Thursday, 25 November 2010

The intelligence cycle

As far back as 1971 the Godfrey & Harris book “Basic Elements of Intelligence” outlined the principles of the intelligence cycle. This is the cycle by which we still employ intelligence in the course of policing. There are five basic steps, and it is worth recapping them here. If you find yourself tasked with a piece of analysis, and don’t know where to start, then this process can help to get the juices flowing!

1.      Collect the information: In the modern world of policing, this is done through a variety of means. Information can come thorough a variety of sources, such as informants (Or Covert Human Intelligence Sources [CHIS] to give them their proper title); surveillance; from victims or witnesses; forensic information; in the course of normal police business (stop & search records) or any variety of other means. As analysts, this is often done for us where police data is concerned, but always be thinking about other data sources, such as that from partner agencies, which may be able to help us. The key is to think about what data will be helpful to explain the problem we are looking at.

Note that at this point we refer to our data as information and not intelligence. It is only after the evaluation and interpretation stages that we refer to it as intelligence.

2.      Evaluate the information: In the UK we have a standard evaluation system by which we evaluate the “trustworthiness” of police information. This is commonly referred to as the 5 x 5 x 5 system. The information is scored as to its Source (the first 5), its Data Validity (the second 5) and it’s Handling Sensitivity (the final 5). I will handle the interpretation and detail of the 5 x5 x 5 system in a future blog. For data from other sources, it is important that you discuss the intricacies of the data with someone who understands it so that you can make an educated assessment of how useful it is

3.      Collate the information: Collation involves the storage of information with cross references for retrieval. By collating in the collect way, the analyst brings together separate pieces of information for comparison, and places them in a way which presents the information in such a way as to make the next stage easier.

4.      Analyse the information: This is, obviously, the key stage for the analyst. The analysis is the systematic interpretation of the information in order to provide an evidence based understanding of the criminal problem. The analysis stage is, in itself, a series of separate steps.
a.      Data description: The goal of this stage is to assemble and integrate the available relevant information so that its meaning becomes clearer. As crime analysts we use a variety of methods to do this, such as link analysis; event charting; statistical analysis etc.
b.      Inductive reasoning: The next stage is the application of inductive logic to the information presented in the data description. Inductive logic is the mental reasoning process used to infer meaning from specifics and details. By this we mean evaluating each of the constituent known parts of our problem, evaluating their meaning, identifying the ways in which they are related and using this to “go beyond the facts” to explain the criminal problem. This is often the hardest stage, as it involves making conclusions that are based on the data available, but possibly not supported directly.
c.       Hypothesis development: Following the application of inductive logic, it should be possible to suggest one or more hypotheses regarding what is actually “happening” in our crime problem. A hypothesis is simply a tentative but plausible explanation of what is happening. A good hypothesis exists only to be confirmed or denied through further testing, and provides a theory that can focus further data collection to help test it.
d.      Hypothesis testing: After defining our hypothesis, we are usually required to do more data collection to test whether it is correct, or to select from competing hypotheses. We gather whatever further information is necessary to prove or disprove each hypothesis until only one is left. This final, proven, hypothesis is known as the Inference and is our stated explanation for the existence of the crime problem.
e.       Statement of Inference: The final stage is to construct our inference so that we are presenting a concise and clear explanation of the problem. A good inference should contain all of “Kipling’s 6 wise men”, namely Who, What, When, Where, Why and How. The order itself in not important, as long as what is presented is a clear, easily understood and memorable statement.

5.      Disseminate the final analysis: The dissemination of the completed intelligence analysis from analyst to user is a key stage of the process. The best intelligence in the world is useless if its significance and meaning is lost at this stage. I would encourage analysts to consider how they present their information, Too often we fall back into the mould of presenting a word document that looks the same as every other analytical product, and which we know will lie unread on a desk somewhere. Consider holding a presentation, or giving a verbal briefing with a written supporting document. Where possible, hand over the document in a prearranged meeting as it will allow you to explain the analysis and answer any questions, as well as ensuring the content of the document is communicated. Always consider that the dissemination should always be tailored to the needs of the audience and the case in hand.

This is a very brief description of the full intelligence analysis process. The question you should ask yourself is "Do I follow this process when I am producing analytical products, and if not, why not?".

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