Intelligence-Led Policing for Law Enforcement Managers

By Nate Huber, M.S.

A stock image of a group of executives meeting.

Law enforcement faces an ever-evolving threat landscape that requires executives and personnel to identify, prioritize, and mitigate many cross-jurisdictional threats. This effort necessitates updated technology to collect, house, and analyze data. It also calls for training centered on the implementation of programs that enable executives to make the best decisions possible regarding risks.

To this end, education on the concept of intelligence-led policing (ILP) at the local, state, federal, and international level is essential for dealing with current dangers. Today’s highly globalized and interconnected world has not only helped economies grow and facilitated the ease of global commerce but also allowed threats to morph from individuals into large international networks.

Studies have shown that standard law enforcement practices of reactive policing and rapid response do not alleviate crime.1 The reality of reactive policing is that an incident or some sort of damage already has occurred. Under this model, innocent citizens are injured, and the role of police is to file a report or to investigate and identify the perpetrator, not to keep the harm from happening in the first place.

However, historically law enforcement has served to prevent and reduce crime. To accomplish this goal, agencies must be aware of individual criminals, criminal tradecraft, sociological and economic factors relating to crime, vulnerabilities, and potential targets. A thorough understanding of these factors improves decisions on how best to allocate resources that target and impede criminals before they act.

Author photo of Nate Huber, supervisory intelligence analyst and instructor at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia.

Mr. Huber is a supervisory intelligence analyst and instructor at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia.

FBI National Academy Class

The FBI National Academy (NA) is a joint educational program conducted with the University of Virginia for sponsored local, state, federal, and international law enforcement managers.2 Among the courses offered, one centers on teaching police executives ILP and the effective implementation of a related program in any agency. The class, Intelligence Theory and Application for Law Enforcement Managers, focuses on the “definitions, history, and philosophy of law enforcement intelligence, the intelligence cycle, types of law enforcement analysis, best practices in the development and management of law enforcement intelligence units, and innovation in law enforcement intelligence.”3

Students who complete this course receive graduate-level credits and a fundamental understanding of the development of an ILP program. This article’s discussion of ILP is based upon a general overview of the class.

A Different Approach

ILP is a proactive way of thinking in law enforcement. It acts as a business process in which agencies implement policies and practices. They focus on developing priorities built on multiple factors, including intelligence analysis. With these priorities in mind, personnel develop intelligence requirements; begin collection based on these requirements; organize, process, and analyze the collected information; and disseminate the completed analytic product to the customer.

[I]ntelligence-led policing emphasizes analysis and intelligence as pivotal to an objective, decision-making framework that prioritizes crime hot spots, repeat victims, prolific offenders and criminal groups. It facilitates crime and harm reduction, disruption and prevention through strategic and tactical management, deployment, and enforcement.4

The main goal of ILP is to get ahead of threats and criminal behavior by proactively identifying indicators and taking action based upon that knowledge.5

Intelligence Cycle

In its most basic form, intelligence is information that has gone through a systematic process of collection, evaluation, exploitation, analysis, and synthesis, with the goal of reducing uncertainty and providing decision advantage.

Law enforcement intelligence is “the product of an analytic process that provides an integrated perspective to disparate information about crime, crime trends, crime and security threats, and conditions associated with criminality.”6 The intelligence developed from this process should give recipients the ability to take action and thwart or diminish dangers facing the public.

To implement an ILP program, managers must understand the basics of intelligence and how it is created. Information becomes intelligence via the intelligence cycle. At its fundamental level, the cycle is a structured process in which professionals identify intelligence requirements and gaps, develop a plan for collection and production, carry out collection to fill the gaps, refine and organize the collected information, conduct analysis and synthesis to make judgements, and disseminate the results to decision makers for action.

The process usually does not flow directly from one step to the other, but instead is multidirectional. Planning and direction can touch on every step as circumstances change, emerging gaps require additional data, and leaders’ altered preferences necessitate new distribution procedures.


The first step in the process is the identification of collection requirements. These are informational needs outlined by decision-makers and validated by intelligence professionals. For law enforcement personnel, collection requirements should follow the priorities of the department and its executives. If the top concerns are violent gangs and drug trafficking, leaders must communicate that to commanders and intelligence professionals, who then can develop approved intelligence gaps or questions to answer.

Planning and Direction

Once personnel have established departmental priorities and collection requirements, they must create a plan to address the identified issues. This step can include formulating the framework of how the organization will collect against the gaps and what resources it will use to answer the suggested questions. Some potential techniques include querying human sources, witnesses, and liaison contacts; initiating predicated investigations on identified subjects; and conducting physical and electronic surveillance. This also is the stage to discuss types, time frames for development, and dissemination mechanisms of intelligence products.


After making a plan, the organization begins the collection phase. At this point, leaders must communicate the identified gaps and inquiries to patrol officers, detectives, and intelligence officers. This is crucial to ensure they are aware of these questions and actively collecting information to answer them.

Processing and Organizing

During and after collection, there likely will be a great deal of raw data for intelligence professionals to review, process, and organize so they can analyze it further and understand its value. They will use commercial software programs to categorize and filter data and link analysis tools to identify trends and patterns.

“The main goal of ILP is to get ahead of threats and criminal behavior by proactively identifying indicators and taking action based upon that knowledge.”

Analysis and Production

Once organized, the data enters the analytical phase, in which intelligence professionals review it and use structured analytic techniques to develop and refute multiple hypotheses based on the collected information. They evaluate sources for reliability, credibility, and relevance and formulate judgments to answer the original questions.


It is not enough to collect information, analyze it, and synthesize it to produce judgments. Decision makers need to receive the intelligence, which must be actionable, aligned with the needs of executives, and timely and specific enough to allow leaders to make informed decisions.


Although not an official step within the FBI’s intelligence cycle, feedback is an essential component. Including feedback in the process allows leaders to provide their intelligence professionals with input on the usability of the products and to articulate areas that need improvement or more attention. It places everyone on the same page so analysts and intelligence officers can better focus their assessments on the issues of most interest to executives.

“Including feedback in the process allows leaders to provide their intelligence professionals with input on the usability of the products and to articulate areas that need improvement or more attention.”

Partnerships and the Fusion Process

In today’s globalized world, threats are becoming more asymmetric, cross-programmatic, and decentralized. As a result, law enforcement and the intelligence community must work with private sector partners to identify and proactively deal with emerging threats. Not only can private companies and educational institutions act as tripwires in reporting possible criminal activity but they also can help identify impending risks and vulnerabilities that police may not have the time or resources to observe.

As stated in the 9/11 Commission Report:

The mandate of the Department of Homeland Security does not end with government; the department is also responsible for working with the private sector to ensure preparedness. This is entirely appropriate, for the private sector controls 85 percent of the critical infrastructure in the nation. Indeed, unless a terrorist’s target is a military or other secure governmental facility, the “first” first responders will almost certainly be civilians. Homeland security and national preparedness therefore often begins with the private sector.7

The intelligence fusion process addresses the same concerns as the need for public-private law enforcement partnerships. States and major urban areas began to create fusion centers throughout 2004 and 2005 as a way to rectify the lack of information and intelligence sharing at all levels of government before the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security defines a fusion center as “a collaborative effort of two or more agencies that provide resources, expertise and information to the center with the goal of maximizing their ability to detect, prevent, investigate, and respond to criminal and terrorist activity.”8 These centers allow for the transfer of knowledge and analysis from the federal level down to the state, local, and tribal levels and vice versa.

Other Training Opportunities

Currently, limited opportunities exist for training on ILP tailored to law enforcement executives and managers. In addition to the NA, the Southern Police Institute of the University of Louisville offers a weeklong course on ILP, Northern Arizona University offers an online certificate on the subject, and Farleigh Dickinson University offers several related classes and a graduate certificate through its Master of Administrative Science program.9

Advancement to executive positions in law enforcement is based primarily upon policing experience, such as arrests and prosecutions, and likely will continue to be.10 Once an individual is promoted, much of the training focuses on management skills, legal issues, and expanding diversity. There is little instruction for leaders on the definition of intelligence, the intelligence cycle, what intelligence means, or how to use it. Thus, it is important to highlight ILP training programs so that more agencies might pursue relevant education and eventually integrate intelligence experience into their promotion processes.


The continued growth of threats and crime facing society and the limited resources available to deal with them require police agencies to develop programs focused on preventative crime measures and identification of emerging threats. For too long, American law enforcement has relied on gut intuition and reactive policing to address crime. Intelligence-led policing reverses this mind-set and provides a structured process for anticipatory crime mitigation through the collection and analysis of information.

Law enforcement must do more with less. Instituting ILP will allow departments to establish a process where the end product helps inform decision-making, whether that means deciding what criminal organizations to target or how to allocate resources. Most important, ILP allows agencies to prioritize threats based upon the assessment of current and emerging concerns facing their jurisdictions.

“…it is important to highlight ILP training programs so that more agencies might pursue relevant education and eventually integrate intelligence experience into their promotion processes.”

For questions or additional information, Mr. Huber can be contacted at


1 Cody W. Telep and David Weisburd, “What is Known About the Effectiveness of Police Practices?,” Open Society Institute, September 2011, 28-29, accessed May 29, 2019,; Cynthia Lum, Christopher S. Koper, and Cody W. Telep, “The Evidence-Based Policing Matrix,” Journal of Experimental Criminology 7, no. 1 (March 2011): 6, accessed May 29, 2019,; and Cynthia Lum and Daniel S. Nagin, “Reinventing American Policing,” Crime and Justice 46, no.1 (2017), accessed May 29, 2019,
2 “National Academy,”, accessed March 26, 2019,
3 FBI National Academy, Syllabus for “Intelligence Theory and Application for Law Enforcement Managers.”
4 Jerry H. Ratcliffe, Intelligence-Led Policing, 2nd ed. (New York, NY: Routledge, 2016): 5.
5 ILP can be defined as “[t]he 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.” See U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, Law Enforcement Intelligence: A Guide for State, Local, and Tribal Law Enforcement Agencies, David L. Carter, 2nd ed. (May, 2009): 80, accessed October 2, 2019,; Ibid; and Thomas E. Baker, Intelligence-Led Policing (Flushing, NY: Looseleaf Law Publications, 2009): 43.
6 David L. Carter, Law Enforcement Intelligence Operations, 8th ed. (Tallahassee, FL: SMC Sciences, Inc., 2002), quoted in Law Enforcement Intelligence: A Guide for State, Local, and Tribal Law Enforcement Agencies.
7 National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, The 9/11 Commission Report, July 22, 2004, 397-398, accessed March 28, 2019,
8 “National Network of Fusion Centers Fact Sheet,” U.S. Department of Homeland Security, December 17, 2018, accessed March 26, 2019,
9 “Intelligence Led Policing: Turning Theory Into Practice,” University of Louisville Southern Police Institute, accessed March 26, 2019,; “Undergraduate Certificate–Intelligence-Led Policing,” Northern Arizona University, accessed March 27, 2019,; “Master of Administrative Science–Degree Requirements,” Farleigh Dickinson University, accessed April 11, 2019,; and “Master of Administrative Science–Graduate Certificates,” Farleigh Dickinson University, accessed April 23, 2019,
10 Jerry H. Ratcliffe, Intelligence-Led Policing (Portland, OR: Willan, 2008): 145.