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How to use intelligence analysis software to improve decision-making

Intelligence analysis software allows investigators to methodically and strategically review high volumes of data from multiple sources


Intelligence analysis software gives agencies the compiled data needed to make strategic decisions about what areas to police (e.g., hot spots) and how to apply crime prevention efforts.


While the military and the intelligence community have been using intelligence analysis software for several decades, it is a recent application in civilian policing.

With law enforcement agencies handling increasingly complex domestic crimes, intelligence analysis software allows investigators to methodically and strategically review high volumes of data from multiple sources.

The software is designed to examine this data to identify patterns and trends in a matter of minutes. In addition to robust data analysis capabilities, the software allows investigators to share case information with their colleagues.

Here are two ways intelligence analysis software improves decision-making:

1. Informed decisions after a major crime.

During a major crime, like a man-made mass casualty incident, there are high volumes of data for officers and investigators to examine. Every second is crucial in the immediate minutes and hours following this type of event.

Investigators can analyze high volumes of data generated from a man-made MCI, typically from multiple sources, to make informed decisions under tight time constraints by using intelligence analysis software. Determining who was responsible, where the subject or subjects might be located, and whether a second attack will occur are all details investigators need to know.

Intelligence analysis software saves hundreds, if not thousands of hours of time, by providing the analysis of high volumes of data.

2. Hot spot policing and crime prevention.

Intelligence analysis software gives agencies the compiled data needed to make strategic decisions about what areas to police (e.g., hot spots) and how to apply crime prevention efforts.

By analyzing data from different beats or neighborhoods, investigators or analysts can establish patterns and crime trends. These findings can be used by agencies to take preemptive actions to combat crime.

After the agency implements its data-driven hot-spot policing, investigators or analysts can review the data again to determine if the applied tactics are working or if adjustments need to be made.

NIMS I/I Function

In 2013, FEMA released the National Incident Management System Intelligence/Investigations Function Guidance and Field Operations Guide (available in full below). This is a public document available for free download. NIMS is a beneficial and authoritative resource for all levels of government, especially law enforcement.

As stated on page 7 of the document, “In today’s multi-hazard and threat environment, response personnel should consider all potential causes of an incident (e.g., accidental, criminal, or natural) and take the necessary steps to preserve potential evidence and/or crime scenes while protecting life safety. To efficiently and effectively develop and use intelligence/investigations information, the I/I Function is integrated into the ICS structure. The ICS allows for scalability and the IC/UC has the flexibility to establish the I/I Function within the incident management organizational structure based upon the nature and type of incident.”

This document helps provide the framework and justification needed for intelligence analysis software. When approaching the police chief, sheriff or city management for justifying the purchase of intelligence analysis software, it is a reputable resource to leverage, and it will help maximize the utility of the intelligence analysis software.

Next steps

Now that the need for intelligence analysis software is realized and justified, there are some steps to take before procurement. These steps are simplified, and there will likely be additional factors and actions required before an acquisition:

  1. Document the department’s business and operational needs for the software and identify the functionality that is critical to be effective and then document the “nice to have” features. This is important to do before any demonstrations to prevent scope creep. These items can be documented in an Excel worksheet.
  2. Determine whether the department needs to issue an RFP.
  3. Schedule demonstrations with a few companies that offer intelligence analysis software. The demonstrations can be done remotely or in person. Make sure the software that is being demonstrated is the current version that you’re able to procure, as it’s not uncommon to see capabilities that are still in beta.
  4. After the demonstrations, require each selected software provider to respond, in writing, how they meet the business and operational needs identified in Step One (the Excel worksheet).
  5. Determine the best product for your department based on your business and operational needs and move forward with acquisition.

NIMS Intel/Investigations Function Guidance and Field Operations Guide by Ed Praetorian on Scribd

Heather Cotter serves as the Executive Director of the International Public Safety Association, a 501(c)3 non-profit. She’s been working with public safety professionals for several years and understands the challenges agencies and resource constraints agencies continue to face. Heather has a Master’s degree from Arizona State University and a Bachelor’s at Indiana University, both in Criminology. Contact her at

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