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Analysis of Decision-Making Processes in Boston Police Department


The development of new trends in law enforcement such as organized crime, terrorism, and inter agency corporation has led to the development of new policing techniques in America’s police departments. The role of the police in the community has increased significantly especially with emphasis on inter-agency collaboration by the federal government. After the Boston Marathon bombing, different agencies are expected to share intelligence to allow for more effective policing. This paper covers the role of police in homeland and application of these systems to the Boston Police Department.

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Police Role in Homeland

Since the first major terror attack happened on American soil, there have emerged several trends in policing. Law enforcement agencies (LEAs) have acquired more roles when it comes to counter terrorism and homeland security. These trends include community policing, predictive policing, intelligence led policing, and problem-oriented policing. As a result, the four new policing strategies are considered as the core roles of the police in homeland security. Policing department have a role to play in counter terrorism as they interact with the local communities daily.

Community Policing

Community policing is a concept that refers to a change in the model of policing. It aims at reducing the reliance on technology and patrol cars to a model of policing that re-establishes a connection between citizens and the police (Williams et al., 2018). Community policing involves the formation of partnership between the different stakeholders in a community that support the systematic use of these partnerships and other problem-solving techniques to actively address issues that affect public safety (Williams et al., 2018). This type of policing creates trust between the police and communities which leads to information sharing on any suspicious activities and other forms of threat.

Problem-Oriented Policing

Problem-oriented policing is a technique which expands police mandate to include prevention and control of crime. The police are expected to analyze all recurring problems to identify all the underlying causes (Hinkle et al., 2020). The next step will be to proactively develop and manage interventions to address all the underlying problems that have been identified (Hinkle et al., 2020). This entire process is based on a problem-solving model that follows four steps. They include scanning, analysis, response, and assessment (SARA).

Intelligence Led Policing

Intelligence led policing focuses on the analysis of the available information before making a decision. This type of policing involves data analysis and criminal intelligence in the decision-making framework with the aim of crime reduction and prevention (Carter & Philips, 2015). Intelligence helps the police to implement crime-reduction tactics that focus on active criminals. Through this method, the police mainly rely on available information for investigation and making informed decision on the issue at hand.

Predictive Policing

Predictive policing is closely related to intelligence-led policing. It involves taking data from different intelligence sources and conducting an analysis to anticipate, prevent, and respond effectively to future crimes (Carter & Philips, 2015). As a result, this kind of policing involves the cooperation between LEA, criminal analysts, researchers and scientists who all have a role in predictive policing (Carter & Philips, 2015). Predictive policing has assisted the police in conducting threat assessments, predicting terror attacks, and analyzing the risk of inmate radicalization in prison.

Role of Boston Police Department (BPD)

The Boston Police Department engaged the use of social media before and after the two bombs exploded. The current police commissioner asked the entire department to use Facebook and Twitter to let the public know what had occurred (Buntain et al., 2016). They managed to correct the misinformation provided by different media outlets and social media itself. The most accurate information about the bombing was found on the BPD’s official Twitter account (Buntain et al., 2016). The department was able to maintain control during the crisis by making the citizens feel safe and avoid panic and unrest.

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Federal and local investigators joined together to analyze the mountain of evidence in the form of camera recordings and eye witness reports. They engaged in intelligence led policing where they looked at all the available information before coming up with their suspects list (Gates et al., 2014). The corporation between federal agencies and BPD aided in speeding up the investigation where they relied on the analyzed evidence to come up with the appropriate conclusion (Gates et al., 2014). Consequently, through intelligence analysis they were able to identify the perpetrators of the bombing.

Intelligence Led Policing

The police interact with the citizens daily. Intelligence led policing involves gathering information on all domestic incidences which include arrests, criminal records, and traffic stops (Burcher & Whelan, 2019). This information is analyzed by the police departments and the repeat offenders are identified. Any terror related risk is shared with federal organizations which include homeland security. It also helps the police departments when they want to track a suspect in a city’s population (Burcher & Whelan, 2019). Information sharing is critical for successful prevention and identification of all terror related threats. The federal government emphasizes inter-agency corporation which leads to the sharing of information and intelligence.

Comparison between Intelligence Led Policing and Community Oriented Policing Strategies

Intelligence led policing focuses on information analysis from traffic stops, arrests, and criminal records to come up with trends and predict criminal behavior in a given region. Community oriented policing involves liaising with communities to come up with solutions to solve the problems affecting the population (Carter & Fox, 2019). In community oriented policing, police departments work closely with different stakeholders to identify problem solving techniques such as informing the police on any suspicious behavior in a community (Carter & Fox, 2019). The police become stakeholders in a community and they engage the citizen on issues that arise.

Application of Intelligence Led Policing and Community-Oriented Policing

State, county, and federal agencies share information on different issues. When the president visits a given state, the secret service has to engage state and county level police to gather any intelligence they have on terror criminals and other forms of threats they might want to prepare for (Carter et al., 2014). Intelligence sharing among different policing agencies became crucial after the Boston Marathon bombing. It was clear that the F.B.I. had some information about a potential threat but the it was not shared with other agencies (Carter et al., 2014). The outcome could have been different if there was timely information sharing.

In different towns there are established neighborhood watch that helps to protect the community and immediately they spot a disturbance, they inform the police (Carter et al., 2014). In other communities the police conduct scheduled patrols which ensure community safety. In case of an incident, the police move door to door in the community trying to acquire relevant information that could help apprehend the culprits (Carter et al., 2014). Consequently, the police and different neighborhoods have developed a close relationship which makes it easy for police to acquire information from the members of the community.

Application of the Four Systems by the BPD

Community Policing

The BPD engages in community policing through the support of numerous programs and events that involve different communities (William et al., 2018). The police have engaged with mental health workers to help at risk youth, assist youths with substance abuse problems and gang related problems. During the pandemic, BPD has actively handed out masks to the community.

Problem-Oriented Policing

In the period between 2004-2006, Boston applied problem-oriented policing through the creation of Safe Street Team (SST). Through SST, police were assigned to violent crime hotspots where they applied problem-oriented policing to identify the recurring problems in all target areas (Hinkle et al., 2020). This problem was experienced in neighbourhood that is predominantly comprised of minority groups.

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Intelligence Led Policing

The BPD identifies trends on gang activities and repeats offenders through the analytical analysis of domestic incidences, arrests, criminal records, gang activities, and traffic stops. Through information analytics, BPD can identify high risk areas as a result of gang violence and other crimes such as home break-ins (Hinkle et al., 2020). This leads to increased police presence in those areas to maintain people and prevent the occurrence of crimes.

Predictive Policing

BPD has engaged Umass Boston where the organization works to explore different methodologies to reliably predict the location or likelihood of future criminal activities. This helps BPD to deploy more resources in these areas to reduce the likelihood of this crimes from occurring (Hinkle et al., 2020). This is only possible through the use of 5-year crime data from several BPDs.


Boston Police Department has a major role to play when it comes to counter terrorism. Community policing was implemented during the Boston Marathon bombing where they engaged the public through their official Twitter account. This ensured that the public remained calm and well informed. Intelligence led policing was used to analyse all the available evidence. As a result, all cooperating agencies where able to quickly identify the most probable suspect.


Buntain, C., Golbeck, J., Liu, B., & LaFree, G. (2016). Evaluating public response to the Boston Marathon bombing and other acts of terrorism through Twitter. In Proceedings of the International AAAI Conference on Web and Social Media.

Burcher, M., & Whelan, C. (2019). Intelligence-led policing in practice: Reflections from intelligence analysts. Police Quarterly, 22(2), 139-160.

Carter, J. G., Phillips, S. W., & Gayadeen, S. M. (2014). Implementing intelligence-led policing: An application of loose-coupling theory. Journal of Criminal Justice, 42(6), 433-442

Carter, J. G., & Fox, B. (2019). Community policing and intelligence-led policing. Policing: An International Journal. Web.

Carter, J. G., & Phillips, S. W. (2015). Intelligence-led policing and forces of organisational change in the USA. Policing and Society, 25(4), 333-357.

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Hinkle, J. C., Weisburd, D., Telep, C. W., & Petersen, K. (2020). Problem oriented policing for reducing crime and disorder: An updated systematic review and meta‐analysis. Campbell Systematic Reviews, 16(2). Web.

Williams, C. B., Fedorowicz, J., Kavanaugh, A., Mentzer, K., Thatcher, J. B., & Xu, J. (2018). Leveraging social media to achieve a community policing agenda. Government Information Quarterly,35(2), 210-222.

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