What is intelligence-led policing?
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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 serious offenders.
Source: Ratcliffe, JH (2008) 'Intelligence-Led Policing' (Willan Publishing: Cullompton, Devon).
I've recently finished writing a new book on intelligence-led policing (to be published in a few months) and - based on my research of the professional and academic literature for that book - have defined intelligence-led policing as above. You might also want to consider the following draft of an encyclopedia entry I recently put together. Furthermore I have recently (summer 2007) completed a book chapter outlining intelligence-led policing, and the pdf draft of that can be found here.
Intelligence-led policing was originally articulated as a law enforcement operational strategy that sought to reduce crime through the combined use of crime analysis and criminal intelligence in order to determine crime reduction tactics that concentrate on the enforcement and prevention of criminal offender activity, with a focus on active and recidivist offenders. This approach emphasises information gathering through the extensive use of confidential informants, offender interviews, analysis of recorded crime and calls for service, surveillance of suspects, and community sources of information. These sources are analysed so that law enforcement managers can determine objective policing tactics in regard to enforcement targets, prevention activities and further intelligence gathering operations. In the last few years, the interpretation of 'intelligence-led policing' appears to be broadening in scope. While still retaining the central notion that police should avoid getting bogged down in reactive, individual, case investigations, intelligence-led policing is evolving into a management philosophy that places greater emphasis on information-sharing and collaborative, strategic solutions to crime problems at the local and regional level.
Originating in the UK, the intelligence-led policing paradigm has its foundations in the recognition that police were spending too much time responding to crime and too little time targeting offenders. Reports by the Audit Commission in 1993 and Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary in 1997 advocated increased use of intelligence, surveillance and informants to target recidivist offenders so that police could be more effective in fighting crime, and the call was quickly taken up by some police forces, most noticeably Kent Constabulary. Since then, the use of the term has extended to many countries, including Australia, New Zealand, continental Europe, and since September 11th, 2001, it has become increasingly common in the United States of America.
Intelligence-led policing is philosophically closest to problem-oriented policing, and to a degree the accountability mechanism of CompStat, yet is distinct from both of these in different ways. Problem-oriented policing emphasises the tackling of underlying problems that cause crime, problems that are identified and deciphered through effective crime analysis. Intelligence-led policing similarly defines a strong role for analysis, establishing it as the basis for decision-making that follows. However, where problem-oriented policing is a bottom-up philosophy that places street-level police officers at the forefront of problem identification and resolution, existing implementations of intelligence-led policing are more hierarchical and emphasise the top-down, rank-oriented nature of law enforcement. Criminal intelligence flows up to decision-makers at the executive level, who set priorities for enforcement and prevention and pass these down to lower levels of the organization as operational taskings.
The hierarchical nature of the intelligence flow is, organizationally at least, similar to CompStat. CompStat also has a top-down operational structure, where senior managers hold lower ranks accountable for crime levels. Intelligence-led policing however has a more holistic view of the analysis of the criminal environment, in that it aims to include information from a wider and richer range of sources in order to better understand the context of the crime patterns often seen in CompStat meetings. Intelligence-led policing also attempts to seek longer-lasting solutions to complex local and organized crime problems, and to be future oriented and strategically focussed.
Intelligence-led policing also retains differences with community policing, and in its original formulation could be considered incompatible with the tenets of community policing's philosophy of community contact and empowerment. Where community policing emphasises policing to the needs and the desires of the local community, intelligence-led policing is a process whereby strategy and priorities are determined through a more objective analysis of the criminal environment. As such, it is possible that crime reduction priorities can differ from the needs of the community as perceived by local people. For example, local community groups may indicate to community officers that they are concerned about local youths hanging out on a street corner, but may be unaware that an organized crime gang operates in the same neighbourhood. Objective analysis of the criminal environment may suggest to police managers that the organized crime group is a more pressing priority. Community input, while often sought, is therefore not necessarily a dominant information source or policy determinant for intelligence-led policing.
It is too early to pass judgement on the crime reduction benefits of intelligence-led policing, as long-term studies of police forces that have fully implemented and adopted intelligence-led policing have yet to be conducted. In the UK, some recent studies have identified implementation problems associated with intelligence-led policing in police forces. These problems include technical, organizational and cultural factors that are inhibiting a rapid adoption of intelligence-led policing. For example, the strategy emphasises both horizontal and vertical information and intelligence sharing among police agencies so that executive decision-makers can establish objective crime reduction policies, but this approach is being implemented into a policing environment that has traditionally rewarded individual (not shared) knowledge of the criminal world, knowledge often used to effect arrests without thought to any longer-term crime reduction strategy. Furthermore, a clear definition of what would be evaluated appears elusive. In some parts of the world the interpretation of 'intelligence-led policing' appears to be relatively fluid as police departments experiment with different organizational philosophies, priorities and configurations, and as they attempt to integrate community-oriented concerns into the managerial decision-making of law enforcement.
There have also been concerns in regard to the adoption of a strategy that places greater emphasis on the use of confidential informants and surveillance. While policing has a long tradition of using informants, questions have been raised about their increased use both in terms of the financial benefits of using paid informants and in regard to the moral and legitimacy issues for police services. Increased use of surveillance, while not only potentially expensive, has also been questioned because some people view this as an intrusive and excessive tactic for the government to employ against (often minor) offenders. In both these cases it can be argued that these objections stem from a misunderstanding of the difference between the tactics used to gather information, and intelligence-led policing: a management strategy used to determine priorities and police activity.
In the US, debate continues about the use of the word 'intelligence' within the context of policing because of public concerns stemming from abuses of police intelligence activity investigating non-violent organizations in the US in the 1950s and 1960s. As a result, the term information-led policing is sometimes used. This term is however misleading. Information is simply raw data, while intelligence is analysed information that has been synthesised to create a more holistic view of the criminal environment. Further concerns that are commonly voiced in the US are that government legislation resulting from the abuses of the 1950s and 1960s limit the right of police departments to retain information in criminal intelligence files. This sometimes results in police departments being over-cautious in their interpretation of 28 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 23 and as a result over-cautious in their handling of potentially useful criminal intelligence.
In the UK, the concept of intelligence-led policing is intertwined with the National Intelligence Model. Contrary to some views, the National Intelligence Model is not synonymous with the notion of intelligence-led policing, however it does provide a business model that creates a framework on which intelligence-led policing can be conducted. Evaluations of the National Intelligence Model have, to now, focused on the effectiveness of the model to provide for effective information sharing and clear setting of priorities rather than its ability to deliver crime reduction. The National Intelligence Model is being refined in many parts of the UK in order to better incorporate aspects of community and reassurance policing. More recently, some UK police forces have tried to use the National Intelligence Model as a way to manage and integrate the intelligence-led policing paradigm of information evaluation and decision-making with the community policing philosophy of addressing community concerns. Although this could be argued as being different from the original conceptualization of intelligence-led policing, it is likely that, in the UK at least, the future success of intelligence-led policing will be judged alongside the success of the National Intelligence Model.
Cope, N. (2004). Intelligence led policing or policing led intelligence?: Integrating volume crime analysis into policing. British Journal of Criminology, 44(2), 188-203.
Heaton, R. (2000). The prospects for intelligence-led policing: Some historical and quantitative considerations. Policing and Society, 9(4), 337-356.
Maguire, M., & John, T. (2006). Intelligence led policing, managerialism and community engagement: Competing priorities and the role of the National Intelligence Model in the UK. Policing and Society, 16(1), 67-85.
Ratcliffe, J. H. (2005). The effectiveness of police intelligence management: A New Zealand case study. Police Practice and Research, 6(5), 435-451.
Tilley, N. (2003). Community policing, problem-oriented policing and intelligence-led policing. In T. Newburn (Ed.), Handbook of Policing (pp. 311-339). Cullompton, Devon: Willan Publishing.