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Intelligence-Led Policing: A Definition

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Intelligence-led policing is a term that has only begun to gain currency in the last few years. For this reason, it lacks a single, overarching definition. Most would agree, however, that at its most fundamental, intelligence-led policing involves the collection and analysis of information to produce an intelligence end product designed to inform police decision-making at both the tactical and strategic levels. It is a model of policing in which intelligence serves as a guide to operations, rather than the reverse. It is innovative and, by some standards, even radical, but it is predicated on the notion that a principal task of the police is to prevent and detect crime rather than simply to react to it.

We are facing increasing obstacles in policing. Unstoppable economic, social and political forces are having a profound effect, not only upon the world in which we function but also upon the manner in which each and every one of us does our job. And while we may be able to take some comfort from the fact that criminals do not change over time and continue to be motivated essentially by greed, the resources and opportunities available to them have increased exponentially along with the magnitude of their potential profits. Police forces are now dealing with crime that would be unrecognisable to the police officers of a generation ago and must do so with a rapidly shrinking resource base. The old models of policing no longer apply. We can no longer afford simply to react to each new situation, nor can we rely upon our traditional notions of crime and criminal behaviour. Intelligence-led policing may hold the key to our survival.

Whatever form it takes, intelligence-led policing requires commitment. Police managers must be prepared to stand away from traditional police philosophies and methodologies; to believe that operations can and should be driven by intelligence; to act rather than to react. They must be prepared to have faith in the intelligence process and in the judgements and recommendations of their intelligence staff. It is may be a difficult, even painful step, but it is a necessary one.

(Originally published in a slightly different form in: Smith, Angus, ed. Intelligence-Led Policing: International Perspectives on Policing in the 21st Century, Lawrenceville, New Jersey: International Association of Law Enforcement Intelligence Analysts, 1998.)