The evaluation and actioning of intelligence
The police go through a number of stages to carefully evaluate and develop intelligence and to decide what, if any, action should be taken. A more detailed introduction to intelligence-led policing can be found here, but these stages can be summarised as follows:
The information is received
Information is routinely collected by the police as part of their normal operational policing activities. In addition, a requirement for information about a specific problem is sometimes identified and the police are tasked to collect information that relates to that issue. Finally, information is often volunteered to the police from the public (e.g. CrimeStoppers) or from other forces and partner organisations.
Intelligence is supervised and evaluated
Intelligence is not evidence, and in its very nature it cannot be relied upon with certainty. The reliability of a piece of intelligence is of crucial importance to the police and this is initially evaluated in two ways:
Firstly, the reliability of the actual ‘source’ of the intelligence (who may or may not be the person who is recording the information) is evaluated:
- Always Reliable - e.g. some ‘technical' sources of information such as DNA or Fingerprints could be classified as this.
- Mostly Reliable - e.g. source has usually proved reliable in the past, but could be subject to human error. Includes information from police officers.
- Sometimes Reliable - e.g. In the past, this source has sometimes proved to be reliable but has also sometimes proved unreliable. Corroboration should be sought for the information they provide.
- Unreliable - e.g. source has routinely proved to be unreliable in the past. Could include someone who has made many false or malicious allegations.
- Untested - e.g. this source has not previously provided information and
therefore should be treated with caution. Corroboration should be sought.
Secondly, the certainty with which the source knows this particular piece of information must now be evaluated:
- Known to be true without reservation - e.g. the officer reporting the information witnessed the incident themselves, as it happened.
- Known personally by the source but not the person reporting - e.g. the source knows this first hand, but the person recording the intelligence does not.
- Known personally by the source and can be corroborated by other information - e.g. the source says that someone lives at an address and also the electoral roll records them as living there.
- The information cannot be judged - e.g. anonymous information received from the public that cannot be corroborated.
- Suspect to be false - e.g. information that is false or exaggerated to deflect attention from the criminal activity of the source.
Intelligence is then given a priority assessment based firstly on the risk of serious harm to the public and, secondarily, on other local policing priorities. Occasionally, intelligence may indicate that an incident will occur imminently and so an immediate response is required, with urgent priority given to ascertaining the accuracy of the information and any supporting intelligence.
Research, development and analysis
Information is researched, developed and analysed according to the priority that it has been given. This is undertaken by specially trained staff (see our Analyst role information) to discover critical links and associations and to draw information together to make inferences and recommendations. This turns raw information into analysed and developed intelligence that is suitable for a well informed decision to be made about it.
Decision making, tasking and co-ordination
A senior police officer will review the material and decide whether or not further action should be taken, or even whether further information needs to be gathered. If action is to be taken then he or she will appoint an experienced officer to carefully develop a tactical plan, set operational objectives for them and then authorise the necessary resources to carry out the operation.
A ‘debrief’ is conducted at the conclusion of the operation. Were the objectives met successfully? Were there any unintended repercussions? What did and did not work? This important learning feeds into the ‘organisational memory’ to guide and further improve decisions made in the future.
A more detailed introduction to intelligence-led policing can be found at the NPIA website