The National Criminal Intelligence Sharing Plan
Photo Dale Stockton
FEATURED IN TECHNOLOGY AND COMMUNICATIONS
Show me an officer making many good, prosecutable cases on a routine basis, and I will show you an officer utilizing criminal intelligence and information. Show me an officer networking with other officers, and I will show you an officer maximizing their effectiveness.
Many of the objectives of the criminal justice community will be satisfied by the officer in the first category, and in many instances, that officer will be rewarded with commendations, promotions, prestigious assignments, etc. However, in the post Sept. 11 world, the latter officer is the one we need in the field. Let me explain why.
Our world is getting smaller and smaller with the information available to all of us. We can perform a basic Internet search on just about anyone or anything these days and come up with information we would have had to travel hundreds or even thousands of miles to obtain just 20 years ago. Unfortunately, this has also allowed our criminals to step up their game and use this technology to perpetrate crime and avoid detection. Almost half of the respondents to the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C) 2005 Household Public Survey on White Collar Crime reported they or someone within their immediate family had been victimized within the preceding 12 months. Fraud, theft and identity theft are the most common crimes, but we also know terrorists and criminals are using the Internet and computers for communication, propaganda, fundraising and counter-intelligence.
At the same time, police departments across the country continually face budget deficits, manpower shortages and sometimes apathetic (or hostile) communities. For the vast majority of officers, multiple assignments are the norm the patrol officer frequently also serves as the detective, the case manager and the evidence technician.
I think we can safely say America s officers are already pretty effective. Now let s maximize that effectiveness with information sharing.
The National Criminal Intelligence Sharing Plan
Many of you are already using information sharing and intelligence-gathering techniques as part of your agency s contribution to the National Criminal Intelligence Sharing Plan. The International Association of the Chiefs of Police (IACP) and the U.S. Department of Justice came up with this plan after Sept. 11 in an effort to strengthen our national criminal-intelligence capabilities. In short, the plan recognizes the need to share all criminal intelligence information, not just information obviously related to terrorism. Smaller departments as well as larger departments should become actively involved in the routine participation of intelligence collection and sharing, and practice intelligence-led policing. We in law enforcement should remove common barriers to criminal intelligence sharing.
If you do not have a criminal intelligence unit or a designated local intelligence officer, you can get all the necessary information you need to start one through the IACP at www.theiacp.org/documents/pdfs/Publications/intelsharingreport.pdf . It s a good formula to follow, and it may keep you out of trouble with the ACLU and Freedom of Information requests when you collect and share criminal intelligence information on organizations and individuals.
But let s just keep this as simple as possible. For those of you who share criminals with neighboring jurisdictions c mon, most of you do, you just don t like to admit it how many of you have regular briefings with your neighbors about your local crime picture? Here are some suggestions to help you start that process if you are not already doing so:
1. Let your boss know you think it might be beneficial for you to share some of your unsolved crime information with officers from the adjoining department. Don t skip this step because it s bad form to surprise your boss with effectiveness. Help them to see it was really their idea in the first place, if necessary.
2. Find an officer in the adjoining department who also wishes to maximize their effectiveness. Then advise them to similarly inform their supervisor of your crime-solving conspiracy plans.
3. Agree on a meeting place and time. I ve found an offer of free breakfast will usually entice the most pessimistic officer to attend one of these meetings. (Besides, breakfast is usually the least expensive meal of the day.) Expect skepticism. It s only through mutual trust that the free exchange of information will flow, and trust is built over time.
4. Set some ground rules up front. Decide in the beginning what type of information exchange each of you expect. Agree to mutually acceptable terms, and then honor those terms. You can later modify the terms if the other officer agrees.
5. Eventually you may be able to actually solve a crime by linking information from each other s criminal activity and identifying a single suspect or group of suspects. Take your mini-task force and go get em. Once you solve one crime together, it s just like finding your first stolen car you will both want to do more. The next thing you know, you will have maximized your effectiveness to such a point that other officers in both jurisdictions will want to copy your success.
6. Don t be greedy. Share info with any officer who demonstrates a desire to catch bad guys. Be liberal with credit for joint investigations. If another agency helped with providing info, share that fact in any press releases. (Of course, if the other agency would rather remain in the background, respect that request.)
7. Formalize the process. Schedule regular meeting times and locations, and invite other officers and/or agencies to the process. If you have someone in your agency that holds the responsibility for maintaining criminal intelligence files, include them in scheduled meetings and give them information that should be added to those files.
8. Maintain operational security. Information identified as Sensitive, Restricted or Confidential should only go to those individuals who possess both the need-to-know and the right-to-know. Just having the right-to-know with out the need-to-know isn t good enough. Nothing will derail the information-sharing train faster than an inappropriate leak of information, and the trust you ve established could be destroyed forever.
9. Keep your supervisor(s) informed of the progress of these meetings. Invite them to the meetings and accept constructive criticism.
As the supervisor of a newly formed narcotics and criminal intelligence unit, I had the responsibility of developing my department s intelligence-sharing policy. Because I knew the drug dealers in my jurisdiction were also dealing drugs and committing other crimes in neighboring communities, one of the first things I did was establish contact with my counterparts in the surrounding area and start these informal information exchanges. I encouraged my officers to do the same. We started sharing basic information at first, and then developed more and more trust. Then we made the meetings more formalized. Within a very short time frame, we were conducting mutual investigations that were resulting in the identification and subsequent arrests of high-level traffickers, and a much clearer picture of our overall crime rate emerged.
We pushed this forward and included our federal partners in the Drug Enforcement Administration. It was not long before we were working several Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force cases in addition to our routine cases. These major cases were responsible for the seizure of millions of dollars of cash and property that were subsequently shared with my department and resulted in the purchase of some equipment we would not have had otherwise.
The Criminal-Intelligence Analyst
If your department has an intelligence-sharing protocol, use it. Get to know the intelligence officer, and if you have one, your criminal-intelligence analyst. Ask questions about what types of information they need and how you can help get it for them.
Implied in your offer of assistance will be the request for information that you can use to become more highly effective on the street. Many criminal-intelligence analysts/officers welcome the chance to do what they were trained for (i.e., make you more effective). And, they realize the intelligence product is only as good as the information they put into it, so they want good, timely, pertinent information so that they look good, too.
If you don t have a criminal-intelligence analyst, you may want to explore the possibility of developing those skills yourself. It may require additional education and training, but the payoff may prove significant in both career enhancement and department capabilities. More and more of these programs are becoming available at universities and colleges throughout the country. Search online for leads on specialized education and training in your area.
With the current addition of our State and Regional Fusion Centers, local law enforcement has the ability to become very effective. These centers incorporate a one-stop-shop philosophy with criminal intelligence information. They are frequently made up of local-, state- and federal-agency personnel who have the mission of supplying timely and useful information to the front-line officer. If you stop someone you think may be involved in some type of larger criminal activity, you can give this information to one of the fusion centers and get back useful information very quickly.
Let s say you come across someone you believe is involved in some type of large-scale fraud scheme, and there is a possibility of international concern. You can give whatever information you have to agents within one of these fusion centers, and it may turn out you have stumbled onto a piece of a planned terrorist attack. Someone may have been waiting for your piece of information to put the much larger picture together. Don t be surprised when your phone starts ringing.
With continued vigilance we can continue to prevent threats to our national security while making our local communities safer and better places to live.
Matthew Matney is an assistant training director for a State Office of Homeland Security Training & Exercise Unit in the Northeast. He has developed criminal-intelligence units and supervised and participated in the training of intelligence officers both in California and New York during his 30-plus years of experience as a police officer, supervisor, investigator and police trainer.