Becoming an intelligence-led police (ILP) organization is a complicated and arduous task. Still, many police executives believe that simply building a fusion center—a real or virtual multi-agency informational clearinghouse—makes them “intelligence-led,” when, in fact, much more is required. To become an ILP your organization must change from top to bottom. A combination of threat assessment, information collection and analysis, consistently applied to command level decision-making, is the true formula for success.
The ILP concept was first developed in the United Kingdom and then flourished in Australia, where it has been responsible for solving significant criminal problems. Temple University’s Prof. Jerry Radcliffe, a former UK police officer, is largely responsible for bringing the concept to the United States.
ILP specifies that all police agencies have a centralized location where information about criminal elements in their particular jurisdictions and the problems facing citizens is collected and organized. This information must be analyzed, and police must identify their biggest threats.
Based on the analysis and threat assessment, commanding officers devise a strategy to combat these problems. Leveraging the analytical work is paramount, because the decision-making that takes place is backed up by actionable data, instead of being based on incidental hearsay or news headlines.
ILP also insists that the intelligence unit remain separate from other police units. Since 9/11, many police departments have dedicated a substantial amount of their resources to counterterrorism initiatives. Unfortunately, this sizable investment comes at the expense of other specializations. Today, I find a shocking number of police departments not analyzing collected data. And among those agencies that do conduct analysis, too few develop strategic plans.
Part of the challenge in U.S. law enforcement is the decentralized nature of our police infrastructure. In New Jersey alone, there are roughly 650 police departments. That means there are 650 chiefs, 650 strategies and 650 command decisions being made. And of those 650 agencies, I would be shocked to learn if there are more than a dozen with formal intelligence units.
Further, from my experience, lawenforcement agencies are, by nature, reactive. I’ve noticed that even those agencies that have traditionally conducted proactive intelligence collection and investigation have become more reactive since 9/11.
ILP is proactive. It’s about identifying and understanding the threat, developing the necessary investigative units and strategies, and positioning resources to eradicate the threats before crime materializes.
Police departments must reestablish traditional, classic intelligence operations, in which intelligence officers collect intelligence and feed that data to analysts. These intelligence operations can’t be buried in fusion centers or in counterterrorism initiatives, as important as those institutions are. Law enforcement organizations need to hire properly trained analysts and permit them to conduct premonitory and threat assessments. Their analyses should be based on surveys, investigations, informants and any other pertinent information gathered from the criminal environments.
Command staff should make decisions based on analysis and assessment, not news media reports and political stump speeches.
Technology is critical. Agencies require tools, software and connectivity to execute these recommendations. Because of our multi-jurisdictional landscape, technology can help unify disparate intelligence into one information system, accessible by all police agencies.
For most law enforcement agencies, just starting with the creation of a centralized intelligence repository will be a step in the right direction toward overcoming traditional barriers faced in our multi-level law enforcement environment. It’s a significant step that law enforcement agencies can employ today to begin embracing the concepts, and reaping the benefits, of the ILP approach.