Patrol intelligence officers: Intelligence-led policing in action

Phoenix PD is empowering patrol officers to spearhead intelligence-led problem-solving initiatives in their precincts


By A Johannes “Jon” Bottema, Cody W. Telep and Wendy Rountree Jackson

Intelligence-led policing (ILP) is a framework that encompasses the utilization of intelligence and analysis to achieve “crime and harm reduction, disruption and prevention through strategic and tactical management, deployment and enforcement.” [1] Intelligence within this context refers to information that has been processed via the analytic process and evaluated to provide perspective into crime and/or criminals.

ILP is used to address a variety of crime-related problems. ILP approaches differ from traditional reactive forms of policing as they typically emphasize focused, precise and data-driven strategies that are often prevention-oriented. However, there has been notable variation in how ILP has been applied.

Historically, this has focused on incorporating analysts and those at managerial levels but has also involved approaches for addressing specific people, places and crimes. Of particular interest are repeat victims, prolific offenders, criminal groups and crime hot spots. Usually, ILP approaches use specific groups or work units within broader law enforcement organizations to address these issues.

The Phoenix Police Department’s Intelligence Officer Program

The Phoenix Police Department’s (PPD) approach to ILP, using an intelligence officer program (IOP), is progressive and utilizes a broader organizational strategy.

Initially piloted in 2014, the PPD’s IOP arose from a collaborative effort by the PPD and the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University (ASU). The aim of the program is to create an interactive web of intelligence to enable the PPD to become an intelligence-led police department.

To accomplish this, the IOP takes a patrol-driven approach in which selected officers from all seven of PPD’s precincts are trained as intelligence officers (IOs). The IOP’s bottom-up approach allows intelligence gathering and functioning to be integrated into the patrol function. This is particularly effective as patrol officers serve as the eyes and ears of police departments; [2] they are the ones who are most likely to encounter timely and potentially useful information that can be developed into intelligence.

The IOP incorporates an evolution across three key levels: the individual, group, and organizational. The individual-level involves the collection of information by IOs to address specific issues or cases. The group-level extends on this by capitalizing on problem-oriented and hot spots strategies implemented by multiple IOs within precincts to target broader recurring issues. The organizational level is the final stage in which the department holistically operates as an intelligence-led department under an ILP framework.

While focused on contributions by patrol officers, the IOP has been driven by the Phoenix Intelligence Center (PIC), a unit in the PPD’s Homeland Defense Bureau. The PIC is the PPD’s main unit for processing intelligence and is located at the Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center (ACTIC), the primary fusion center for the state. This unit has been responsible for all of the training of IOs and processing the information that they submit.

Recruitment

Officers are selected for training by IOP personnel in conjunction with precinct leadership. Officers are recommended by patrol supervisors based on productivity, initiative and computer skills. IOP supervision then reviews nominees’ personnel files for any integrity issues as these officers will be in contact with sensitive data and intelligence. Additionally, nominees’ recap statistics are assessed for productivity. Reference checks are also informally conducted. It is important to note that seniority is NOT a factor in this evaluation.

Training

The main training provided for IOs has been a 40-hour basic intelligence officer school. This includes topics such as defining intelligence and recognizing useful information, the legal requirements for intelligence-related processes, access to and training on supplementary databases, utilizing social media, and special topics of interest, such as cartels.

By the end of 2020, over 240 IOs across all seven of the PPD’s precincts had been trained. An additional 20 IOs were also selected for advanced training. These individuals were chosen as key IO liaisons for each of the precincts. They were also provided training on crime suppression and problem-oriented policing projects so that they could help spearhead intelligence-led problem-solving initiatives in their precincts.

Information sharing and development of intelligence

The key mechanism for information sharing and developing intelligence in the IOP is the intelligence officer reporting system. This system enables trained officers to submit information on potentially relevant cases or issues that could use additional processing.

These intelligence officer reports (IORs) contain narratives and other key details related to the people or places involved. These reports are only accessible by trained intelligence officers, who can add comments or relevant information to the IORs. However, the primary mechanism for processing these are analysts or dedicated personnel located at the PIC who follow up on the information submitted. If the IORs are able to be further processed, the developed information is then disseminated to individuals who can act on it, whether this is patrol, investigators, special units, ACTIC tips and leads, or some other entity. Alternatively, other relevant intelligence can be stored in a separate intelligence database.

It is important to note that there are strict rules and procedures for storing such information, such as 28 CFR Part 23.

The value of law enforcement-academic collaboration

One particularly beneficial element of the PPD IOP has been the collaboration between ASU and the PDD in designing, implementing and evaluating the program. While the IOP approach is somewhat unique, having the assistance of ASU to help formulate the program and encourage the use of evidence-based practices has helped shape it. The collaboration also bolstered the credibility of the program, which made it easier to get command staff buy-in. This interest was also aided by the fact that the partnership resulted in a Bureau of Justice Assistance grant, which helped fund an evaluation and the expansion of the program, including technology to support intelligence officer work in the field.

The partnership has also helped facilitate momentum within the program. Through a variety of audits, surveys and evaluations, ASU has demonstrated the potential of the IOP, which has helped to justify its expansion. [3-5] ASU was also heavily involved in the advanced intelligence officer school and helping to identify potential directions for the program as it moves forward.

Together, the PPD and ASU have created a model that is certainly worth considering elsewhere.

Lessons learned from program implementation

While the program has been largely successful, many lessons were learned from its implementation. These are some key recommendations/ideas for other agencies considering a similar endeavor:

Approach

  • An adapt and overcome mindset is critical. Challenges are inevitable and flexibility is required for success. The evolution of the program has been very fluid from what was first envisaged, but it has worked well.
  • Take baby steps. Avoid trying to carry out everything simultaneously as this will prove to be overwhelming. Consider piloting projects before full implementation.
  • Be mindful of the technical requirements for the program (e.g., databases, communication and information storage). Having the correct infrastructure available is imperative. Intelligence programs cannot operate successfully without this in place.

Personnel

  • There is great value in collaborating with researchers. As demonstrated in the section above, such partnerships have numerous benefits.
  • Having commitment from command staff to the program is essential. As with any policing innovation or endeavor, those lacking support from the higher-ups are doomed to fail. It is unlikely that the program would have survived all the changes in the PD over the past 6-7 years without executive support.
  • Having stability in unit supervisors knowledgeable about intelligence also makes a significant difference. Supervisors within the program all brought different perspectives and priorities. Optimal success of an approach like the IOP needs a focused mission and driver.
  • Programs must include analytical staff, with ideally at least one intelligence analyst. Such individuals must be knowledgeable about the intelligence cycle, intelligence protocols and 28 CFR Part 23. This is critical in order to properly process leads generated by IO’s.
  • Adequate staffing for training and developing the program are essential. Lacking personnel responsible for training or processing information can result in notably slow programs and greatly restrict their capacity to benefit a department.
  • Take time in recruitment to identify the right officers. Ideally, these people are productive, methodical and passionate about intelligence. Choosing the right officers can make or break an intelligence program.

References

1. Ratcliffe JH. Intelligence-led policing (2nd ed.), pp. 5. New York, NY: Routledge, 2016.

2. Peterson MB. Intelligence-led policing: The new intelligence architecture. Washington, DC: Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S. Department of Justice, 2005.

3. Bottema AJ. The value of patrol-driven intelligence-led policing: Evaluating the communication within, perceptions regarding, and impacts of the Phoenix Police Department’s Intelligence Officer Program [Doctoral dissertation, Arizona State University]. ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2021.

4. Bottema AJ, Telep C. The benefit of intelligence officers: Assessing their contribution to success through actionable intelligence. Policing: An International Journal, 2019, 42(1), 2-15.

5. Telep CW, Ready J, Bottema AJ. Working towards intelligence-led policing: The Phoenix Police Department intelligence officer program. Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice, 2018, 12(3), 332-343.

Next: 10 steps to effective intelligence-led policing (ILP)


About the authors

A Johannes “Jon” Bottema is an Instructor in Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University. His research focuses on collaborating with law enforcement at various levels to explore what is effective in policing and how this may benefit police agencies and the communities that they serve. His key focus is on evaluating evidence-based policing and particularly intelligence-led policing. He has been embedded in the Phoenix Intelligence Officer Program since 2016, assisting with implementation, administration, and evaluation.

Cody W. Telep is an Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Programs in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Arizona State University. His Ph.D. is in Criminology, Law, and Society from George Mason University, where he worked in the Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy. His research interests include the impact of police practices on crime and disorder, assessing the relationship between police activities and perceptions of legitimacy, understanding how to advance the use of evidence-based policies and practices in policing and criminal justice, and using experimental methodologies in evaluation research. He has been working with the Phoenix Police Department on an evaluation of the intelligence officer program since 2014.

Wendy Rountree Jackson is currently an IT Analyst employed by the Phoenix Police Department (PPD) with over 20 years of experience as a Criminal Intelligence Analyst. Since its inception in 2014, she has participated in PPD’s researcher-practitioner partnership with Arizona State University on the development and implementation of the PPD’s Intelligence Officer Program. Wendy is an adjunct faculty member with Northern Arizona University, where she teaches a course in Intelligence-Led Policing. She holds an Associate Degree from New Mexico State University, a Bachelor of Science Degree from Cameron University in Lawton, OK, and a Master of Education in Human Relations Degree from Northern Arizona University.

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