We have all seen the latest and greatest programs come and go in law enforcement. Community Policing (CP), Problem Oriented Policing (POP), and CompStat have all etched their legacies in the industry. Along with these programs come flocks of new gadgets, the latest technology, and of course money. There is a simple method however, that does not rely solely on gadgets nor does it require a lot of money; Intelligence Led Policing (ILP).
The national intelligence community is shrouded in secrecy and for good reason. There are however some publicly known intelligence processes that are directly applicable to law enforcement. The first is the intelligence cycle. The CIA perfected this cycle and its use has been seen in most state level fusion centers across the United States. It would take several pages to do justice to the intelligence cycle so for the sake of brevity we will just list the steps. They are planning, collection, processing, analysis, and dissemination. The cycle is named such because after dissemination analysts collect information on the results and start the cycle again. The intelligence process is at the core of intelligence led policing.
In law enforcement the intelligence cycle manifests itself as follows; an analyst notices an uptick in burglaries in a specific neighborhood. She feels the uptick might be indicative of an organized crew. She creates a collection plan with the sole purpose of answering the question; who are the suspects? She then requests all information related to the crimes. Patrol officers and detectives begin sending all they know about the burglaries to the analyst. She sorts the information into categories and begins to analyze it all for clues. Once analyzed, she produces a document with refined, actionable information (also called intelligence) including suspect information, vehicles, and a basic temporal analysis indicating the most probable time of day for the crimes. Patrol squads take the information and modify their patrol tactics to concentrate on the area most at risk for the burglaries. Specialty units employ covert assets and surveillance on investigative leads. As each unit finishes a task, they report their findings to the analyst who continues through the cycle exploring new leads and eliminating dead-ends. Finally, a coordinated effort leads to the arrest of the burglary crew.
ILP is not simply the reactive process as described above. A true ILP strategy confronts all three law enforcement needs; prevention, detection, and prosecution. It can be said that once a strong ILP strategy takes hold in an agency, they begin to steps in front of crime. This specific process will be explained in a follow-up entry. A strong ILP strategy is also scalable to fit every problem encountered in modern policing. The template can expand or contract based on the criminal trends. For example a series of shoplifts may only require one cycle to identify the suspects and end the criminal threat. Other crime series may require an ILP strategy that deploys to meet all three needs at once. A narcotics ring or stolen merchandise crew are examples. What is paramount in any series is a willingness by all personnel to let the cycle run its course and not try short cuts or combine old strategies simply because “they worked years ago.”
ILP strategies are also scalable to the technological capabilities of each agency. A true intelligence led process does not rely on high priced technologies to function, although a robust data extraction program is helpful. While many software programs are “a good fit”, basic data extraction and management can be accomplished through the creation of workflows deployed by human analysts. Of course, the larger the data set, the bigger the technological need, but the base level ILP templates can run without expensive software. History has shown that an overreliance on technology dulls certain law enforcement skills therefore all ILP strategies must have a healthy mixture of technology and human influence.
There will always be roadblocks to implementing ILP templates in an agency. Chief among them will be the stigma associated with allowing “intelligence” to lead investigations. Due to a cultural misunderstanding of what criminal intelligence is, many agencies will balk at accepting ILP or will adopt a light ILP strategy only to fill it with their own contradicting best practices. The key to ILP is to show officers and detectives a direct benefit to them. Patrol officers want to detect and prosecute crime, but general patrol is the least successful means of accomplishing this. Directed patrol however, meaning patrol led by intelligence, not only suppresses crime, it allows the officers to “hunt bad guys” in an efficient manner. Other roadblocks will arise, but they can all be overcome. Like industry, law enforcement must evolve. Officers can either be perpetually reactive or they can leap forward and proactively combat the criminal threat. Intelligence led policing is the spring board for this leap.