Full copy of Issue 14.1

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Reflecting Upon the Seminal Public Administration Article, “The Science of Muddling Through” and How It Relates to Criminal Justice Policy and Practice

In the spring of 1959, Charles E. Lindblom, published an 11-page academic article in Public Administration Review. The article was entitled, “The Science of Muddling Through.” This article contained few words but had enormous insight on how public policy evolves and develops. Fifty-five years later, its message is still relevant. As time passes, we assume that lessons learned from the past become irrelevant—not true in this case. Lindblom’s article is as relevant today as it was in 1959.


*Opinions or points of view expressed in this document are a consensus of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the FBI, the U.S. Department of Justice, or the U.S. Government.

The post-9/11 environment and global war on terror have provided a fresh focus for foreign policy as well as a justification for considerable expansion of intelligence programs. Intelligence-led policing (ILP) represents one recent outgrowth of traditional military and national security intelligence efforts. By relying on traditional communications intelligence (COMINT) and human intelligence (HUMINT) methodologies, law enforcement intelligence (LEI) enables police agencies to gather and analyze information from multiple jurisdictions and levels of government and then transform it into actionable research that targets specific crime problems or key criminals (McGarrell, Freilich, & Chermak, 2007; Peterson, 2005; Ratcliffe, 2007).

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Introduction and Background

Over the past 100 years, policing has undergone significant changes, both in the way services are delivered and in the role of the police. The genesis for many of the police reform efforts over the past several decades has been a challenge to the legitimacy of the police to perform their function as a result of allegations of corruption, mismanagement, or some other performance-related issue. Legitimacy is defined as “a property of an authority or institution that leads people to feel that the authority or institution should be deferred to or obeyed” (Sunshine & Tyler, 2003a, p. 514), and it is a fundamental element of democratic governance. If the public view the police as legitimate, they are more likely to provide the level of support and cooperation required for the police to effectively control crime and disorder (Sampson, Raudenbush, & Earls, 1997). Conversely, if the public no longer views the police as legitimate, they are unlikely to assist the police with crime prevention or to voluntarily comply with the law.

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*The statements, opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints expressed herein are solely those of the authors and not in any official capacity as officers. Furthermore, such statements, opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints are based solely on the limited research stated herein and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoints or official policies of the Houston Police Department.

The Houston Police Department’s (HPD) real-time crime analysis entails the use of local, state, and federal databases combined with open Web source data to conduct rapid criminal investigations that provide an assessment of emerging crime patterns and potential suspects. To integrate these databases, various agencies rely on a dashboard software system, namely WebFOCUS, that is typically tasked to a police division such as New York City’s and Houston’s Real-Time Crime Centers or Chicago’s Crime Prevention Information Center.

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