Intelligence-Led Policing in the US


In any society, some individuals do not want to abide by the laws of their countries, and their activity can pose a threat to national security. When such people unite their efforts to fulfill their own goals, intimidate ordinary people, undermine the reputation of authorities, or instigate conflicts between different countries, the situation becomes even more dangerous, both for officials and citizens. To try and reduce the threat that comes from immoral people from different countries and internal criminal structures within one country, countries can use various approaches to policing and crime prevention. Intelligence-led policing, a model based on the monitoring of internal and external threats, can be listed among the key approaches to policing used in the twenty-first century.

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The Definition of Intelligence-Led Policing

Intelligence-led policing is an approach that was implemented to reduce the threat of terrorist acts and contribute to the protection of national security. Nowadays, intelligence-led policing is implemented in a range of English-speaking countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada, although all countries use the approach in their way. When speaking about the origins of intelligence-led policing, it is necessary to pay attention to the role that is was first intended to fulfill. When the key ideas related to the approach were formulated and presented to the authorities, intelligence-led policing was seen as a tactic based on proactive policing and intelligence finds (Ratcliffe, 2016). In particular, the police forces of Kent are known to have contributed to the development of intelligence-led policing.

They initiated conducting battlefield operations, leaning toward the use of intelligence finds when making important decisions. Intelligence-led policing in the United States, and other countries, is an alternative to another approach to policing that is defined as responsive. This approach is often regarded as a policing model that is extremely different from intelligence-led policing. If police forces implement this approach, they are expected to take action when civilians inform them about criminal activity and factors that pose a threat to security. In contrast, by adopting intelligence-led policing, this approach enables police forces to act proactively and keep track of important patterns or circumstances that may give rise to crime. By focusing on factors that impact on society, such as inequality, poverty, religious discord, and interracial conflicts, and taking crime trends into account, police forces can prevent crime more effectively.

Intelligence-Led Policing in the United States

The United States is among the most developed countries where the intelligence-led policing approach is implemented. Even though the decision to conduct law enforcement efforts with the help of intelligence is known to bring positive results, and helps many countries to significantly reduce threats to national security, an important issue arises related to the general public’s perceptions of “intelligence”. It often happens that ordinary people understand intelligence-led policing incorrectly and the term “intelligence” tends to be misused. Many people associate the term with information that presents a ‘weapon’ that police forces can use against anyone who fuels suspicion. It can be argued that these associations hurt the way that intelligence-led policing is regarded.

In the United States, intelligence-led policing can take a range of forms, but all of them are based on intelligence analysis. Intelligence analysis can be regarded as one of the most effective operations that enable analysts in different parts of the country to provide specific recommendations on how to prevent possible crimes or minimize the number of victims. Specialists, who are responsible for analyzing intelligence in the United States, use a wide variety of techniques that help to test hypotheses. For instance, investigative visual analysis is a technique that was widely used after the assassination of John Kennedy, in Texas, to collect additional evidence and reconstruct the crime (De Puiseau, Greving, Aßfalg, & Musch, 2017). Regarding the other common intelligence analysis techniques that are widely used by specialists in the United States, it is necessary to pay attention to the so-called link analysis that is extremely important if there is a threat of terrorism. This technique is aimed at revealing links that exist between individuals, companies, or families to prevent future crimes. Reducing the threat of acts that can hurt the entire society is impossible if the police possess little information on those organizations or criminal cartels that support crime and provide the actual perpetrators of crimes with money, weapons, and information that helps them to evade capture. Thus, the use of such intelligence analysis techniques is extremely important to identify and capture the criminals who threaten the security of people and conduct acts of terrorism.

The intelligence system of the United States is the most effective tool in reducing crime. The Intelligence Community of the country includes more than ten agencies that are responsible for conducting various intelligence activities (Richelson, 2016). Among them, there are the organizations that collect and analyze intelligence to keep the government informed about the near-term plans of other countries that can impact on the United States. Other agencies focus on collecting and analyzing intelligence that is used for civil protection. Even though all these agencies are involved in intelligence collection and analysis, they tend to work independently from each other and focus on their specific remit.

The Intelligence Community of the United States has a complicated structure. It is headed by a director, who is responsible for providing safety recommendations to the President of the United States and supervising the intelligence program implemented in the country (Johnson, 2015). When it comes to other responsibilities of the Director of National Intelligence, special attention is to be paid to the establishment of priorities relating to analysis, collection, and the use of national intelligence. Due to the creation of the role of the Director of National Intelligence, the country has managed to fulfill a range of important tasks that make a positive contribution to the effectiveness of intelligence efforts and crime prevention strategies implemented in the United States. In particular, the role has helped to reduce the lack of coordination between various intelligence agencies in the country, segregating responsibilities more effectively, and supervising the activities of different intelligence agencies more strictly. Apart from these positive changes that help to ensure that all intelligence agencies in the country are guided by the same principles, the Director of National Intelligence is supposed to facilitate the access of IC members to intelligence information to exclude the cases in which agencies fail to exchange information to prevent crime.

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Among the oldest agencies that are responsible for intelligence collection and analysis in the United States are the CIA, CGI, and ONI (Richelson, 2016). The CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), the intelligence agency that is known all over the world, is the agency that collects and analyzes information related to social problems and criminal activity in other countries that can have an impact on the security of citizens in the United States. Even though the agency is expected to process the information on a global scale, it is important to note that one of its divisions, NR, is responsible for collecting intelligence within the United States as well. In general, due to the effective methods of the division of the duty, intelligence agencies in the country can focus on different tasks to contribute to the stability and safety of American citizens.

Intelligence activities are divided into several groups based on the way that information is collected. First, there is human intelligence that is collected by agents and other specialists; this type of intelligence was extremely popular when electronic devices that allow processing information were less developed (Stottlemyre, 2015). Nowadays, given a large number of printed sources and databases, intelligence can also be retrieved from open sources. Other common sources of intelligence include photographic and video materials, detection devices that indicate the presence of radiation background, and other electronic devices that provide intelligence collection specialists with access to suspects’ messages and phone call recordings.


Intelligence-led policing is one of the key approaches to policing used in the twenty-first century. In the United States, intelligence is collected by sixteen agencies that form the Intelligence Community. Agencies within this structure use numerous types of intelligence in their work. The combination of human intelligence, electronic communications intelligence, the use of sensors, other detective devices, images, and open-access information sources enables them to take preventive measures to protect the country and its citizens.


De Puiseau, B. W., Greving, S., Aßfalg, A., & Musch, J. (2017). On the importance of considering heterogeneity in witnesses’ competence levels when reconstructing crimes from multiple witness testimonies. Psychological Research, 81(5), 947-960.

Johnson, L. K. (2015). A conversation with James R. Clapper, Jr., the director of national intelligence in the United States. Intelligence and National Security, 30(1), 1-25.

Ratcliffe, J. H. (2016). Intelligence-led policing (2d ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Richelson, J. T. (2016). The US intelligence community (6th ed.). Boulder, CO: Hachette UK.

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Stottlemyre, S. A. (2015). HUMINT, OSINT, or something new? Defining crowdsourced intelligence. International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, 28(3), 578-589.

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