I had the privilege of recently attending a two-day training seminar on Intelligence Led Policing (ILP) hosted by the Ohio Attorney General at the state’s Peace Officers’ Training Academy in Richfield, Ohio. Law enforcement officials and academics educated participants on the tenets of ILP and how to better equip officers to begin to use ILP in their police departments.

As you’re aware, ILP is defined as combining threat assessment, information collection and analysis, and consistently applying those results to command-level decision-making. Temple University Professor Dr. Jerry Radcliffe is recognized as the father of ILP in the United States and its biggest advocate.

At the seminar, presenters covered ILP’s goals, the staff resources necessary for its implementation, and a roadmap of how to achieve success with the right human resources – and the necessary technology for analysis, visualization and mapping. The goal was to re-educate police officials about the ILP process that had begun before 9/11, but that kind of got lost in the post 9/11 counterterrorism build up that many state and local agencies went through.

The Memex Solutions Team at SAS was invited to present at the conference because we provide relevant software to several agencies in the Ohio region. The software is used for collecting and organizing information that supports the types of analysis that would fit into an ILP model.

After hearing some really informative presentations and valid participant concerns on ILP deployment, my observations on the subject were confirmed. It’s very difficult to implement ILP. It takes a long time to implement, it’s not an overnight solution, and requires hiring resources – specifically analysts – with certain skills sets that are difficult to find. ILP also requires police executives willing to listen to the results of analysis as the basis of their strategies, and not to the prevailing political whims of the day.

Regardless of what it’s called – be it ILP, smart policing or predictive analytics – the best practice comes down to this: Police gather information, they evaluate and analyze that information, and they create a threat assessment. That information and resulting analysis drive the agency’s strategy and its actions.

Police are not predicting where a crime is going to take place. This isn’t Minority Report. They are developing forecasts based on sound data collection and analysis, and allocating resources in an informed way based on those forecasts.

The term “predictive policing” has been ushered in with great fanfare and promise to law enforcement – but can it live up to its billing? It’s really about examining multiple variables, looking for patterns, and hopefully interdicting criminal activity in a proactive way rather than the usual reactive manner.

When police officers hear predictive analytics, they expect a process will tell them specifically where to go and whom to arrest. But that was never its intention. What’s really happening is forecasting, just like forecasting the weather. Forecasting criminal activity isn’t an exact science, but it can be a crime-fighting tool and strategy that helps agencies allocate scarce resources in the best possible way.

It’s almost impossible to know what impact increased patrols put in a certain area had on crime, or whether it was the weather, new lighting, a holiday, or because a particular criminal arrested the previous week isn’t in play this week. Whatever the case, it is hard to recognize a causal relationship. It’s hard to measure whether the action taken had any impact on crime.

Some of the instructors at the training suggested that the different named programs that have popped up in recent years are attempts to breathe new life into largely un-adopted ILP – just with a different face and different name.

It’s my estimation and others that the names of the initiatives change in some cases to continue to draw interest from the funding sources. For example, the latest greatest initiative of the Federal Bureau of Justice Assistance is “Smart Policing.” But if you examine the principles of this program, it’s really ILP dressed up differently.

At the end of the day, police gathering information, evaluating that data, assessing the threat and strategically targeting the threat are the only successful ways that policing will work. It really doesn’t matter if you call it ILP or “Smart Policing” or “Predictive Policing,” it’s all about examining information, employing the appropriate human and technological resources, and then using that mix to drive your strategy.

I’m interested in learning what you think about ILP and welcome your feedback. My colleague, Vince Talucci, offers his own perspective on predictive policing in his latest blog post. He is careful to point out he’s never seen Minority Report.

  • Chuck

    I think the name is important because it, right or wrong, sets the expectations of the deliverables. I was the project leader for ILP implementation at my former agency. One of the first concerns we had is what to call the program – you cannot use the word “intelligence” in Eugene, Oregon and hope to stay out of the activist sights. We settled on Data Led Policing. One problem solved. The possible downside of the name was that we could not resource Crime Analysis with “analysts” because there was cool software that would supply all the “data” that we needed. Folks got wrapped around the axle with “accuracy of the data” as opposed to “usability of the intelligence.” This manifested in several ways. How much impact the name had, is anyone’s guess.

    The crux of the difficulty in implementation had to do with how our middle managers (Lieutenants) and below define their jobs. When I was cutting my teeth in the business I worked for Chief Pierce Brooks who led the charge for crime analysis. We relished the idea that the computer would give us information that we didn’t already have and it would help us catch the bad guys. As budgets and other policing strategies intertwined, the newer generations of LE professionals began defining their role simply in answering calls for service. And because we are severly understaffed (well below the national or even state averages) we don’t have enough resources just to answer cfs, much less expect our cops to use unobligated time to creatively catch bad guys. This mentality was entrenched and even in the third year of implementation we still struggle getting over that hurdle.

    I could go on, but I wanted to emphasize the “intelligence” in the concept. Computer systems don’t give us the answers. They give us better data, but it takes experienced, intellligent human beings to make usable intelligence out of the data. We need to be investing in human analysts and not get so hung up on making the perfect computer system.

  • jeff

    There lies the problem. People believe intelligence-led policing is data driven. It isn’t and shouldn’t be. Leave that to the crime analysts. Intelligence is concept-driven and value-based. It seeks not the maximization of outputs (arrests, seizures, etc.) but outcomes (a level of safety from criminal threats). Moving away from the data-centric culture is the biggest hurdle. Intelligence analysts know that more information doesn’t necessarily increase your odds of achieving your goals. Science is reaching a point of diminishing returns. 
    Access to certain information that contexted correctly, though, can – but it comes with an expiration date too. ILP also has to be top down. That means the creation of law enforcement strategies – not “strategic” plans, strategies.