Maguire, E.R. (2004). Police Departments as Learning Laboratories.  Ideas in American Policing. Washington, DC: Police Foundation.


Like all organizations, police agencies collect, store, process, analyze, interpret, and react to information. But they often fail to collect or assemble information useful for assessing their performance. Even when such information is available, they rarely analyze it in meaningful ways, learn from it, and implement changes based on what they have learned. In the absence of systematic information sources about their performance, police agencies, like many other public agencies, are often unable to state with any degree of precision how their performance has changed over time or how it compares with that of their peer agencies, particularly those situated in similar community contexts. Lacking both the right kinds of information and the skills necessary to transform that information into meaningful and usable measures, police agencies have difficulty with systematic organizational learning. This essay discusses some of the ways that police agencies can become learning laboratories, capable of continuous reflection, adaptation, and renewal.