Best Practices For Intelligence-Led Policing

Blog article 
by Bob Thomas

Best Practices For Intelligence-Led Policing

The concept of Intelligence-Led Policing has been around for years, yet adoption of Intelligence-Led Policing is somewhat inconsistent. To help organizations that are either considering a move to Intelligence-Led Policing, or who would like to enhance their results with their Intelligence-Led Policing initiatives, in this brief article we offer suggested best practices.

A good place to start is to define Intelligence-Led Policing. There’s no single answer, but we’d suggest that the general idea with Intelligence-Led Policing is to collect, analyze, and share information about crimes and criminals, in order to generate actionable intelligence that helps agencies more effectively, more proactively identify, understand, and respond to threats and incidents.

Following is our suggested list of key best practices for Intelligence-Led Policing. The first seven are generally based on recommendations provided by the Bureau of Justice Assistance[i], and we’ve added three additional items based on work our team has done with Intelligence-Led Policing at numerous agencies in recent years:

  1. Organizational alignment and support: The chief needs to champion Intelligence-Led Policing, and there should be an appropriate organizational structure in support of Intelligence-Led Policing.
  2. Clearly identify the problem you are trying to solve with Intelligence-Led Policing, and determine how you will measure success. Note that Intelligence-Led Policing is often oriented around criminal groups, prolific serious offenders and/or specific crime problems[ii].
  3. Closely collaborate and share information with other local, state, and federal agencies.
  4. Ensure appropriate staff (e.g., intelligence analysts) and tools (further discussed below).
  5. Maintain a “holistic view” of investigations, i.e., don’t focus only on investigating an individual crime; always look for linkages to related people and related crimes.
  6. Ensure accountability of officers, relative to stated objectives and measures of success.
  7. Continuously assess performance of Intelligence-Led Policing initiatives. As crimes, criminals, and criminal organizations change over time, it is important to regularly evaluate and modify your Intelligence-Led Policing tactics.
  8. Understand and adhere to 28 CFR part 23.
  9. Consider intelligence gathering to be a key element of any law enforcement action, and a responsibility of all officers.
  10. Aggressively leverage all potential sources of intelligence (e.g., human intelligence, internal databases, public records data, social media, etc., etc.).

Technology is critical for effective Intelligence-Led Policing, and a key technology component is a centralized repository and analytics system. Things to look for in such a system include the ability to:

  • Easily interface to a wide variety of databases and other internal/external data sources
  • Interconnect the data across these databases and data sources
  • Efficiently process large volumes of both structured and unstructured data
  • Enable easy collaboration and information sharing with various internal/external personnel, organizations, and systems
  • Ensure that each data element can only be seen by those who you want to see it
  • Easily generate complex queries – preferably through a visual interface – so that you can quickly select the specific data of interest out of what may be a vast repository of data. Without this you are at great risk of succumbing to “information overload” that will dramatically reduce your ability to successfully implement Intelligence-Led Policing.
  • Proactively notify you of particular conditions of interest, via automated workflows, alerts, scoring, etc.
  • Easily implement data retention policies to facilitate compliance with 28 CFR Part 23
  • Easily identify related criminals, crimes, and other connections across multiple investigations.



  1. US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, Reducing Crime Through Intelligence-Led Policing, Policing.pdf.
  2. Jerry Ratcliffe, Intelligence-Led Policing, Taylor and Francis, 2003.
  3. S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, Intelligence-Led Policing: The New Intelligence Architecture, September 2005,
  4. S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, Navigating Your Agency’s Path to Intelligence-Led Policing, 2009,'s%20Path%20to%20Intelligence-Led%20Policing.pdf.
  5. New Jersey State Police, Practical Guide to Intelligence-Led Policing, September 2006,,
  6. DataWalk Inc., Managing A Criminal Intelligence Unit: 10 Best Practices, 2018,


[i] 1.             US Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, Reducing Crime Through Intelligence-Led Policing, Policing.pdf

[ii] 2.            Jerry Ratcliffe, Intelligence-Led Policing, Taylor and Francis, 2003.

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