Throughout my 25-year career as a sworn law enforcement officer, and having worked for the past five years internationally with law enforcement agencies on their intelligence management initiatives, I have challenged police executives to understand the key elements of Intelligence-Led Policing (ILP) and to employ this approach systematically.
ILP combines information collection, analysis, and threat assessment – consistently applied to command level decision-making. ILP specifies that all police agencies should have some intelligence apparatus – a centralized entity where they collect information about the criminal elements in their particular jurisdictions and the problems facing citizens; where they analyze that information; and where they then identify the biggest threats to their environments.
Based on such analysis and threat assessment, commanding officers are then expected to devise a strategy to combat these problems. Heeding the analytical work is paramount, because the decision-making that takes place is backed up by actionable empirical data instead of being based on whim, incidental hearsay, or the latest news headlines.
Genuine ILP also insists that the intelligence unit remain separate from other police units. In the post 9/11 era, many police agencies in the U.S. dedicate a substantial amount of their resources to counterterrorism initiatives. Unfortunately, this sizable investment comes at the expense of properly staffing the other specialized units needed to determine other overt threats to their law enforcement environments (i.e. gangs, organized crime, drug trafficking).
Today, as I travel around North America, I still find police agencies collecting volumes of information and – shockingly – not conducting the required analysis to incorporate this information into their strategic responses. Even those agencies that are conducting some form of analysis are not developing “Strategic Plans” necessary to allocate scarce resources, or physically position resources, as required to meet the needs of their communities.
For most law enforcement agencies, just starting with the creation of a centralized intelligence entity will be a step in the right direction toward overcoming traditional barriers faced in our multi-level law enforcement environment. It is a significant step that law enforcement agencies can employ today to begin embracing the concepts of, and reaping the benefits of, the proven ILP approach.