May I recommend Jerry Ratcliffe’s (draft) article “Intelligence‐led policing: Anticipating risk and influencing action” for your perusal. Jerry has been advocating for Intelligence Led Policing (ILP) for years here in the states which is an exciting idea. The concept has seen more success in Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand but it continues to struggle for acceptance and implementation here.
He defines ILP as:
Intelligence‐led policing is a business model and managerial philosophy where data analysis and crime intelligence are pivotal to an objective, decision‐making framework that facilitates crime and problem reduction, disruption and prevention through both strategic management and effective enforcement strategies that target prolific and
Ok, I’m not a huge fan of that definition. I get it and he explains it well but it whiffs a bit too much of management speak for me and I get concerned when this sort of language gets abused by people who don’t understand it. I prefer a more accessible definition which, while perhaps not as precise, is also from Ratcliffe and captures the main idea. ILP therefore is made up of:
a dual role of anticipating future risks to public safety, and influencing decision‐makers so that crime prevention action can be initiated.
Whereas in a traditional law enforcement model, the system waits for a crime to happen and then works to solve it, in ILP the goal is to prevent crime. This is because the underlying theory of ILP is that once a crime has been committed, damage has already been done, regardless of if justice is eventually served. Hey, it may be great that they caught the guy to killed your kid doing a drive by but your kid is still dead. How about if we work to alter conditions so the drive by doesn’t happen in the first place? Now, this won’t work with all crime. The postal worker who snaps is still going to do damage. They deranged psychotic is still living in crazy town and writing his manifesto with feces while making bombs in his cellar. Individual crime won’t be predicted but rather, patterns of criminal activity can be identified, prioritized and mitigated or prevented.
Once crime problems emerge, they linger until resolved; when organized crime groups identify a weakness they can exploit, they continue until some sort of disturbing influence is introduced; once offenders learn how to steal a particular model of vehicle, a redesign of the vehicle is often necessary; and once burglars identify a way to circumvent a security feature, they will continue to steal until new prevention mechanisms are implemented.
In addition, Jerry makes explicit an important aspect of ‘intelligence work’ in much of the U.S. law enforcement community:
All intelligence analysis, even descriptive work of past criminal activity, makes an implicit projection of a possible future criminal environment. For this statement to be true, we have to sometimes exclude one area of activity
often mislabeled as intelligence analysis; that of investigative support… irrespective of any job descriptions and titles of the individuals involved (Ratcliffe 2008a; Sheptycki 2004)…many analysts are happy to report existing crime patterns and criminal activity and make no statement of the future; however, a prediction of the future is often what decision‐makers crave in their role as risk managers with responsibility to manage resource allocation.
There is no standardization within the community (and even the word ‘community’ implies much more structure and cohesion than really exists) even regarding a shared vocabulary when it comes to intelligence and so what passes for intelligence work varies tremendously. I would argue with his last statement that managers crave prediction of the future. That is not my understanding after talking to analysts in various agencies.
But, he totally hits the nail on the head next:
intelligence that does not influence the thinking of a decision maker is not intelligence
Too often, intelligence is confused with information sharing. Way too often. In a desire to demonstrate how productive intelligence units/offices are, there’s a rush to generate ‘products’ which frequently amount to little more than cutting and pasting open source articles or plagiarizing the work of other agencies with little to no added content. The only significant difference is the attachment of a new agency logo at the top of the product and it being redistributed. Very little effort is spent on identifying the purpose of the product or what action it is hoped to motivate.
Most importantly, ILP is about looking beyond the metrics of arrest and seizures as the only way to measure success. After all, if your goal is to prevent crime than arrests are really a measure of success because in most cases that means a crime has already been committed.
Getting to ILP from where we are is very difficult however. Our multitude of agencies, all fiefdoms of their own, defending their turf and hording information simply do not play together well, even when they have their own internal act together.
A central issue for the adoption and success of intelligence‐led policing is the level of sophistication and maturity of the decision making environment. In reality, the problems are often quite profound. I’ve often been bemused by the lack of clarity regarding the decision making process in many police departments. Mayors, police chiefs, mid‐level commanders, and individual officers often appear to have free rein to make significant decisions regarding crime policy without recourse to objective analysis of the issue, or even a partial understanding or knowledge of the problem.
The problem is those decision makers, all up and down the chain, usually think they have a good understanding of the problem and so see no reason to move to another system. One which might threaten their position, future prospects, and institutional interests.
Forgive me for drinking the COINdinista cool-aid but here I can’t help thinking that ILP and COIN doctrine have a great deal in common. I would argue that COIN is essentially a militarized version of ILP (I might need to develop this a bit further in another post). Our problem is that in the military a commander can order the implementation of a doctrine throughout the force and hold his/her subordinates accountable for implementing it. The thousands (almost 500 in a tiny state like New Jersey alone!) of police departments across the nation are not answerable to anyone in the same way. That means widespread implementation will be a huge uphill climb and I suspect no one wants to be the first one in the pool.