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Overview of Intelligence LED Policing (ilp)

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The intelligence and vetting of everyday society in the UK is on the rise especially within the policing tactic now being called Intelligence Led Policing (ILP) (Ratcliffe 2002, 53-66). Whilst this is being considered a new method of policing and in some ways remains true, the actual art of intelligence gathering has been used throughout history to ensure the survival of the human race, defending against threats and risks to their being (Ratcliffe 2002, 53-66). So, while it is now no longer viewed as a survival technique its fundamental basis remains the same in preventing against the threat and risk of crimes harmful to society and one’s personal being (Ratcliffe 2003).

One of the primary survival tactics seen throughout history, dating back to the beginning of humankind is the gathering of intelligence through forms of surveillance and reconnaissance (Hughes-Wilson 2005). The thirst for knowledge is embedded in people’s genetic make-up deriving from instincts of survival. Information of their surroundings, on threats and food supplies were essential for human’s endurance and evolution throughout society all these years (Hughes-Wilson 2005).

As society progressed and humans advanced, dominating the lands through the creation of kingdom’s, empires and states leading to the eventual institutionalisation of intelligence (Hughes-Wilson 2005). Now used as a means of control, intelligence has primarily been amassed on threats to be used against them, giving just a hint of the developments to be made in the future namely in relation to policing in the modern day (Lerner and Lerner 2004). While from this point of view it can be argued that elements of intelligence gathering have always been used within society and the policing model, just not as the main focal point proactively leading investigations (Kleiven 2007, 257-273). It was not until the early 1990’s that Intelligence Led Policing (ILP) was developed in the United Kingdom (Ratcliffe 2003).

While there is no singular, universally agreed upon definition of this form of policing it can be amassed that ILP is a business model and supervisory philosophy (Ratcliffe 2011, 358-359) of analysing criminal intelligence for the use of impartial decision making as a crime prevention strategy (Donnelly and Scott 2011). This work is carried out through the effective implementation different policing tactics; including strategy management, targeting focused offenders (Ratcliffe 2011, 358-359) with the help of external partnership bodies (Ratcliffe 2003). This definition combines the opinions of numerous instrumental intelligence experts within Britain’s National Intelligence model to ensure the most accuracy possible can be achieved in descriptions of what is truly meant by ILP (Ratcliffe 2011, 358-359).

Chief constable David Phillips introduced a forerunner of the ILD; The Kent Constabulary in 1993 (Duyvesteyn, De Jong and Reijn 2014). A model derived from the use of ILP in anti-terrorist campaigns in Northern Ireland (Duyvesteyn, De Jong and Reijn 2014). As a problem-solving model officers had to move past reactive responses instead centring on the analysis of crimes identifying patterns of repeat offenders, victims and target areas (McGarrell, Freilich and Chermak 2007, 142-158). Thus, ILP was created and presented as a crime prevention method due to dramatic increases in crime rates during the late 1980’s, early 1990’s (Duyvesteyn, De Jong and Reijn 2014). There was public outcry demanding more successful, cost efficient policing methods (Ratcliffe 2003) that could manage crime in society. Pressures for change stemmed from traditional policing tactics (such as Total Geographical Policing) failures (Grieve, Harfield and MacVean 2007). They were not only unsuccessful in reducing crime rates and dealing with the technological advancements that came with globalisation heightening opportunities for transnational organised crime (Grieve, Harfield and MacVean 2007). Doubts were also created within society about the Police and its role in safety and criminal detection (McGarrell, Freilich and Chermak 2007, 142-158). There were also internal pressures stemming from the introduction of new bodies of security within the private sector minimising the need for the Police in certain areas (Ratcliffe 2003).

The use of this intelligence policing means that police resources has been spread effectively over specialised areas creating a more realistic expectation of results compared with that of the traditional approaches (Ratcliffe 2003). Dedicated training is given to officer in each unit, allowing for optimal results in their enactment upon the data gather and analysed through the intelligence process (Carter 2018). When investigating illegal conduct ILP units will seek out connections and patterns shared between individual crimes (Carter and Carter 2008, 310-325).

In order to compile a series of data that are valid and lawful sources of intelligence, the police must first gather what is branded as crime intelligence; information that has been analysed for the use of intel (Ratcliffe 2007). Accordingly giving any acquired information its illuminating meaning, informing on the social properties surrounding the crimes being studied (Donnelly and Scott 2011). Crime intelligence is deemed as evidence and material that has been methodically processed and analysed into usable, comprehensive facts that are accessible for the purposes of tracing criminals and managing their crimes (Zinn 2010). The crime analysis is a course of appraisal and evaluation of any data collected to confirm dependability, legitimacy and significance (Grieve, Harfield and MacVean 2007). Systematically reviewing issues of crime and deviancy in relation to other influencing factors (Ratcliffe 2003). Incorporating socio-demographic dynamics and factors of temporal spatiality to create finial intelligence that will support the police in criminal apprehension to enable crime reduction, prevention and appraisal (Ratcliffe 2007). This is a good way of dealing with crimes, especially in cases of transnational organised crime where difficulties lie in finding the ringleaders. Whereby the end goal lies in the destruction of the entire operation not just players carrying out the dirty work at the bottom (Donnelly and Scott 2011). However, this form of policing through intelligence is not an immediate response to crimes. It is a long-term process that will eventually help supply an assortment of deterrents, encompassing proposals to improve legislation and modifications surrounding policing (Ratcliffe 2002, 53-66). Police require outside help to accrue all this information. It can only be gained through surveillance and community involvement, communicating to inform on dealings that the police themselves cannot see (Zinn 2010).

In modern society the rise of ‘risk awareness’ and ‘risk management’ ` have become an essential development in organisational actions, presenting ideas of prevention and safety, especially in relation to crime (Ball and Wood 2006). Meaning that ILP had been shaped around the management and targeted approach in dealing with and anticipating such threats to public safety (Ericson and Haggerty 1997). It has evolved to become a mode of policing offering guidance and understanding through information, rather than aiming to eradicate offences altogether (Duyvesteyn, De Jong and Reijn 2014). Whilst ILP originated from the denunciation of reactive, crime focused strategies modernisation allowed this model to build upon frameworks such as community policing and problem-orientated policing etc (Ratcliffe 2003). Giving evidence that ILP is not solely concerned with terrorism and organised crime but also with more the mundane troubles of managing traffic and road accident prevention (Ratcliffe 2011, 358-359).

The influences of such a risk orientated society has led to the police becoming one of the dominant correspondents relaying any understandings of risk that could potentially impact upon society no matter how small (Ericson and Haggerty 1997). Societies growing demand for knowledge has meant surveillance techniques and forms of reconnaissance have begun to cover all forms of crime, including lower level criminal activity (Ericson and Haggerty 1997). Thus, the employment of routine groundwork policing is indispensable in gathering the necessary intelligence, to not only impede petty offenders’ exploits but also gain information that could be of potential use and connection to higher organised crime conducts (Stelfox 1998, 393-406).

In the UK it is easy to see the crucial role ILP plays through the various specialised units used to detect and target particular offenders by implementing expert training to formulate strategic interventions based on the intelligence garnered on these specific targets (Ratcliffe 2011, 358-359). These different Intelligence units have been instated referring to regional demand depending on the influence of the various offences unique to jurisdictions (Wortley and Townsley 2008, 263-282). Less severe and more routine units such as that of football intelligence were introduced. Consisting of the controlling and hindrance of hooliganism that normally occurs at football matches (Donnelly and Scott 2011). Then in relation to crimes of the powerful, the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) was established in the 1992 on a national level to assist in the prevention of transnational organised crimes (Carter and Carter 2008, 310-325). It was later decided in 2006 that combine and assimilate the NCIS, the National Crime Squad and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs Service drug prosecution to create what was known as the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Carter and Carter 2009, 1323-1339). However, this unit now no longer exists and its responsibilities are now covered under the National Crime Agency (NCA) (Anon 2013).

Ratcliffe (2003) distinguishes key elements that support ILP in creating a police force that proactively uses its resources in valid areas. ILP runs off of understanding and knowledgeable command specialising the fields deemed high risk of particular crimes (Wortley and Townsley 2008, 263-282). Management structures have been created to act on intel through tactical and strategic planning endorsed through meetings of intelligence officials (Ericson and Haggerty 1997). Routine screening is often conducted in attempts to ensure adherence to laws and no malpractice is carried out in the gathering of intelligence (Ratcliffe 2003). Overall these factors along with many more have been instated to help maintain a reliable police force whilst also ensuring crime prevention methods (Ratcliffe 2007).

Many different techniques are used in forms of ILP ensuring that resources are targeting appropriate regions (Wortley and Townsley 2008, 263-282). Data collection is the central phase in the production of intelligence (Ratcliffe 2011, 358-359). This information can either be collected from open or closed sources (Dunham and Alpert 2015). Open sources tend to be created by the media making them public, providing overall easy access and availability (Metscher and Gilbride 2005). Closed sources however are private and must be generated through informants veiled observations (Metscher and Gilbride 2005).

Covert practises are often used when procuring evidence, particularly in cases of organised crime where witnesses are a rarity (Margell, Freilich and Chermak 2007, 142-258). Methods of surveillance (both physical and electronic) are one vital element’s embedded within modes of covert intelligence gathering (Ball and Wood 2006). As a consequence of modernity, we have evolved into a surveillance society. Surveillance is used to surreptitiously gather data for one’s own advantage through the observation of people, places or practices (Ball and Wood 2006; Ericson and Haggerty 1997). Therefore, it is impossible to ignore the benefits surveillance provides to the police (Duyvesteyn , De Jong and Reijn 2014). It can provide evidence necessary to acquire search warrant, help locate offenders, illegal imports, identify the location of criminal activities and even offer protection for informants, undercover officers etc (Ratcliffe 2003).

Though there can be plenty of advantages identified with surveillance there are also many causes for concern in relation as well (Dunham and Alpert 2015). The process of data collection itself can be viewed as questionable, especially amongst those that value their privacy (Bell and Wood 2006). Technology provides people and officers access to pools of data with ease (Ball and Wood 2006). Such feats would not have been imaginable in the past and thus brings in questions of realistic expectations of privacy and the correctness of the attainment and use of this information (Newton and Welch 2013). Forms of surveillance can be found all over society today through CCTV, email, chipped passports, policing patrols and so on. Creating a rise in security and along with it increased public awareness and concern that ‘Big Brother’ is watching their every move (Ball and Wood 2006). Fears of constant surveillance prompts negative reactions towards the authority figures (Ball and woods 2006). Concerns of tracking and monitoring the innocent and victims in the pursuit of potential perpetrators, tracking specific individuals who are considered potential perpetrators affixes questions of Human Rights and what constitutes as an invasion of privacy (Dunham and Alpert 2015). As such, there needs to be a measure of rationality in the use of such techniques (Ericson and Haggerty 1997). Ratcliffe (2002) presents the example of proportionality when considering the policing of anti-social youths. The distribution of a full surveillance team would be considered by many a repressive overreaction, that would considered a display of power through the use of scare tactics against the deviant youths of society (Ratcliffe 2002, 53-66). In an effort to combat such tyrannical practices the UK police adhere to a set of ethics and codes founded on principals of proportionality whereby such infringement must be vindicated through the gravity of offences further ensuring the integrity of the data acquired remains intact (Neville 2000, 413-428).

ILP is still fairly new in playing key role in policing process and thus it lacks worldwide theoretical context creating difficulties in the model obtaining complete triumph when dealing with crime (Ratcliffe 2002, 53-66). Despite some achievement in reducing crime rates in certain areas, ILP is multifaceted and complicated (Donnelly and Scott 2011). With no clear definition there are very few clarities to be given to its structure and enforcement which has caused many critiques to be circulated (Grieve, Harfield and MacVean 2007).

A lot of weight gets placed in the faith of the intelligence process and the findings and sanctions of intelligence operatives (Duyvesteyn, De Jong and Reijn 2014). The data obtained and analysed could contain flaws of bias as the data is collected by a potentially biased police force especially when concerning minority groups as targets (Dunham and Alpert 2015). There are many was to combat and reduce such bias however it is impossible to totally eradicate human predisposition, especially when they are gathering and inputting the data (. Further on from this there are vast concerns of an overbearing police presence in minority and high-risk neighbourhoods. Labelling theory tells of the process of creating a criminal though the identity forced upon them, the same could be said for the classification imposed upon certain communities (Burke 2017). There is also the simple matter that increased police presence in certain neighbourhood’s will inevitably result in more arrests from increased surveillance and awareness (Brodeur and Dupont 2006, 7-26). This then turns into a vicious cycle labelling the community as more vulnerable to crime than others keeping the need for the increased police presence, eventually leading to public resentment of authorities in those areas, resulting in high tensions creating antagonistic confrontations between officers and the public alike (Brodeur and Dupont 2006, 7-26).

There are core questions that need to be considered within facts of ‘information overload’. It is already clear within the police and through other security bodies that there are already huge databanks of information overwhelming the system so why is more data being generated. Information does not become informative until it has been analysed and deemed actionable intelligence. However, there is no sure way of proving that any of the raw data collected will become useful in the fight against crime (Dunham and Alpert 2015).

Ultimately, intelligence-led policing has been depicted as a fragment of a larger governmental tendency to blur lines between nationwide security and local policing, jeopardising the same hazards that have tainted policing previously. Opening opportunities of political intrusion, the violation of public rights, and allowing for increased potential of the exploitation and misuse of police authority due to amplified secrecy resulting from intelligence operations (Pickering 2004, 211-226).

In conclusion, intelligence led policing is a framework that needs much consideration and revision before it can be considered truly effective and applicable to society. Elements of intelligence gathering have been seen to work in reducing crime rates however there needs to be an established worldwide understanding of what ILP actually is in its core elements. From this the critiques can then be ironed out and combatted to create a system that provides consistency and reliability within policing in society finding ways to work around infringements of privacy that could eventually cost the police the support of the public.  

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Overview of Intelligence Led Policing (ILP). (2022, April 08). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 18, 2022, from
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Overview of Intelligence Led Policing (ILP). [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 18 May 2022].
Overview of Intelligence Led Policing (ILP) [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2022 Apr 08 [cited 2022 May 18]. Available from:
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