Intelligence-led policing

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Intelligence-led policing (ILP) is a policing model that is built around the assessment and management of risk.[1][1] Intelligence officers serve as guides to operations, rather than operations guiding intelligence.[2]

Calls for intelligence-led policing originated in the 1990s, both in Britain and in the United States. In the U.S. Mark Riebling's 1994 book Wedge - The Secret War between the FBI and CIA spotlighted the conflict between law enforcement and intelligence, and urged cops to become "more like spies." Intelligence-led policing gained considerable momentum globally following the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. It is now advocated by the leading police associations in North America and the UK.[3]

Although claimed as a policing framework that builds on earlier paradigms, including community policing, problem-oriented policing, and continuous improvement or partnership models of policing,[3] it originated as a rejection of the reactive, crime focus of community policing with calls for police to spend more time employing informants and surveillance to combat recidivist offenders.[4]

Recently, intelligence-led policing has undergone a 'revisionist' [5] expansion to allow incorporation of reassurance and neighbourhood policing.[6]

Critical developments[edit]

Prior to intelligence led policing a responsive strategy was the main method of policing. However as reported crime outgrew police resources in the UK there was a demand gap (as shown in the figure below) and a call for a new strategy that would more efficiently use the resources available at the time (Anderson 1994)

An early development of intelligence led policing was located in the UK. There they understood that they were spending too much time responding to offenders and not tackling the problem of repeat offenders.Therefore, 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. (Ratcliffe,2008) Intelligence led policing was not a major proponent of policing styles until the September 11th terrorist attacks. Prior to these attacks the majority of all branches of the government would often not divulge any information to each other. The main assumptions of this theory can be described by Ratcliffe’s 3i format. As shown by the figure below,the three I’s call for close cooperation between police chiefs and intelligence analysts in order to facilitate a strategy that will impact the criminal environment. (Ratcliffe,2008)

Empirical Support[edit]

Ratcliffe's Camden drug corner project The City of Camden, New Jersey was once considered one of the most violent cities in the world. This was attributed to the large amount of violent crimes that were reported in the city. The large amount of violent crime was attributed to the disputed gang corners. On these gang corners, rival gangs would often dispute territory boundaries of where they could sell drugs.By gathering information on which corners where most violent Ratcliffe was able to provide a strategy that would facilitate change. The Camden study found that the majority of crime took place in areas that had multiple gangs. Also through interviews with police officers the study also found that the majority of police work being done would focus more on gang activity rather than the location of said activity. Therefore in order to change the environment the police department of Camden would use a location denial strategy. This would mean that Camden PD would place a police officer in these locations until they were no longer disputed. (Ratcliffe,Taniguchi 2007)

United Kingdom[edit]

Intelligence-led policing in the UK has been applied as a specialized police practice involving the identification and targeting of high-rate, chronic offenders and devising strategic interventions based on that intelligence.[3] ILP originated as a problem-oriented strategy in the Kent and Northumbria Constabularies in combating motor vehicle theft and other property crime.

Kent prioritized its calls for service, placing less priority on minor service calls and referring them to other agencies, which in turn provided police with more time to focus on the property crimes.[7] Rather than reactively responding to individual incidents, a systematic analysis was conducted of offenses that identified a pattern showing that a small number of offenders were responsible for a disproportionately large number of motor vehicle thefts in the area.

Also identified were repeat victims and problem areas. Using this knowledge to formulate a response, police could soon boast a significant drop in the automobile theft rate.[3] Since 2000, ILP has been enshrined in Britain as the philosophy underpinning the National Intelligence Model.

United States[edit]

The post-9/11 environment in the US, the "era of Homeland Security" for American policing,[8] has increased demands for law enforcement to build global partnerships and to work more closely with local agencies to expand the capacity of the state to fight both crime and terrorism. Given the belief that 9/11 and other terrorist attacks could have been prevented if not for intelligence failures, a key difference with intelligence-led policing from earlier strategies is that intelligence is no longer considered a specialized function for crime analysts or intelligence units.

Investigations following bombings of the rail systems in Madrid and London and the arrest of suspected terrorists in Canada, Britain, and Florida suggested that intelligence culled from a variety of sources and through strengthened inter-agency cooperation may be the key to identifying suspects and successfully intervening to prevent attacks.[3]

On March 16, 2005, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff outlined a risk-based approach to homeland security threats, vulnerabilities, and consequences when he said,

"Risk management must guide our decision-making as we examine how we can best organize to prevent, respond, and recover from an attack . . . . Our strategy is, in essence, to manage risk in terms of these three variables – threat, vulnerability, consequence. We seek to prioritize according to these variables, to fashion a series of preventive and protective steps that increase security at multiple levels."[9]

In 2006 Mark Riebling of the Center for Policing Terrorism published a doctrine on Intelligence-Led Policing. Riebling's model leverages both Israeli counter-terrorist tactics, and the NYPD's Broken Windows policing theories. Among the Broken-Windows mechanisms, Riebling's doctrine blends problem solving, environmental design, community policing, and public-private partnerships. Analyzing the operations of the Israeli National Police in Tel Aviv, Riebling notes approvingly that "investigation of the incident, even a traffic accident, is secondary to the number one goal—which is gathering intelligence. "For instance, when they raided a bordello, where the patrons were primarily Arabs from different parts of the region, Israeli police were less concerned about the criminal activity, than with preparing intelligence reports on who these people were, and how they got into Israel."[10]

In its current conceptualization, intelligence-led policing is envisioned as a tool for information sharing both within law enforcement agencies and between all participants in the community, private sector, intelligence community, and public government. The concept aids law enforcement agencies in identifying threats and developing responses to prevent those threats from reaching fruition in America’s communities. There is no universally accepted definition of ILP, although the components of most definitions are the same or at least similar. Carter and Carter (2009) propose an operational definition of ILP: The collection and analysis of information related to crime and conditions that contribute to crime, resulting in an actionable intelligence product intended to aid law enforcement in developing tactical responses to threats and/or strategic planning related to emerging or changing threats.[11]

While Carter and Carter (2009) argue the British experience with ILP has provided an important foundation for U.S. initiatives, they note that there are "important differences in legacy and functional responsibilities that limit the wholesale adoption of the British model in the United States. Among those limitations has been the array of post-9/11 federal standards for the American law enforcement intelligence process, including the new dimension of homeland security intelligence. One of the differences between the British model and the U.S. model is that of balancing American constitutional rights, and the act of gathering intelligence. [12] Although the implementation of ILP is expected to be a challenge for most U.S. law enforcement agencies, Carter and Carter (2009) argue that the experiences and foundation of CompStat and community policing serve as important springboards for success. Although there are substantive differences in the concepts, the similarities serve as reliable policy experiences to make implementation of ILP a functional reality" (p. 322)


In the Canadian context, the lineage of intelligence-led policing can be traced to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police’s failure to prevent the 1985 bombing of Air India flight 182. Post-event analysis concluded that if the RCMP had had a better relationship with the Sikh community in Vancouver, they might have acquired actionable intelligence alerting them to the plot by extremists looking to establish an independent Sikh state in the Punjab region of India.

This was an impetus for the adoption of community policing, but it was soon realized that the focus on “community” was a distraction in that hardened targets are not easily penetrated through better police-community relations; rather, it is the “mode of information that is important.”[1] Consequently, the RCMP developed its CAPRA model (Clients, Analysis, Partnerships, Response, Assessment), which fits with, and has been re-cast as, intelligence-led policing.[1]

Crime prevention implications[edit]

Often viewed as a management tool instead of a crime reduction strategy. Jerry Ratcliffe gives ten benefits to the use of intelligence led policing.

1. Supportive and informed command structure

2. Intelligence‐led policing is the heart of an organization‐wide approach

3. Integrated crime and criminal analysis

4. Focus on prolific and serious offenders

5. Analytical and executive training available

6. Both strategic and tactical tasking meetings take place

7. Much routine investigation is screened out

8. Data are sufficiently complete, reliable and available to support quality products that influence decision‐making

9. Management structures exist to action intelligence products

10. Appropriate use of prevention, disruption and enforcement

These ten yard sticks all help prevent crime by creating a police force that is more efficient with the resources available to them. There is also a growing recognition within policing that external agencies may hold the key to long-term crime reduction. These agencies, such as local councils, housing authorities, and health and education departments, have a greater potential to impact on a wider range of causal factors, and the police are well placed as the "gatekeepers" to much crime information (Ericson & Haggerty 1997). Also as agencies share information amongst each other this creates a larger network of intelligence which when used effectively will create a substantial decrease in crime (Ratcliffe,2003)


Intelligence-led policing is still in its early stages and therefore lacks a universal conceptual framework that can be applied to disparate contexts as the new policing paradigm. Implementation can also be difficult, because it requires police managers to “have faith in the intelligence process and in the judgments and recommendations of their intelligence staff.”[2]

Some have also questioned whether the foundational ingredient – intelligence – has been properly considered, given that: police and security professionals already have to contend with “information overload” from the huge databanks that have been built up in the intelligence process; and increasing raw data is not the same as generating “knowledge” or actionable intelligence.[13]

Finally, intelligence-led policing is part of the larger trend of blurring the distinction between national security and domestic policing, or the state’s military and police functions, and risks the same perils that have tarnished policing in the past, such as political interference, violating civil liberties, and a greater potential for the abuse of police power with the increased secrecy that intelligence work entails.[13][14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Willem de Lint, “Intelligence in Policing and Security: Reflections on Scholarship,” Policing & Society, Vol. 16, no. 1 (March 2006): 1-6.
  2. ^ a b Royal Canadian Mounted Police, “Intelligence-led policing: A Definition,” RCMP Criminal Intelligence Program. Retrieved 13 June 2007.
  3. ^ a b c d e Edmund F. McGarrell, Joshua D. Freilich, and Steven Chermak, “Intelligence-led Policing as a Framework for Responding to Terrorism,” Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, Vol. 23, no. 2 (May 2007): 142-158.
  4. ^ Audit Commission "Helping With Enquiries: Tackling Crime Effectively" (London: HMSO, 1993).
  5. ^ Hale, C., Heaton, R. and Uglow, S. (2004) "Uniform styles? Aspects of police centralization in England and Wales", Policing and Society, Vol. 14, no. 3 (2004), 291-312.
  6. ^ Maguire, M. and John, T. "Intelligence led policing, managerialism and community engagement: Competing priorities and the role of the National Intelligence Model in the UK", Policing and Society, Vol. 16 no. 1 (2006): 67-85.
  7. ^ Peterson, Marilyn (September 2005). "Intelligence-Led Policing: The New Intelligence Architecture". Bureau of Justice Assistance. NCJ 210681. 
  8. ^ Willard M. Oliver, “The Fourth Era of Policing: Homeland Security,” International Review of Law Computers & Technology, Vol. 20, nos. 1&2 (March–July 2006): 49-62.
  9. ^ DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, Prepared Remarks at George Washington University Homeland Security Policy Institute (Mar. 16, 2005
  10. ^ Mark Riebling, The New Paradigm: Merging Law Enforcement and Intelligence Strategies, Center for Policing Terrorism, January 2006.
  11. ^ Carter, D. L. & Carter, J. G. (2009). Intelligence Led Policing: Conceptual Considerations for Public Policy. Criminal Justice Policy Review, 20(3), 310-325.
  12. ^ Taylor Robert W., Jennifer Elaine Davis. Intelligence-Led Policing and Fusion Centers. Critical Issues in Policing ed. Roger G. Dunham and Geoffrey P. Albert (2010) Waveland Press Inc. Long Grove Il.
  13. ^ a b Jean-Paul Brodeur and Benoit Dupont, “Knowledge Workers or ‘Knowledge’ Workers?,” Policing & Society, Vol. 16, no. 1 (March 2006): 7-26.
  14. ^ Sharon Pickering, “Border Terror: Policing, Forced Migration, and Terrorism,” Global Change, Peace & Security, Vol. 16, no. 3 (October 2004): 211-226.

Ratcliffe, Jerry (2008) Intelligence‐Led Policing (Willan Publishing: Cullompton, Devon)

Ratcliffe, Jerry (2003) Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice

Flood, B. (2004) 'Strategic aspects of the UK National Intelligence Model', in J.H. Ratcliffe (Ed) Strategic Thinking in Criminal Intelligence (Sydney: Federation Press) pp. 37‐52

BACON, M. (2009), Intelligence-Led Policing by J. Ratcliffe. The Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, 48: 540–541. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2311.2009.00594.x

Ratcliffe, J.H. and Taniguchi, T. A. (in press) “Is crime higher around drug‐gang street corners? Two spatial approaches to the relationship between gang set spaces and local crime levels”. Crime Patterns and Analysis, Vol 1, Issue 1.

Bureau of Justice Assistance. Intelligence-Led Bureau of Justice Assistance / Policing: The New Intelligence Architecture . U.S. Department of Justice.

Ericson, R.V. & Haggerty, K.D. 1997, Policing the Risk Society, Clarendon Press, Oxford.

Anderson,R. (1994) Intelligence led policing: A British perspective, in A. Smith (Ed) Intelligence Led Policing: International Perspectives on Policing in the 21st Century (Lawrenceville, NJ: International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts) pp. 5‐8.

Elements of Terrorism Preparedness in Local Police Agencies, 2003-2007: Impact of Vulnerability, Organizational Characteristics, and Contagion in the Post-9/11 Era

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