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Debunking The Myths of Intelligence-Led Policing

During my many conversations with law enforcement executives, I am asked “isn’t Intelligence-Led Policing just for large agencies?” This is perhaps the largest misconception surrounding Intelligence Led Policing. In fact, there’s a few myths that feed the idea that ILP isn’t for every agency. So much so, that I’d compelled to put finger to keyboard to shed some light on the truth. Here’s some the top myths that persists in the market today.

Myth #1. Intelligence-Led Policing has roots in concepts from the FBI and other national level agencies, and well, the federal system is nothing like ours.
There is a long held belief, and generally rooted in truth, that national law enforcement agencies and local law enforcement agencies do not play well with each other. Along with that belief, and not holding with the truth, is that federal and local agencies do not deal with the same problems. We do deal with the same problems, just with larger or smaller quantities.

9/11 taught us that the communication break down between federal and local agencies caused a security risk that not only affected certain areas; it affected the nation as a whole. In the same way, we need to think of our agencies not solely in respect to their size, but as a part of a larger whole. The better each agency understands their crime and the patterns around those crimes, they are then able to share that information with neighboring agencies and thus work together to attack the bigger crime pattern in their geographic area.

Myth #2. “We are a small city, we know our crimes. We don’t need some new way of policing to tell us what is going on in our city.”
This is a very commonly held belief among smaller rural agencies. We all know that good cops with some years under their belt have a great sense of what is going on in their city. These are the folks that the rookies can rely upon to give them the best start on understanding crime in their city. I have found that within each department there are a number of these veteran cops with this type of good information and sense about their city.

However, I have also found that each of these cops have expertise and specific knowledge in different areas and very rarely do they come together to put this information in one location that everyone can access. I encourage the command staff of these agencies to choose one of these veteran officers as their Intelligence Officer, train them in Intel and give them what they need to gather that information and utilize it to better the department. I tell these agencies that they are already embracing the idea of intelligence led policing, now put it to work.

Myth #3. “Intelligence-Led Policing is an expensive money drain that takes a good officer off the street and wastes their efforts.”
Many administrators believe that creating an Intelligence-Led Policing division takes expensive software, extensive training, and the “loss” of a good officer. They see super large agencies with expansive computers systems and large groups of Intel Analysts and believe that this is the only way to accomplish Intelligence-Led Policing.

Not True! The size of your intelligence unit should reflect the size of your department. A very effective intelligence unit can consist of one officer if that is along the lines of the size of the department. Likewise, the software used to assist with the intelligence unit can be relatively inexpensive. The key is to find software addresses the needs of your agency and is easy to use. A cost-effective and smart solution utilizes the scalable and readily available infrastructure available to in a cloud-based setup.

A cloud-based platform allows an agency the flexibility of having a large, powerful data resource without the cost of owning their own servers, maintenance that comes with that, or the IT resource required to manage it all.

Intelligence-Led Policing isn’t about over-priced, uber-tech gadgets. It’s about utilizing the data that you’ve accumulated over decades of policing your citizenry to harvest actionable intelligence that ultimately allows you to make decisions that keep your community safer. Don’t let the myths remain. Debunk them by exploring tools that allow you to take your intelligence efforts to the next level.

Why Intelligence-Led Policing? The Answer Part 2

*This is part three of a multi-part series on Intelligence-Led Policing by Detective DJ Seals.

Compiling various information sources is key to making Intelligence-Led Policing work. Many times police departments are content with the information they currently have. Let’s face it, we tend to live in an informational world contained within the four walls of our departments, ignoring outside information sources. But for Intelligence-Led Policing to work, it is paramount to gather intelligence from three key sources.

1) Notebooks

Obviously the most immediate source of information will be your in-house records management system – which should be used in conjunction with those notebooks your officers keep with them on the road. Those little notebooks very rarely get included in your departments’ intelligence data, but are often the most accurate source of direct intelligence involving the daily workings of your community. Make sure your officers are transferring the detailed notes they’ve taken into every report they make. And I encourage you, if you are still a paper-heavy agency, move to electronic based methods for recording and sharing information whenever possible.

2) Other Local Agencies

It’s importnat to share information and crime data with neighboring police departments in order to pick up on crime trends and reduce the threat.

One great chasm that many departments still face is the divide between county Sheriff’s departments and municipal Police Departments; floating an ideal of “theres us and then theres them.” This must be broken down in order to compile the next most important data set — that of your neighboring agencies. The criminal element within your jurisdiction does not stop committing crimes because they come to your city/county limits. We all understand that our criminals are also our neighboring agencies criminals. Criminals are irrespective of jurisdictional lines and do not care what color uniform you wear. As a matter of fact, it is in their best interest to move their criminal escapades around. They know we do not share information as freely as we should. We must combat this by breaking down the informational barriers between departments. By sharing local intelligence, we can finally act as one law enforcement body and not individual agencies. One method for sharing information may include third-party systems that can import and codify data regardless of specific types of RMS or CAD systems that may be used by the individual departments. Once this happens, you can begin to discover crime trends that link criminal elements across geographic boundaries.

3) State and Federal Agencies

After you have a grasp and have taken full advantage of all of your local intelligence sources, it is time to…., yes I am going to say it……reach out to your state and federal sources. If we thought the perceived divide between local agencies was wide, then the perceived divide between local agencies and state and federal agencies must be the Grand Canyon. However, since 9/11, state and federal agencies have begun to understand the great impact local intelligence has on national security. Case in point; it was discovered, after the fact, that the terrorists involved in 9/11 drove through the state of Georgia. Not only did they drive through, but they were traffic-stopped a number of times. Even though some of the terrorists were already on a national watch list, they were never flagged because so many of our smaller local systems were not directly linked with the national system.

Reach out to your state and local agencies, join their intelligence sharing meetings and e-mail servers, and don’t just read what they send out – contribute!

I Have a Challenge for You

Would 9/11 have happened as it was planned had one of those traffic stops flagged the terrorists? Have we really moved on toward sharing intelligence? What steps are you taking to share your intelligence with local, state, and federal agencies? It is up to you to reach out to all possible intelligence sources, compile the information, make that information accessible to your stake holders, and put Intelligence-Led Policing into action!

In my next blog, I will explain what to do with this information after you have gathered it, and how to get it out to your officers and community. As always, feel free to ask questions as we move along on our Intelligence-Leg Policing journey.

Traditional Policing Compared to Running With The Bulls

Why Intelligence-led Policing? This question has been asked of me more times than I care to count. It is a question that draws no lines between ranks. From seasoned officers with 30 or more years, to rookies with a few months under their belt, this common question underlies the main hurdle to making Intelligence-led policing work; lack of trust in something new.

I have a “de-motivational” poster in my office that has a picture of the running of the bulls. In the photo, a man is about to get run over by a bull. The caption says,

“Tradition! Just because we’ve always done it this way, does not mean it is not incredibly stupid.”

In law enforcement, we have a tendency to hold tight to what has always worked for us. This is not a bad idea until we find ourselves “behind the eight ball” because the world around us has changed and moved forward, while we have been left standing still. This is especially true when it comes to law enforcement technology.

Agencies so often pour money, albeit well spent,  into cars, uniforms and weapons, seldom thinking about revamping the way they deploy these items.   The way agencies have typically deployed their human resources was to patrol their assigned areas, check buildings and answer calls.  That is all fine and good, a reactive way of policing.  So many times I have heard; “That’s what we are here for. We answer calls, we react to crime.”  That has historically been true, but Intelligence-led Policing — with its emphasis on readily available technology for all ranks — we can now be proactive.  Now, let me be clear, I am by no means saying that we can predict all crimes, but what if you could direct your patrols to higher crime areas based on collected data, thereby allowing your patrol units to more often by in the “right place at the right time?”

Over the next few blogs, I am going to cover some of the hottest topics surrounding Intelligence-led policing: Why Intelligence-Led Policing?; How to Convince Your Staff; CompStat or Intelligence-Led; and Turning Intelligence into Data Visualization.

Along the way, you can ask questions and provide feedback in the comments below as well to

Crime Rates on the Rise, No One is Safe. Reality?

Media Thrives on Audience Attention

The first recording of sensationalism with regards to journalism took place in about 1840 according to And throughout the years, modern media outlets have been well known to camp out on topics and stories that draw audiences – crime, sex, and polarizing statements that run against the grain of the general societal value. These topics and others like them have a way of drawing and keeping attention. And while the original goal of news organizations was to inform the public of community-based current events with impartiality, today’s goal is to drive revenue through ad dollars. The thought here is, the longer you keep an individual on your page or glued to your channel, the more valuable your ad space is to advertisers and the higher your potential revenues.

So if the goal is higher revenue, why would the media choose to focus on other topics? Mind you there is nothing wrong per se with media coverage on these topics. After all if an audience grows weary, they go away – a natural process of a free enterprise system. But the result of a long attention span on any one issue shapes sociological mindset that may not necessarily reflect reality.

Take the perception of crime for instance. The typical adult will tell you that crime is up, that our communities are less safe then they were 40 years ago, and that they can’t possibly allow their children to play outside by themselves. In fact a Gallup Poll in 2007 noted that 7 in 10 people believe crime is on the rise. In short, there is a social conscience being shaped that leads the average individual to believe that our police agencies could be doing more, that our politicians are all crooked, and that our tax dollars are being to wasted.

Numbers Trump Perception

However perception is sometimes different from reality. According to the Unified Crime Report (UCR) composed by the FBI, violent crime is down 13.4% throughout the nation from 2001-2010.

Violent Crime Statistics

And across the board, in other categories, statistics tell a similar story – violent crime, property crime, and numbers of persons arrested have all decreased over the same time frame.

Show Crime Statistics in a Palatable Format

So how can police departments inform a citizenry that crime is down, communities are safer, and mandated officials are by-in-large doing an admirable job?

One of the quickest and most influential ways to reach a population is through the very media that focuses on the crime to draw audiences in the first place. But in order to convince the media that crime is actually down, police departments need to prove it with facts and figures. Over the last five years crime maps and agency crime mapping has given rise to data visualization tools – that is, technology that makes it easier for the average individual to understand crime trends through graphs, charts, and heat maps. Many agencies have been taking crime reports housed in their RMS and placing incidents on a map – like our very own This allows the general public to see for them themselves the crime that is taking place around them and allows them to make informed decisions about their response to crime, where they choose to live, work, and even vacation.

Another tool born from data visualization are products that focus on crime analytics.  Agencies are using crime analysis to create new policing methodologies that help departments reduce crime even further, in some cases prevent it altogether, and finally, build reports that can in turn be used to show the public actual crime trends.

And of course there is social media. The latest Facebook numbers show a community of around 900 million users. And according to, nearly 50% of the US population has an account. When comparing that with Internet users, the number rises to 65% of all people on the net in the US are on the social network. Agencies have been using the platform for detective work for some time – Mashable recently noting that a poll of 1200 agencies where 85% use social media to solve crime and track down perpetrators. But what if you gave your community reason to follow you on Facebook or Twitter? An agency who utilized those tools — updating it daily in order to shape opinion through fact – now becomes its own news source and perception has no way of being distorted in the first place.

The Pen is Mightier Than the Sword

So if knowledge is power and the media uses it to attract an audience, why can’t you? In fact we’re interested to hear what you think. Sound off in the comments section below. How you’re utilizing technology and communications to impact community perception regarding public safety and agency effectiveness?  

Pensacola PD Reaches Out to Local Citizens

Photo by divemasterking2000 via Flickr

Just came across this great news story about CrimeReports from Fox 10 in Pensacola, Florida. Near the end a man who runs a community center comments that a map like our could harm people who live in high-crime areas. What are your thoughts?

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