Communication Modernization and Paper Reduction Assessment

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Philadelphia Police Department





Organization Overview:

The Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) is the nation's fourth-largest police department, with over 6300 sworn members and 800 civilian personnel. The PPD is the primary law enforcement agency responsible for serving Philadelphia County, extending over 140 square miles in which approximately 1.5 million reside. Our mission is to be the model of excellence in policing by working in partnership with the community and stakeholders to fight crime and the fear of crime, including  terrorism, enforcing laws while safeguarding the constitutional rights of all people, providing quality service to all of our residents and visitors, and creating a work environment in which we recruit, train, and develop an exceptional team of employees. All members of the Philadelphia Police Department must dedicate themselves to accomplishing this mission. Whether sworn or civilian, patrol, specialized units, or administrative offices, every unit is essential in making the Philadelphia Police Department a model of excellence in policing.

Project Name:

Communication Modernization and Paper Reduction Assessment
Project Type: 
Program Evaluation; Strategic Plan; Performance Management

Project Overview:

 In light of COVID 19, law enforcement agencies across the U.S. are experiencing the effects of the state and local budgets prompted by significant declines in revenue from the pandemic. Many police departments are now considering how to address the hiring of new officers as budgets are shrinking, coupled with the national conversation focused on defunding the police. Commissioner Outlaw has challenged the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) to be a learning organization. As we move to operate as a culture focused on performance excellence, there is no better time to partner with the Fels Lab. In the spirit of supporting capstone projects and building capacity for students, we welcome the opportunity to host this project to develop best practices for the field through a critical examination of policy research, creative thinking, and data analysis.

As the city prepared for budget planning and the 2021 Budget hearings, the Philadelphia Police Department was facing major budget cuts due to COVID-19 and the large-scale civil unrest resulting from the murder of George Floyd.  Fortunately, with the advent of federal stimulus funds provided by the Biden Administration, PPD did not face major cuts or forced layoffs of personnel, but no new funds were added to support police operations. As a result, PPD leadership has been working tirelessly to identify additional efficiencies within police operations.

The Philadelphia Police Department benefited greatly from its engagement with the Fels Lab through the Optimization of Staffing Allocation & Use of Civilians engagement, a 2020-2021 school year project. The Fels Lab team provided insight into staffing strategies as well as identified options to reduce redundancies and streamline police operations. The project also produced recommendations on future potential roles for professional staff. Finally, the Fels Lab discovered and highlighted the inefficiencies in police communication and the large reliance on printed communications. 

The Research and Analysis Unit is doing early work, where the PPD is looking at staffing allocations and time on task analysis, relative to recording data electronically in selected units, with the goal of using electronic applications to create reporting efficiencies and notifications.  This work is in its infancy department-wide, but the PPD Office of Forensic Science, through enhancements to its Laboratory Information Management System and Quality Assurance Data System is moving towards an efficient paperless system that will reduce waste, increase productivity and enable faster dissemination of leads and reports. PPD executives are now interested in focusing on maximizing staff time by changing written and printed internal communications. Although this may seem like a small project, the PPD is heavily reliant on printed materials.  Examples of this include policy reviews, updates, and final distribution of formal police communications (recording of concurrence and approval is done manually), as well as notifying personnel using paper orders and training materials.  These procedures could easily become paperless, using electronic documents requiring e-signature or other electronic acknowledgments.  Reducing the reliance on paper was also was an action item identified in the 2020 Action Plan for Crime and Violence Reduction.     Modernizing internal communications and reducing paper use provides another chance to retool workflows within the PPD for efficiency and effectiveness going forward, as our police budgets will most likely not expand and even be reduced at level funding in years to come. Eliminating or reducing the use of paper and manual administrative processes could allow for significant cost savings and staff time at the Philadelphia Police Department.

We think the Fels Lab Capstone project would be a perfect match for a graduate student focused on administrative workflows, public policy, and public administration, especially at this critical time in policing. Commissioner Outlaw released the Action Plan for Crime and Violence, and one of her action plan items under Organizational Excellence is to reduce the reliance on paper, modernizing internal communications.  This study would serve as a precursor to a paper reduction campaign with the goal of developing a process map of the current system, identifying inefficiencies, defects, and other no-value steps.   We imagine this project focusing on the current communication workflows, staffing implications of these workflows, review of technology in use for modernization purposes, and budget implications for reducing the reliance on paper.

PPD has a small project focused on the modernization of internal communications and time on task.   We envision this work complimenting the larger project request for conducting an assessment to reduce the alliance on paper usage at the PPD.  The proposed Capstone project ‘Communication Modernization and Paper Reduction Assessment for the Philadelphia Police Department’ would result in the MPA student conducting the reduction of paperwork business analysis, delivering a final report, along with a PPT (in person or virtually, dependent on COVID-19 restrictions) to Commissioner Outlaw and the Executive Team at the Philadelphia Police Department. Beginning with Police Operations (Patrol and Detective Bureau), this report should include a high-level inventory of the most time-consuming paper processes, which may be modernized through technology, with estimates of employee hours spent per year. It is not anticipated that the capstone fully researches the technology solutions to replace these processes, instead serving as a starting point for more in-depth analysis and requirements building internally by the Police Department and the Office of Innovation and Technology.

 Project Timeline: The PPD envisions that this project will start in January 2022 and be completed on or before August 2022. The PPD is committed to providing full support to this Capstone Project, by providing the necessary access to staff, data, and other resources identified through the Capstone process.

Fels Institute of Government

The Fels Institute of Government
3814 Walnut St. 
Philadelphia, PA 19104

(215) 898-7326