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The RF Factor!

“In the street, follow-up is tracking the last lead down the last dark alley until the last crook is locked away. From an upper floor at headquarters, the idea of follow-up only begins with the obligation to ensure that the field commanders are making the cops track the last lead down the last dark alley until the last crook is locked away.” – Jack Maple[1]

My friend Pete and I are often asked why we are so fixated on the concept of the RF Factor. Here it is in a nutshell. It was partly born from honoring the legacy and genius of Jack Maple, considered one of the foremost leaders in crime-control strategies. It is also grounded in our own compelling interest to better understand what makes some public safety initiatives succeed while others stagnate or fail. We have both been involved in numerous projects and initiatives throughout our own careers some were successes and others seemed to be doomed for failure shortly after they were launched even though “mission accomplished” was announced. With that said, from our collective vantage point, it is the RF Factor, or “relentless follow up”, that seems to be the lynch pin for the successful programs that we have observed both in our former law enforcement careers as well as our current consulting experiences. When initiatives have change agents constantly looking in their rear-view mirrors to assess what is working and what is not, and if those projects are doing what they said they set out to do, those initiatives seem to succeed.

Deputy Commissioner Jack Maple of the NYPD, under Commissioner Bill Bratton, was credited for designing the city’s anti-crime strategy that to this day remains historic in nature. He was a steadfast believer in relentless follow-up and assessment, and as such saw it as a critical element of the CompStat model. He believed that that even the most effective systems will eventually fail if they’re not relentlessly assessed and corrected to prevent the inevitable human slippage. It wasn’t that long ago that I was in a command room at the NYPD named after Maple. Commissioner Bill Bratton rededicated the CompStat meeting room in honor of Maple, the man who invented statistic-based crime-fighting assessment tools that underscored the massive crime drops in the city in the 1990’s. For the NYSP, it was the CompStat meeting room that was the place where relentless follow-up was formally conducted.

While I never met Jack, I have been inspired by his work ever since reading ,Crime Fighter. Pete, on the other hand, was introduced to him, in a “restaurant” on West 57th, in the late 90’s. They commiserated over their shared views on developing effective and sustainable law enforcement initiatives, while “tipping a few.” Interestingly enough, they never did order dinner. Wow, what a great guest he we would have been on our podcast, particularly now as we seem to be struggling as a nation with violent crime control strategies.

We have seen the “RF Factor” comes in different shape and sizes. It may not be a formalized meeting where commanders are seated around the table to assess current crime control strategies. Instead, it may be more like a morning call, a daily huddle, or “leadership by walking around” and talking to your project team. Understanding the RF Factor seeks to help us all better understand how effective programs are accomplished and most importantly sustained. By conducting postmortem assessments of programs, initiatives, and innovations to better learn about the good, the bad and the ugly – we can better understand why some great programs seem to endure and yet others with similar great potential seem to fade away into the sunset. So next time you are looking at a successful project, or for that matter, an unsuccessful one, focus on the people, places, and technology involved against the backdrop of the RF Factor.

[1] Maple, Jack; Mitchell, Chris. The Crime Fighter: Putting the Bad Guys Out of Business . Crown/Archetype

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