Today’s Daily Critical Issues report summarizes PERF’s activities in 2020, and our plans for 2021.

In many ways, 2020 was a year that no one will ever forget.  In February, COVID-19 began to change the very fundamentals of how police agencies operate. And in May, the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis triggered a national upheaval and calls for police reform that have continued to this day.

Because of COVID, police agencies across the country changed overnight in many ways.  PERF tried to do the same, with major changes in how PERF does its business. Following are brief summaries of some of PERF’s activities in 2020:

Daily Reports:  As COVID-19 began hammering American cities and police departments in March 2020, PERF realized that we needed a new way to gather information and share it immediately with PERF members. So we started the Daily COVID-19 Reports.

For each of these reports, PERF interviews several police chiefs, sheriffs, or other experts about some specific aspect of the COVID story. In other cases, the Daily Reports are based on surveys that PERF members respond to. We write up what you tell us, and email a Daily Report with our findings to all PERF members the next day at 7 a.m.

Later, when American cities began erupting in May with George Floyd demonstrations, protests, calls for police reform, and in some cases riots, we created a new category of these daily reports, called Daily Critical Issues Reports, to address a range of other issues. Many of our Daily Reports broke new ground on issues such as violent crime trends, budget impacts of COVID-19, hiring challenges, and members’ priorities for the incoming Biden Administration.

With generous support from the Motorola Solutions Foundation and the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, we’ve issued about 200 of these reports so far, and plan to continue these daily reports for as long as they are relevant to our members. Back issues of all COVID Reports and Critical Issues Reports are available on PERF’s website.

PERF Trending:  In February we launched “PERF Trending,” a Saturday morning column in which Executive Director Chuck Wexler discusses things that are happening at PERF, or perspectives we have heard from PERF members. Back issues of Trending are on PERF’s website here.  Here are a few that generated a strong response:

  • December 26th: Online Meetings: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly 
  • November 28: Police Reform and Good Police Work Cannot Be Mutually Exclusive 
  • October 17: Let’s Talk About the Costs of Not Fighting Crime
  • September 26: Who Wants to Apply for a Chief’s Job When Some Chiefs Are Treated So Badly?
  • September 19: Police Executives Need to Monday-Morning Quarterback Themselves Too
  • August 1: COVID Has Demonstrated that Police Are Problem-Solvers
  • July 11: The Good Cop
  • June 13: How Do We Respond to “Defund the Police”?
  • May 30: The Death of George Floyd, and Its Searing Effect on Policing


SMIP:  Because of COVID, PERF had to cancel the 2020 sessions of the Senior Management Institute for Police (SMIP).  We considered creating an online version of SMIP, but it would have been an imperfect solution, because much of the value of SMIP is the in-person classroom exchanges, and the friendships that are made by participants from across the country.  We conducted a survey of those who had registered for SMIP 2020, and the registrants overwhelmingly told us they would prefer to wait until 2021, rather than attend a virtual SMIP.

PERF is looking forward to holding SMIP 2021 in Boston next summer.  The availability of COVID vaccines makes our return to Boston look very good, and we will do all we can to make this happen.

PERF’s longtime SMIP coordinator Tony Narr retired in 2020, and is enjoying his well-deserved “Chapter 2.”  PERF Senior Research Associate Matt Harman took the reins from Tony and is managing the planning for SMIP 2021. Matt will be assisted by Senior Principal Dan Alioto.

PERF’s Annual Events:   Because of the health risks of holding meetings during the pandemic, PERF had no choice but to cancel our 2020 Annual Meeting.  However, we held two virtual Town Hall Meetings, each 2 hours long, on June 18 and June 30.   And our fall Town Hall Meeting was held online on October 20. While nothing can replace the energy and spontaneity of in-person meetings, these virtual events allowed us to explore a range of timely issues from the perspectives of many PERF members.

PERF hopes to be able to hold our 2021 Annual Meeting in person, in conjunction with the Major Cities Chiefs Association.  Plans are begin made to meet at the Westin St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco on June 1-4, 2021. 

Other PERF Research ReportsIn addition to our Daily Reports, PERF has kept pace with regular reports on key issues in policing, including the following. Click on each title to see the full report:


Current Projects:  PERF continued to work on projects involving the following topics in 2020. We plan to release the results of this work in 2021:

  • Police use of facial recognition technology;
  • Strategies for strengthening police departments’ officer wellness programs;
  • Reimagining police academy training;
  • Vehicular pursuits;
  • Implementing effective, legal Unmanned Aircraft System (drone) programs;
  • Collaborations between campus police departments and municipal police agencies;
  • Resources for first-line supervisors to use in managing critical incidents;
  • Implementation of FirstNet broadband services in police and sheriffs’ departments;
  • Innovative uses of data dashboards to support police decision-making;
  • Improving the response to missing and murdered American Indians and Alaska natives.

ICAT Training:  PERF was able to conduct a number of ICAT training sessions across the country before COVID put in-person trainings on hold.  Watch for a major announcement about a national expansion of ICAT training opportunities in 2021.

Sheriffs Outreach: PERF continued to examine the challenges facing sheriffs’ offices in both their enforcement and correctional roles, with a special focus on their response to COVID-19. PERF also published a report documenting best practices in pretrial release and community-based supervision.

Management Services:  PERF conducted many reviews of individual law enforcement agencies in 2020, on issues such as pursuit policies, performance of sex crimes units, advancing diversity in recruiting and hiring, use-of-force policies and practices, and comprehensive organizational reviews.

Membership:  The pandemic has not slowed down PERF’s membership. Over the past decade, PERF membership has climbed every year, without exception.

Executive Search: In 2020, PERF’s Executive Search team helped the City of Philadelphia to identify a new police commissioner with the hiring of Danielle Outlaw, and the City of Madison, WI to identify a new police chief with the hiring of Shon Barnes. PERF has also been assisting Louisville, KY in their search for a new chief of police.

Everything PERF does is based on the active involvement of PERF members.

We are grateful for all of the assistance you provide, and wish you a safe and productive new year.


The PERF Critical Issues Report is part of the Critical Issues in Policing project, supported by the Motorola Solutions Foundation.


PERF also is grateful to the Howard G. Buffett Foundation for supporting this work.