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Merits of Intelligence Policing

Info: 3214 words (13 pages) Essay
Published: 27th Jun 2019

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Jurisdiction / Tag(s): UK Law

Discuss the merits of intelligence policing, including its effect on the role of intelligence practitioners.

As technology advances in society, it is critical that law enforcement agencies keep up with these developments. Many law enforcement agencies are now endeavouring to keep up with modern day criminals and crime through intelligence-led policing. Although the archetypes of criminals may not change a great deal over time, the resources and opportunities available to criminals has grown dramatically, including their capability to make larger profits (Smith, 1997, p1). Law enforcement agencies are currently trying to manage types of crimes that would be unrecognisable to the police officers of fifty years ago (Smith, 1997, p1). Change in any organisation can be difficult and challenging, however policing can no longer rely on reactively managing crime and criminal behaviour as it happens, and must therefore embrace smarter policing strategies (Smith, 1997, p1; Chantler& Thorne, 2009, p142).This essay will look at the intelligence-led model of policing and how using intelligence and intelligence practitioners within policing and investigations can be ‘the most important single weapon in the armoury of law enforcement’ (Williams, 1980, pD35).

Intelligence-led policing is an approach to policing that turns away from the traditionally reactive style used in the past, to a proactive framework that focuses on employing analysis and criminal intelligence in order to reduce crime and to combat prolific recidivist offenders (Ratcliffe, 2009, p177). Although considered to be a style of ‘policing’, intelligence-led policing is essentially a business model where intelligence permeates through all areas of law enforcement, both tactically and strategically (W.A. Police Intelligence Model, n.d., p3).

Tactically, intelligence can be used in crime prevention and investigations, can determine the extent of problems, and can guide decision makers to potential solutions to any problem area of law enforcement (Smith, 1997, p2).When used strategically, intelligence can determine long-term issues regarding problem crime and also determine long-term solutions to that. Strategic intelligence allows law enforcement agencies to prioritise resources and develop effective enforcement strategies, instead of purely reacting and managing crime as it happens (Smith, 1997, p2). Intelligence-led policing facilitates a standardised ‘intelligence based’ method of problem solving in which resources are assigned efficiently, along side a precise understanding of the problem at hand before any operations are implemented and potential resources wasted(W.A. Police Intelligence Model, n.d., p3).

Intelligence-led policing is a model of policing in which intelligence serves as a guide to operations, not the reverse (Smith, 1997, p1). Sources of intelligence are gathered from informants, offenders, analysis of existing crime records, covert surveillance and community sources (Ratcliffe, 2009, p176). Once the intelligence from these sources has been analysed, decisions regarding objective policing tactics, prevention operations and further intelligence gathering operations can be undertaken with greater precision (Ratcliffe, 2009, p176).

The intelligence-led model has been described as top-down perspective that emphasises the hierarchical nature of policing agencies (Ratcliffe, 2009, p177). After intelligence reaches the decision makers of law enforcement, the established priorities are then passed back down to the lower levels of the agency as tactical or strategic tasks (Ratcliffe, 2009, p177). Intelligence-led policing agencies also followan ‘intelligence cycle’ where a process of five or six stages is followed in order to enable decision makers to make better informed decisions (W.A. Police Intelligence Model, n.d., p36).

The first stage in the intelligence cycle is ‘Collection’. Information collection is the directed, focused gathering of information, through overt and covert means, through all possible sources, which can include information that is methodically sought out and collected; information that is collected as a result of a separate policing operation; and information that is volunteered to the law enforcement agencies (W.A. Police Intelligence Model, n.d., p7). Stage two is ‘Recording and Evaluation. Information that has been collected must be consistently recorded onto standardised computer systems so that the information can be efficiently retrieved and exchanged with internal and external partners (W.A. Police Intelligence Model, n.d., p7). All the information is examined to evaluate the reliability of the source and the accuracy of the information. The third stage of the intelligence cycle is deemed to be the ‘heart’ of the cycle (W.A. Police Intelligence Model, n.d., p7). ‘Research, Development and Analysis’ involves interpreting the information and converting it into usable intelligence through analysis by trained intelligence practitioners. This process goes ‘beyond the facts’, with analysts developing theories, or hypotheses, and testing them with additional information (W.A. Police Intelligence Model, n.d., p7).

Intelligence products are produced by intelligence practitioners using analytical techniques in the fourth stage of the intelligence cycle, ‘Production’. These products can include Target Profiles, Problem Profiles and Tactical and Strategic Assessments. Intelligence is of no value if it does not result in intelligence products as these products are created to help the managerial decision making process and guide investigators to possible solutions to crime problems (W.A. Police Intelligence Model, n.d., p14). Once these products have been completed the cycle then progresses into ‘Dissemination’. Intelligence products are presented in either written or oral form, and recorded into intelligence software for future reference. Before any intelligence is disseminated a risk assessment is carried out to ensure confidentiality policies are adhered to and that all information is distributed on a ‘need to know’ basis (Williams, 1980, D37). If these policies are not adhered to the safety and privacy of the public could be jeopardised and criminal investigations could be severely compromised (Williams, 1980, D37). The final stage in the cycle is ‘Review’, where intelligence held within the intelligence systems are regularly reviewed to ensure that all stored information is relevant and accurate and fulfils the original, legal objectives, therefore justifying its retention and reuse (W.A. Police Intelligence Model, n.d., p8).

Many law enforcement agencies are beginning to create standardised, integrated intelligence systems to create a wider arena of intelligence sourcing that is not restricted by either internal or external boundaries, significantly reducing the cost of intelligence collection (W.A. Police Intelligence Model, n.d., p9). Traditional methods of managing intelligence are no longer practical as law enforcement agencies require as much information as possible before implementing any operation (Robertson, 1997, p22). Globalisation has allowed criminal networks to expand nationally and internationally with a greater ease and law enforcement agencies must evolve with this expansion (Robertson, 1997, p21). Standardised information management communication between divisions, jurisdictions, states and even countries is a keyfeature of intelligence-led policing, and significantly aids law enforcement agencies with disbanding criminal networks structures, particularly organised crime groups (Robertson, 1997, p21; Williams, 1980, pD37; Chantler, N. & Thorne, 2009, p132).

Intelligence-led policing strategies promote theuse of covert resources and criminal informants as essential methods of intelligence gathering (Ratcliffe, 2002, p50). Covert operations can produce large amounts of intelligence that can be both directly related and unrelated to an operation at hand, and may help to confirm existing intelligence (National Policing Improvement Agency, 2007, p15). Often covert operations are methods of gathering information, where it could not possibly be gathered through other means without jeopardising an investigation objective (National Policing Improvement Agency, 2007, p15). The use of covert resources, however, has been criticised as it is often looked upon by critics as an unethical invasion of privacy (Ratcliffe, 2009, p178). The encouraged use of informants in intelligence-led policing can be problematic in policing jurisdictions where there has been a significant correlationbetween the use of informants and high levels of police corruption (Ratcliffe, 2002, p59). However in a ‘business like’ policing model the relatively low cost of obtaining intelligence from an informant, compared to that of surveillance and undercover operations makes it a more attractive option (James, 2003, p51).

In the intelligence-led policing model, financial intelligence is also viewed as beneficial in aiding investigations into various organised criminal groups (National Policing Improvement Agency, 2007, p18). Financial intelligence can determine details about a criminal’s lifestyle, their financial status and criminal associations (National Policing Improvement Agency, 2007, p18). This information can then be developed and analysed to detect patterns, trends, fill intelligence gaps and contribute to further intelligence products (National Policing Improvement Agency, 2007, p18). The use of financial intelligence can also negate the need for costly alternative methods of intelligence gathering such as surveillance and undercover operations (National Policing Improvement Agency, 2007, p18).

Unlike community policing,intelligence-led policing does not heavily rely on community participation to determine tactical and strategicpolicies. Intelligence-led policing develops strategies and priorities using a more objective analysis of the criminal environment, rather than through community perspectives (Ratcliffe, 2009, p177). This usually results in the implementation of crime reduction strategies that are perceived to be distinct from the needs of local citizens (Ratcliffe, 2009, p177). Communities often feel disconnected from police if police are not actively seen frequently the community and can often have the assumption that visual policing is a better use of resources and is more effective in reducing crime (Myhill, 2009, p256). As intelligence-led policing does not rely on the community for intelligence or input, it is important for law enforcement agencies to increase communication and intelligence sharing procedures with the private sector, specifically those who are frequent targets of criminal enterprises (Carter, 2004, p19). As well serving a crime prevention function, sharing information and intelligence with the private sector can also reduce community tensions and the fear of crime (National Policing Improvement Agency, 2007, p20).

Crimestoppers is an intelligence gathering approach often used in intelligence-led policing models that allows the community to feel involved in the policing of their neighbourhoods, whilst simultaneously acting as an intelligence gathering tool (National Policing Improvement Agency, 2007, p17). Crimestoppers is a confidential means for the public to report crime, criminal behaviour and suspicious activities to the police. Law enforcement agencies can then record, research, develop and analyse information gathered to then identify trends, hotspots, crime groups, targets, fill intelligence gaps and contribute to further intelligence products (National Policing Improvement Agency, 2007, p17;Chantler& Thorne, 2009, p127).

Law enforcement decision making is required both tactically and strategically and the analysis that underlies those decisions are critical (Smith, 1997, p2). The analysis practiced in an intelligence-led policing environment goes beyond that which has been historically practiced in most law enforcement agencies (Smith, 1997, p2). In the past, investigators were appointed to positions specifically for strategic intelligence analysis and were expected, without professional training and development or an established strategic intelligence method, to shape strategic intelligence (Rogers, 2004, p18). As the intelligence field progressed with technology the role of the intelligence analyst has developedinto an independent role within law enforcement (Rogers, 2004, p18).

The role of the intelligence practitioner is pivotal within the intelligence-led policing model. Analysis supports the increasing requirement for measuring outcomes and the implementation of research into tactical and subsequent strategic strategies (Ratcliffe, 2009, p57). For intelligence practitioners to successfully perform their roles, they need to be able to retrieve data and intelligence beyond traditional law enforcement databases and police files (Smith, 1997, p2). The collection of information by analysts is a necessary function in order for intelligence units to make effective use of information in the creation of intelligence products, and determining key intelligence requirements (National Policing Improvement Agency, 2007, p13). Analytical outputs should form a major part of the intelligence that is used to influence the actions of decision makers, who should then use these influences to make a positive impact on criminal operations (Ratcliffe, 2009, p58).

As the roles of intelligence practitioners develop and increase, there has been a shift toward the employment of civilians to fulfil the roles, rather than sworn members of police agencies (Smith, 1997, p19). Although the civilianisation of these roles is often debated, most investigators agree that civilian intelligence practitioners bring the specific skills and training that are relevant to the nature of strategic intelligence, rather than the operational or investigative experience of sworn employees (Smith, 1997, p19). Culturally, it has been difficult for sworn investigators to accept and recognise the development of conclusions and recommendations by civilian intelligence practitioners as an essential component of the intelligence process and intelligence-led policing (Smith, 1997, p3). Those investigators who regulate the roles of analysts to just restating facts will not benefit from the insights of ‘true subject matter experts’ (Smith, 1997, p3). As intelligence-led policing is increasingly implemented into law enforcement agencies, it is hoped that there will be a greater awareness and recognition of the critical roles that intelligence practitioners take on (Smith, 1997, p3).

It is becoming more evident that traditional reactive styles of policing do not effectively contain crime and criminals in a society that is rapidly changing through technological advances (Chantler& Thorne, 2009, p142). The intelligence-led policing model is proving to be able to keep up the pace with these new opportunities open to criminals through more methodical applications of intelligence and long-term assessments (W.A. Police Intelligence Model, n.d., p14). The intelligence-led policing model provides the necessary methodologies, such as the intelligence cycle, that promote effective strategy in all law enforcement needs, and introduces more precision and awareness into the decision making processes for both tactical and strategic operations (The National Intelligence Model, 2000, p7). Intelligence practitioners are vital in the intelligence-led policing model as it is their expertise and skills that provide investigators with the recommendations and potential solutions to crime problems through intelligence products (Smith, 1997, p3). As intelligence-led policing progresses, the role of the intelligence practitioner will continue to develop and thus achieve greater recognition for the critical role they play in the law enforcement (W.A. Police Intelligence Model, n.d., p14). By incorporating effective intelligence processes and effectively utilising the knowledge of intelligence practitioners intelligence-led policing can continue to facilitate crime reduction, disruption and prevention (W.A. Police Intelligence Model, n.d., p3).


Carter, D. (2004). Law Enforcement Intelligence: A Guide for State, Local, and Tribal Law Enforcement Agencies. U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services. Michigan, United States.

Chantler, N. & Thorne, C. (2009). Intelligence-Led Policing. In Broadhurst, R. & Davies, S.E. (Eds.) Policing in Context: An Introduction to Police Work in Australia. (pp.123-143). Victoria: Oxford University Press.

James, A. (2003). The advance of intelligence-led strategies: The emperor’s new clothes? The Police Journal, 76, 45-47.

Myhill, A. (2009). Public Reassurance. In Wakefield, A. & Fleming J. (Eds.), The Sage Dictionary of Policing. (pp.256-258). London, England: Sage Publications Ltd.

National Policing Improvement Agency. (2007). Practice Advice on Resources and the People Assets of the National Intelligence Model. Association of Chief Police Officers. Bedfordshire, England.

Ratcliffe, J. (2002). Intelligence-led policing and the problems of turning rhetoric into practice. Policing and Society, 12(1), (pp.53-66).

Ratcliffe, J. (2009). Intelligence-Led Policing. In Wakefield, A. & Fleming J. (Eds.), The Sage Dictionary of Policing. (pp.176-178). London, England: Sage Publications Ltd.

Robertson, S. (1997). Intelligence-Led Policing: a European Union View. In International Perspectives on Policing in the 21st Century. (p1). Lawrenceville, New Jersey: International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts, Inc.

Rogers, K. (2004). Developments in Australian strategic criminal intelligence. In J. Ratcliffe (Ed.), Strategic thinking in criminal intelligence (pp. 11-24). Marrickville: The Federation Press.

Smith, A. (Ed). (1997). Editor’s Introduction. In Intelligence-Led Policing: International Perspectives on Policing in the 21st Century. (p1). Lawrenceville, New Jersey: International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts, Inc.

Smith, A. (1997). Towards Intelligence-Led Policing: the RCMP Experience. In International Perspectives on Policing in the 21st Century. (pp. 16-20). Lawrenceville, New Jersey: International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts, Inc.

The National Intelligence Model [Leaflet]. (2000). (Available from http://police.homeoffice.gov.uk/publications/operational-policing/natintellwhy2835.pdf?view=Binary).

Western Australia Police. (n.d.) Guidance on the Western Australia Police Intelligence Model. Perth, Western Australia.

Williams, E.S. (1980). Australian Royal Commission of inquiry into drugs. Book D: Part XIV (pp. D35-D43). Canberra: Australian Government Publishing Service.

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