Intelligence-Led Policing 

Connecting Urban and Rural Operations

By John B. Edwards
A sheriff examines his smartphone while near his vehicle.

Photo by Virgil Deloach, Evans County Sheriff’s Office

Twenty-first century technology has changed everything—the way people interact, communicate, and live. At their fingertips, individuals have blogs that merge ideas and Web sites that provide portholes to volumes of data. Real-time information on personal conduct and specialized networks of knowledge on any subject readily are available. E-mails transfer information at lightning speed to many people at one time. Smart phones make it all mobile, immediate, and easily accessible. Modern technology has created one community wherein the whole world is interconnected.

Information Sharing

Police depend heavily on information and communication. In today’s world, youthful offenders communicate, network, socialize, boast, and reveal their conduct on the Web via e-mail, smart phones, and Blackberries. Communication is carried into a new theater of real-time availability and simple methods.

Current communication systems require a small investment, but pay tremendous dividends. Today’s technology opens huge doors behind which exist valuable information and exemplary methods of communication. Unfortunately, obstacles sometimes prevent law enforcement agencies from stepping through those doors. Regionalization and resource sharing can address some of those barriers, such as budget issues and priorities.

Local law enforcement serves as the first line of defense and the best resource for criminal identification, apprehension, prevention, and disruption. In the United States, differences exist between urban and rural policing. However, efforts aim to foster communication by taking proactive measures toward homeland security through suspicious activity reports and identification of trends and criminal behavior patterns possibly linked to terrorist groups and radical domestic hate groups or militias.

With homeland security as a priority, federal agencies rely on their frontline law enforcement partners. When an environment exists that allows all officers to possess knowledge and use it to cooperate, communicate, and coordinate, premier results can develop. Actionable intelligence proves valuable in preventing and disrupting crime. Performance and results are enhanced when law enforcement agencies tailor their focus toward evidence- and intelligence-based operations.

This fundamental concept does not always materialize due to gaps between rural and urban law enforcement operations. For example, in large cities, agencies often have roll-call meetings during which supervisors share information and intelligence. Large geographical areas may be broken down into zones or precincts that allow for a more specific focus. Frequently, officers communicate via cellular phones or laptop computers. In more rural areas, roll calls do not always take place, and officers may not have cellular phones or laptop computers. Thus, information and intelligence may not readily be available.

Intelligence-Led Policing

Police professionals listen intently to a presentation given by one of their colleagues.

Photo by Virgil Deloach, Evans County Sheriff’s Office

Intelligence-led policing (ILP) can help improve information and intelligence sharing. The use of a full-time intelligence analyst to perform duties that result in increased cooperation, communication, and coordination among interconnected, small, rural agencies is relatively new. The push for state and regional fusion centers and the development of Law Enforcement Online (LEO), a real-time, controlled-access communications and information-sharing data repository, demonstrates the increased interest in an intelligence structure within local law enforcement.

ILP embraces the notion that rural officers should have access to current technology, such as smart phones and Blackberries, as a real-time conduit for relating past data to current intelligence information. Rural sheriffs and police chiefs working together to create one central clearinghouse for information collection, analysis, and dissemination constitutes another ILP concept. Innovative policies, procedures, protocols, and structures require collaboration between sheriffs and chiefs for common interest, shared gains, notoriety, credit, and productive results.

Rural law enforcement agencies need to shift to a proactive ILP culture. Such programs have benefitted state and federal stakeholders. ILP provides real-time information on current operations to state parole and probation officers and locally assigned federal agents. These officers benefit from complete two-way communication—they see who the sheriff’s office interacts with and when.

The Process

ILP is based on a three-step process. The first involves incorporation of the ILP model, which maintains, “Intelligence-led policing is a business model and managerial philosophy where data analysis and criminal intelligence are pivotal to an objective decision-making framework that facilitates crime and problem reduction, disruption, and prevention through both strategic management and effective enforcement tactics that target prolific and serious offenders.”1

The second step includes incorporating guidelines for protecting privacy—mandatory if the intelligence system is supported by federal funds. Intelligence gathering and the pooling of intelligence can lead to more effective policing. However, the collection and sharing of intelligence also can implicate significant privacy concerns. Accordingly, if the intelligence system is supported by federal funds, the agency must employ within the Criminal Intelligence Systems Operating Policies at Title 28, Code of Federal Regulations, part 23.2 Third, stakeholders participate in aggressive information gathering, specific analysis, and structured classification of real-time communication paths, supporting actionable intelligence dissemination.

Evans County, Georgia, provides specialized training, equipment, and information-sharing policies and procedures to officers. By knowing what incidents have occurred, law enforcement agencies can maintain situational awareness. This aids in identifying, preventing, disrupting, and solving crimes. Local, state, and federal officers use one source to obtain comprehensive information.

A county intelligence analyst provides numerous documents to officers, to include a list of calls with a short narrative from each department. During e-roll call, the list and narratives are e-mailed to officers. Also provided are patrol alerts containing corroborated criminal intelligence and BOLOS—wanted persons with pending warrants.3

A police officer outside his vehicle with a stopped car in front of him.

Photo by Virgil Deloach, Evans County Sheriff’s Office

Open-case alerts communicate facts to deputies regarding current cases under investigation. Public and private-sector partners receive open-source bulletins that can help prevent or disrupt crime. An all-hazards report is issued to officers when inclement weather, dangerous incidents, or potential public safety issues occur. Bulletins are disseminated, and officers learn of national trends and safety concerns. 

Intelligence-Led Policing Operations

E-Roll CallAn intelligence analyst electronically sends all local, state, and federal officers a list of calls from the night before.Law enforcement becomes aware of all incidents and events.
Shift ReportDeputies, dispatchers, and jailors read and initial the calls-for-service report updates since their last shift.Staff becomes aware of incidents and events that have occurred.
Problem AdoptionDeputies hear of problems from citizens, adopt these problems, identify strategies for solutions, and proceed with tactics.Relationships are built that lead to trust and the production of intelligence information.
Web/TipsVia a Web site, citizens provide tips that automatically are e-mailed to intelligence analyst and investigator.Information analysis
provides intelligence.
Patrol Alerts/Open Case AlertsFlyers are produced and distributed by e-mail, then posted in the operations center.Total situational awareness occurs.
Inmate Information Collection DocumentAn investigator regularly interviews local jail inmates regarding criminal information.This resource provides
corroborative intelligence on histories, trends, patterns, and methods of criminals’ operation.
Deputies Information BinderA three-ring binder containing
current intelligence, memos, and latest officer awareness and safety information.
The binder enhances
intelligence products and communication.
Issue BoardA white board is used to highlight important communications for all.Important information is disseminated and shared.
Status BoardThe board gives status of
pending state, local, and federal investigations.
Pending case knowledge is shared.
Project BoardA large white board is used for projection of presentations and real-time collective data mining.The board enhances intelligence products and communication among all law enforcement.
Geo-Call MappingA county map with colored push pins representing call types and locations. The color bar and pie charts correlating calls by day and time.Awareness of crime locations and nexus to day and time lead to meaningful patrol, prevention, and disruption.
Deputies Resource CenterThe center offers professional magazines, intelligence pamphlets, and case law updates.This creates a professional culture with efficient and effective law enforcement.
Intelligence DatabaseIntelligence information is
Intelligence is shared.
All HazardsAn intelligence analyst e-mails important information regarding potential public safety hazards.This leads to situational awareness among all public safety stakeholders.
Open-Source AlertsAn intelligence analyst provides
public and private sector open-source intelligence.
These identify criminals and assist with crime prevention, disruption, and reduction.
Web site Alerts, News, and TwitterAn analyst uses a Web site as a communication vehicle to the public.These identify criminals and assist with crime prevention, disruption, and reduction.
Daily MeetingsAn intelligence analyst, investigator, and chief deputy meet to identify crime patterns, trends, and situational topics.The meetings focus on problems and help to identify and arrest offenders and to prevent, disrupt, and reduce crime.
Weekly ReportAn analyst provides weather forecast.Reports facilitate environmental awareness for traffic and other public safety and law enforcement planning.

Cooperation and Communication

Strategic and tactical decisions made by commanders and supervisors are information- and intelligence-based. Agencies communicate, support, and cooperate with each other.

This culture of cooperation and communication occurs due to support from commanders based upon the common interests and mutual benefits realized. This is accomplished through open communication and cooperation with structured planning and preparation, ensuring inclusion and consideration of stakeholders throughout the process.

Operations centers house programs and systems. Project boards illuminate and illustrate real-time data mining through computer projection. A records management system documents deputies’ actions. To ensure seamless oversight and communication between operations, the chief deputy, investigator, and intelligence analyst are housed together. Specific protocols and procedures guide all aspects of the operation. It is critical that all law enforcement agencies, fusion centers, and federal agencies remain informed by participating in online programs.


Agencies at all levels can use intelligence and communication to become more efficient and effective, thus producing stellar results. In today’s age of domestic terrorism, law enforcement must evolve to strive for excellence in criminal intelligence operations. It takes specific, structured, and current policy, procedures, and guidelines in concert with mandatory training for any intelligence initiative to succeed. Intelligence-led policing can help by linking all departments, urban and rural. With this strategy, cities, counties, parishes, districts, and tribal lands all can work together, eliminating boundaries and interconnecting law enforcement everywhere.

Chief Deputy Sheriff Edwards heads the Evans County, Georgia, Sheriff’s Office. 


J.H. Ratcliffe, Intelligence-Led Policing (Cullompton, Devon: Willan Publishing, 2008): 89.
Criminal Intelligence Systems Operating Policies, 28 C.F.R. § 23.
BOLO is an acronym for “be on the lookout.”