined by Sparrow is contrasted against the imagined police officer of the past, who acted under constant centralized direction and who could not be trusted to make their own judgements for fear of corruption or operational error. The realization of this police officer would necessitate a decentralized police organization that vested increased responsibility in officers and featured reduced regulations over police action.