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The Strategic Role of Intelligence Led Policing

Memex : 29 October, 2009  (Special Report)
Stephen Serrao of Memex provides his insight into the role of intelligence-led policing and how this goes beyond the concept of the Fusion Centre
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Becoming an Intelligence-Led Policing organization, or ILP, is a complicated and arduous task, yet many police executives still believe just building a Fusion Centre makes them "intelligence-led." In fact, that's just not enough!

Becoming an intelligence-led organization involves change from the very top to the very bottom of the law enforcement organization. A combination of threat assessment, information collection, information sharing, and analysis - consistently applied to command level decision-making - is the true formula for success.

Throughout my 25-year career as a law enforcement professional and now working internationally with law enforcement agencies on their intelligence management initiatives, I have challenged police executives to understand the key elements of ILP and to employ this approach systematically.

The ILP strategy was first developed in the United Kingdom and then flourished in Australia, where it has been responsible for solving significant criminal problems. Temple University Professor Dr Jerry Radcliffe, a former UK police officer, is largely responsible for bringing the concept to the US.

ILP specifies that all police agencies should have some intelligence apparatus - a centralized location 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. Making use of the analytical work is paramount, because the decision-making that takes place is backed up by actionable data instead of being based on incidental hearsay or news headlines.

ILP also insists that the intelligence unit remain separate from other police units. Since 9/11, many police agencies in the US dedicate a substantial amount of their resources to counterterrorism initiatives. Unfortunately, this sizable investment comes at the expense of the 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 response. 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.

One could argue that in such places as the UK and Australia, ILP has succeeded because those countries possess large, regional police agencies. In such locales, analysts push out analysis and threat assessments to commanders, who then render decisions based on that data. One national police agency has the resources, and the centralized command, to allocate those resources in a much more efficient way than agencies in our fragmented multi-layered law enforcement environment.

For most law enforcement agencies, just starting with the creation of a centralized intelligence repository 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.

Captain Stephen Serrao is a former New Jersey State Police Counterterrorism Bureau Chief, and now helps shape the direction of intelligence management software as Director of Product Management, Americas Region for Memex
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