Friday, 26 November 2010

The 5x5x5 system

In my last post I mentioned the 5x5x5 system, which is the standard method of assessing the usefulness of a piece of information in UK policing.
In this post we will discuss the system in more detail, and remind ourselves of how we, as analysts, can use it to help us make appropriate conclusions.
The 5x5x5 system was an evaluation process introduced under the National Intelligence Model to replace the “rule of thumb” evaluation process, and to make the storage and use of intelligence auditable. It is detailed in the Management of Police Information Guidelines published by the NPIA via Centrex in 2006. The benefits of having this formalised system are that it allows us to identify credible information easier; it means that the information is assessed in a consistent way; it facilitates the sharing of information between intelligence officers; and it provides operational officers with a stronger basis for initiating action.
The way in which the 5x5x5 system does this is by providing an assessment of the intelligence in 3 areas. These are;
1.       An Evaluation of the Source
2.       An Evaluation of the Data Validity and
3.       An Evaluation of  Handling  Sensitivity
As you have probably guessed, there are 5 different possible gradings for each area. We will discuss each grading in detail below.
Source Evaluation

The evaluation of the source refers to the assessment given to the person, agency or technical equipment that provides the information. It is important that this evaluation is made separately from an evaluation of the information itself, and, as with the other areas, it is also important that the evaluation is not influenced by personal feelings or bias. The source characteristics which may influence the grading given can include qualities such as the sources personal characteristics / circumstances, the quality of the information recorded by an electronic device, or the reliability / professional capabilities of the agency providing the information.
The possible gradings for this part of the assessment are:
A.      Always Reliable – This is only used when there is no doubt as to the authenticity, competence and reliability of the source. Usually, this grading will only be used where the information source is “technical” rather than human (such as surveillance video, DNA evidence etc)
B.      Mostly Reliable – This grading is the most commonly used and relates to a source which has, in the majority of instances, proved reliable. This may refer to police officers, regular informants who have proven reliable previously or witnesses.
C.      Sometimes Reliable – This grading is used where the source has proved to be reliable on occasion but also unreliable at times. This may include information from the media, or from an informant who is inconsistently reliable. As analysts, we should exercise caution when using information that is grade C, and should always seek to gain corroboration before trusting this intelligence.
D.      Unreliable – This is not often used, but often refers to information which is known to be maliciously false or from an informant with a likely ulterior motive. As analysts, we should use extreme caution of presented with grade D information. It may be possible, however, to make use of the information if we know it to be false or it helps us to understand criminal relationships.
E.       Untested Source – Sometimes it will not be possible to make an informed decision as to sources reliability. Information from Crimestoppers, for example, is second hand and anonymous, and so will often be graded E.  This does not mean that it cannot be used, but should be treated with caution and corroborated with more reliable information if possible.
Remember, even though this grading system allows us to make an informed choice about how reliable the source is, we should never accept our information at face value. Always seek corroboration where possible.
 Data Validity

The evaluation of data validity refers to an assessment of the circumstances in which the data was collected, which helps us to understand how “true” it may be.
1.       Known to be true without reservation – This information will often be collected by technical surveillance or witnessed first hand by a law enforcement officer. Remember, however, that even though the record of the information may be known to be true, it does not automatically mean that the information itself will be true. For instance, an officer may report information that is hearsay. The record of this information may be graded 1 as we know the report of him saying it is true, but the information itself may not be true.
2.       Known personally to the source but not to the officer – This grade is used where the information is second hand usually comes from a non law enforcement source, such as information from a witness.
3.       Not known personally to the source but corroborated by information already recorded – This is information that has been passed to a source from a third party, but is backed up by other information (such as CCTV footage).
4.       Not known personally to source and cannot be corroborated – This coding would be used if the source has received the information, but there is no way of cross referencing it to other information. The reliability of this information cannot be judged, and must be treated with caution.
5.       Suspected to be false or malicious – This information is known or suspected to be deliberately untrue. Any information with this code should be corroborated with other information, and should be handled with extreme caution.
Handling Sensitivity

The final assessment is designed to provide an initial risk assessment prior to disseminating the information. They allow the intelligence officer to decide whether or not to disseminate the information and, if so, to whom.
The first handling code permits dissemination to UK Police Services and other law enforcement agencies as specified. The use of this code permits dissemination to a wide range of police and law enforcement agencies, but only those agencies with a specific need to know the information will receive it.
The second handling code permits dissemination to UK-non prosecuting parties. This code allows for the dissemination of information to partner agencies. The information can be disclosed in full or just certain selections from it.
The third code permits dissemination to non EU foreign law enforcement agencies. This dissemination is handled by the Serious and Organised Crime Agency.
The fourth code restricts the dissemination of the intelligence agency to within the originating force. Information with this code must be reviewed to ensure that dissemination can take place at the earliest possible point. This code should never be used as the default handling code.
The final handling code permits dissemination, but requires the receiving agency to observe specified conditions of handling and dissemination. This code should not be overused, and should only really be considered if there is a clear risk of harm to the source, operation or technique. Again, this code should be constantly reviewed to allow more widespread dissemination.

Advice on Handling Graded Information

As a general rule, it is advisable that we should restrict our analysis to information graded B2 or above. By this, I mean that the first two codes are A or B and 1 or 2. Information below this grading may help us provide a fuller picture, but the bulk of the information should come from the more reliable gradings.

Remember to always check the grading of any information you use in your analysis. The grading can, in itself, be of use to us as analysts. For instance, the reliability of the information can be represented in association charts by representing the links as confirmed, unconfirmed or tentative based on the grading of the information.

The question I pose in this entry is “are you always cautious when reviewing information, and do you always check the grading of information when collating it for your analysis?”.


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