Implementing an Intelligence-Led Policing Process
By Nate Huber, M.S.
In October 2019, the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin published “Intelligence-Led Policing for Law Enforcement Managers,” which provided the justification for the implementation and use of intelligence-led policing (ILP) at all levels of law enforcement to effectively and proactively combat crime.1 ILP offers a systematic approach to policing by proactively identifying and prioritizing threats based on intelligence analysis and developing a strategy to mitigate those threats. This follow-up article provides additional details and recommended steps for implementing an ILP program.
Obtaining Leadership Buy-In
The first step to adopting an ILP process is to get buy-in from executive management. This is crucial because police administration sets the tone for the whole agency and has ultimate authority for its investigative and intelligence priorities. Department leadership must be willing to carry out the functions of ILP to execute it effectively. Most likely, leadership buy-in occurs when an agency creates a detailed action plan and recognizes the advantages of ILP.
One of the main advantages of ILP is that it allows for a structured and cost-effective approach to decision-making, including allocating resources to address concerns identified from intelligence analysis. Additionally, it allows executives and staff at all levels to track effectiveness against mitigating and reducing crime. Finally, it is a proactive approach that will allow an agency to get ahead of the threat and identify and mitigate crime based on department priorities.
Mr. Huber is a supervisory intelligence analyst in the FBI’s Washington, D.C., office.
Developing a Process
The next step is to develop a detailed ILP process that examines how threats or community issues will be prioritized. This should be a whole-of-office approach; on an annual basis, the department, including executives, analysts, and officers, should gather to discuss priorities for the next fiscal year. These priorities must be based on an all-source intelligence analysis of current and emerging risks to the community and the needs of local, state, or federal officials who represent the community.
The assessment of current and future threats should be based on a specific crime or a threat’s potential impact on the geographical area. This analysis could ask questions such as whether a threat could lead to physical harm or death in the area or if the threat is affecting or has the potential to affect the local economy currently.
Such an assessment should be based on mitigation potential as well. In other words, how much does the agency know about the criminal activity or potential threat and what does it need to do to reduce or eliminate harm? Does the department know a lot about an issue and have it under control, or is there a lack of knowledge about it that requires the agency to surge resources to increase its understanding?
An analysis of the possible impact and mitigation levels of criminal activity and threats allows agency executives to allocate resources to combat threat issues that either have the largest impact on the jurisdiction or are not fully understood.
Prioritized Intelligence Gaps
During the recommended annual meeting, intelligence analysts, in coordination with their operational counterparts (e.g., officers and investigators) should identify critical intelligence gaps in the department’s understanding of its threats. Because the mitigation assessment ties directly into a threat’s priority level, two to five intelligence gaps need to be identified for each threat.
The agency should collect critical information to fill these gaps and increase its understanding of current and future risks affecting its geographical region. Questions formed to address the intelligence gaps must be thorough, actionable, open-ended (i.e., avoiding “yes or no” questions), and collectable (i.e., detailed enough for an officer or investigator to provide to their sources or liaison contacts and legally authorized to be collected).
Once intelligence priorities are established, meeting participants should create a strategy, or action plan, outlining steps the department will take to address those intelligence gaps and identify and mitigate criminal activity and threats. Agency leadership, officers, investigators, and intelligence analysts must work together throughout the year to ensure execution of the plan.
The strategy must be sufficiently detailed and measurable so the department can track the plan’s execution continuously. It should highlight intelligence gaps or questions related to each threat that need to be filled or answered during the fiscal year to increase the agency’s understanding of the risks and its ability to mitigate harm. Finally, it should describe investigative and intelligence actions the department will take to mitigate the threats, including techniques it will use to collect information.
Several potential actions serve as examples of what could be included in the strategy.
- Identify the number and types of sources the department will rely on to collect information against its prioritized threats.
- Determine the types of analytical products that will be produced to assess current and emerging risks.
- Identify potential investigative subjects.
- Establish liaison partners to determine community vulnerabilities.
- Collect information that recognizes emerging threats.
“ ... buy-in from executive management .... is a crucial step because police administration sets the tone for the whole agency and has ultimate authority for its investigative and intelligence priorities.”
The action plan should be documented in a system of record accessible by everyone who has a “need to know” throughout the year. Additionally, depending on the size of the department, there should be at least one individual responsible for tracking the strategy’s execution. This person(s) would be responsible for keeping track of the number of sources and investigations targeting the prioritized threat issues and evaluating the agency’s progress in collecting information to fill its intelligence gaps.
Six months after the initial meeting, the department should evaluate how well it is executing its strategy, identify issues that need to be addressed, and determine the agency’s effectiveness in recognizing and mitigating harm thus far. Intelligence and operational personnel should brief their administration on the identified emerging threats and determine whether there needs to be an adjustment to the priorities for the rest of the fiscal year.
At the end of each fiscal year, intelligence and operational staff members should assess the agency’s performance again. Employees will discuss how the department has mitigated its prioritized threats throughout the year, collected information to fill its intelligence gaps, and outlined risk areas that need to be better understood. During this end-of-year meeting, employees should collaborate with their peers to develop and examine indicators of emerging threats or changes to the nature of the agency’s prioritized threats. The team will review pending investigations, evaluate collection capabilities, and assess its understanding of each risk. Based on the comprehensive review of the intelligence and investigative actions taken against each threat, employees can recommend prioritization levels for each risk for the next fiscal year.
Finally, intelligence and operational staff members should meet with department leaders to brief them on the risk prioritization levels and intelligence gaps discussed during the end-of-year meeting. Once the administration reviews and approves this information, stakeholders can develop a new agency strategy outlining how it will mitigate its risks over the next fiscal year.
“Once intelligence priorities are established, meeting participants should create a strategy, or action plan, outlining steps the department will take to address those intelligence gaps and identify and mitigate criminal activity and threats.”
For Additional Information
U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, Reducing Crime Through Intelligence-Led Policing, accessed March 15, 2021, https://bja.ojp.gov/sites/
This follow-up article, best read in conjunction with “Intelligence-Led Policing for Law Enforcement Managers,” provides a framework for law enforcement at all levels to effectively institute an ILP program.
An ideal program begins with leadership buy-in, followed by the identification of prioritized threats based on a comprehensive review of investigations and an all-source intelligence analysis, and culminates in the development of an agency strategy to mitigate danger and fill intelligence gaps.
Specific details on how to effectively carry out an ILP plan will be based on department resources, the size of each agency, and how much ILP is already practiced.
Mr. Huber can be contacted at email@example.com.
1 Nate Huber, “Intelligence-Led Policing for Law Enforcement Managers,” FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, October 10, 2019, accessed March 15, 2021, https://leb.fbi.gov/articles/featured-articles/intelligence-led-policing-for-law-enforcement-managers.