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Intelligence-Led Policing in Europe

A Literature Review on Intelligence-led Policing in Europe

Intelligence-led policing is a relatively new system of undertaking investigation duties that are subsequently used to make law enforcement decisions. Being a new system that is undergoing development has resulted in a lack of clear definition. According to Edmund et al. (2007, p. 150), thinkers in the field have been developing different meanings for intelligence-led policing to an extent that an agreement on a correct definition is yet to be reached. The failure of the academia and stakeholders to agree on a common definition has resulted in a proliferation of definitions depending on the application of this system in writers’ locality (Flyghed, 2002, p. 13).

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There have, however, been some definitions that have been common among academicians and players in this field of study. The first one defines intelligence-led policing as an investigative tool that helps in assessing and managing risk that could be posed by existing and upcoming threats (de Lint, 2006, p. 4; Redcliffe, 2002b, p. 69). This definition is based grounded on the belief that understanding threats’ potential helps in developing countermeasures. In this regard, members of the police force collect information on threat capabilities and subsequently undertake the necessary measures to help the public prepare themselves. This makes it hard for criminals to unleash threats; police could arrest them before then.

Intelligence-led policing is also regarded as a future-oriented system that helps police departments become aware of societal threats well before they happen (de Lint, 2006, p. 3; Swanstrom, 2007, p. 22). As just mentioned, intelligence officials collect information regarding threats’ capabilities of destroying public peace. Similarly, these officials also collect data on the possibility of some materials or technology being used to cause harm to the public. Understanding how technology could be used to cause harm helps police departments to be ahead of criminals and therefore prepare adequately. This is regarded as a major advantage of using intelligence-led policing in fighting crime, such as terrorism, which has been threatening peace around the world.

A greater number of countries worldwide including Europe have been using the system as a guide to intelligence operations in respective police departments (Canadian Police, 2007; Sennett, 1977, p. 21). This means increased adoption of the system as a major input in the fight against existing crimes. In addition, it means adopting the system to develop frameworks that would help society develop frameworks that help in dealing with future investigations. In other words, it means using today’s intelligence to develop strategies that would be used to develop investigations strategies that would be used in the future. This is beneficial to investigation groups because they become learn from their current procedures on how to develop long-lasting strategies in their work (Pickering, 2004, p. 226).

The system has also been seen as Scott (1998, p. 80) defines intelligence-led policing as a problem-solving-oriented strategy. This means that intelligence officers are in the business of solving unique problems that cannot be handled by regular investigative methods; those that require extensive data that has to be collected over long periods of time and need high degrees of skills and expertise to analyze (McGarrell, Freilich & Chermak, 2007, p. 1509). Intelligence officials that deal with these problems get to hone their skills through the extensive data collecting and analysis that characterize their operations, failure of which leads to greater inefficiencies in the system.

Intelligence-led policing is also seen as an important preventative measure against future crimes (Wright, 2006, p. 120; Eck, Spelman, 1987, p. 120), as well as warning potential criminals against undertaking their illegal activities. The intelligence community in Europe has been using the system as a preventative measure by consequently informing the public on the dangers that could befall the public arena (UNODC, 2007, p. 200). For instance, information regarding possible terrorist attacks that could occur in public places is communicated to the members of the public before the said attack happens. This enables members of the public to protect themselves against such threats. By informing the public, argues Oliver (2006, p. 61), terrorists are warier of undertaking their attacks, because people would be watchful.

This system has also been regarded as a guide to operations of different activities in a policing organization (Zaitch, 2003, p. 10). This is because data that is collected regarding criminal activities helps in designing preventative frameworks. For instance, understanding the new kind of threat facing a society helps in developing measures that would be used by law enforcement organizations to arrest the culprits; forceful measures are employed on hardcore criminals whereas softer means are applied when dealing with some simple law enforcement issues. As mentioned earlier, intelligence departments in different European countries are quick to inform members of the public regarding possible dangers. This leads to communities preparing themselves for those risks adequately. However, this definition is faced with major opposition, the reason being that the definition is backward, that is it is normal intelligence operations should provide guidelines to the system (Hobbs, 1998, p. 410; Krebs & Holley, 2002, p. 9 and Bagley2004, p. 40).

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Another definition for the system is that intelligence officials are provided with materials to develop crime-fighting tactics that would improve enforcement of the law and prevention of future criminal activities (Mauire & John, 2006, p. 70). According to Young (1999, p. 155), crime and criminal data that is collected during intelligence processes help police organizations to develop frameworks that deter criminals from undertaking their illegal activities. This is specially made successful through the comparison of processes being taken currently, current results, and the desired results. Should current results be lower than expected, then the collected data is used to implement new strategies.

Intelligence-led policing also helps police agencies to improve their focus on identifying, analyzing, and managing risks as they arise in respective communities (McGarrell, Freilich & Chermak, 2007, p. 150). This is because the Intelligence community understands better the kind of threats they will be dealing with in the near and far future. All this is done through the collection of information relevant to the threats in question. Having all the data in one place helps intelligence agencies to understand linkages between these threats and therefore develop mechanisms that would lead to efficient solutions for problems at hand at both the intelligence and public level.

Swanstrom (2007, p. 22) has combined all the above definitions into a concise one: intelligence-led policing is a system that helps develop crime-fighting strategies through the collection, storage, and analyzing data regarding criminal activities. Kenny (2007, 240) agrees with this definition and adds that efficiency in the system can only be achieved through sharing of information by stakeholders who include members of the public. This calls for intelligence personnel to include the public in decision-making processes. Collaboration between members of the public and intelligence officials should happen at all levels: data collection, analysis, and dissemination of information to stakeholders.

The Application of Intelligence-led Policing in Europe

Intelligence-led policing is applied on various fronts at European levels. The fight against narcotics is an example criminal issue that is being solved through intelligence-led policing (Cope, 2004, p. 202). This is done through a collection of information regarding drug traffickers, drugs traded, and potential markets. Information regarding those aspects of drug trafficking and trading helps intelligence officials to analyze and understand possible routes for the drugs and their fore embarks on developing measures that would lead to the apprehension of criminals in this trade. Equally, informing members of the public regarding any exposure to the crime of drug trafficking helps parents and interest groups to protect venerable members of the society against drugs vice. According to a United Nations report on measures against drug trafficking, intelligence policing is listed as one of the most successful measures that have enabled European societies to reduce exposure (UN, 2000, p. 45).

The second area that intelligence-led policing has been used is in the fight against terrorism. Indeed, various studies (Heaton & Uglow 2004, 293; Brodeur & Dupont, 2006, p. 10; Erickson & Stehr, 2000, p. 90 and Heaton, 2000, p. 338) have shown that this system o policing is most effective in enabling European security agents to stay ahead of terrorist elements in pinpointing most venerable areas or facilities. As a result, European countries have been able to detect possible attacks and therefore take necessary measures in eradicating or minimizing the effects of any possible attacks. Even studies critical of the success of the system in helping societies avoid terrorist attacks are quick to note that the effects of terrorist acts would be greater were it not for intelligence-led policing. For instance, Christopher (2004, p. 180) has argued that the system failed miserably in protecting England against London bombings and Spain against the Madrid train attacks. However, continues Christopher, information held by intelligence officials helped greatly in apprehending those behind the attacks, as well as helping affected individuals and societies to deal with the aftermath.

The third application of intelligence-led policing in Europe is in money laundering activities (Thurlow, 1994, p. 94). Intelligence agencies are keen on collecting information regarding individuals suspected of taking part in such activities. This is done through greater collaboration between agencies in different countries. The sharing of information is done in databases owned by different countries; each country allows others to fetch data under the agreement of reciprocation (Goldsmith & Sheptycki, 2007, p. 107). When that happens, intelligence agencies are therefore able to follow on how individuals have been laundering money from one country or region to another. This partnership is mutually beneficial because both participating countries can meet the desired goals.

Fourth, European countries use intelligence-led planning to deal with human trafficking cases. This is also achieved through sharing of information between different intelligence agencies. Sharing of information between agencies helps in an understanding process that human traffickers take, from origin countries to the destination countries in Europe. By making such information available to law enforcement agencies, it becomes possible to apprehend the involved persons, as well as rescuing the affected individuals. In addition, the provision of data and analysis to countries of origin helps in developing mechanisms to help in a reduction, and finally total eradication of this activity in the source countries.

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The increased integration in Europe provides intelligence agencies in member countries to improve the collaborationist of their systems. Some studies such as Cooper, Nelson & Ronezkowski (1999, p. 51) and Haggerty & Erricson, (2002, p. 607) have argued that an increase in the Collaboration between member countries would help states with weaker intelligence systems to strengthen them. On the other hand, states with stronger intelligence agencies would benefit from accessing more data from the new member countries. Sharing information with greater populations in the region will help them well understand the threats resulting from European Union’s expansion, and thus help in the development of measures to cope with the same.

According to Edmund et al. (2007, p. 148), European countries are increasingly depending on intelligence-led policing to collect information used in law enforcement activities. This is further shown in ICAP (2002, p. 51; Fahlman, Robert, Peterson, 1997, p. 25) which asserts that the success of the system in individual countries and at the EU level is leading to a situation where agencies at the local level are adopting the system. Indeed, Gottlieb, Arenberg, and Singh (2004 p. 11) have noted that in some countries like France, Germany, it is the intelligence agencies at the local and regional level that are pushing national agencies to adopt the system, meaning that efficiency has been seen even at the lowest level of agency organizational stricture.

Since most European countries use the system throughout their intelligence agencies, it has become more possible for cooperation to be enhanced in law enforcement processes. According to Morselli and Petit (2007, p. 110), the cooperation between different levels of intelligence agencies leads to efficiency within the system. This is because the increase in data to be analyzed provides intelligence agencies with more information to be analyzed, which according to Chilvers and Weatherburn (2001, p. 39) increases accuracy probabilities that are used to develop solutions. This cooperation thus leads to the provision of highly useful information that helps members of the public to develop preventative measures. The culminating analysis also keeps criminals well warned that law enforcement officials are aware of pending criminal activities and thus well prepared and determined to take necessary measures.

Apart from focussing on the use of intelligence-led policing at the national and regional levels, Godson and Williams (1998, p. 70) have observed that European countries are increasingly using the system at the international level. This is being done through sharing of information with agencies from other countries. However, the only information that endangers a European country is shared by the other countries, who could not be willing to providing data. Just like it happens at the regional level, countries outside European Union also provide data on an agreement that they would be allowed to access the recipient country’s data. However, Ruggiero (2000, p. 201) notes that before European countries started to get information from other countries, it had been a common phenomenon to send local individuals to collect the data themselves; informants were also common. Some European countries have continued to use their intelligence agencies in collecting information that would be deemed sensitive by foreign countries.

The continued use of intelligence-led policing within European communities has resulted in a situation where members of the police force are tasked with the maintenance of law and order with more trust to their intelligence colleagues (Ratcliffe, 2008, p. 116). This has resulted in increased collaboration between two branches, which leads to success in their respective activities. The faith in intelligence agencies has also resulted in the police helping with information collection as they go on with their activities. As a result, intelligence agencies afford the time to concentrate on other activities, especially analyzing the data and disseminating it to the relevant authorities and members of the public.

The use of intelligence-led policing in following activities of high rate offenders enables intelligence officials in European countries to follow the culprits and arrest them. This is especially enhanced by sharing of information between agencies within countries and the region, which enables people to understand trends of certain offenses. In addition, information on international connection, which is collected through sharing of data with other countries, enables intelligence and law enforcement officials to bring to book greater numbers of criminals as well as dismantling their international cartels (Duyne et al, 2003, p. 10). The continuation of collaboration in intelligence-led policing international thus can bring down even the strongest criminal gangs (Levi, 1998, p. 341).

The use of intelligence-led policing in the European countries is also a systematic process that never comes to an end even when criminals are apprehended; indeed the system continues to collect, analyze and disseminate information that is used for other intelligence purposes (Kenny, 2003, 200; Weick, 2004, p. 95). The assessment of information on criminals or criminal activities helps intelligence to understand any connections between different criminals. This is important because the agencies can develop a mechanism that enables societies to deal with problems that could occur in the future. In addition, should it happen that there is no connection between crimes or criminal activities, agencies are able to hypothesize on future connections and thus develop measures beforehand (Klerks, 2001, p. ).

Fact that intelligence officials keep data for long periods of time means helps in future intelligence activities. Pearce and Woodwiss (1993, p. 213) found that developing interconnected databases within-country regions and between nations in Europe lead to greater efficiencies because more data developed from various sources increases accuracy rates. In agreement with that claim, Edwards and Gill (2002, p. 250) add that European countries’ efficiency in sharing criminal data helps in understanding crime trends in the continent and possible connections with other countries. When accompanied by greater collaboration between parties within and between countries, intelligence agencies are more able to accomplish their goals, chief among them being keeping law and order (Willard, 2006, p. 55).

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As illustrated in the introduction, intelligence-led policing developed from community policing that had been seen as less efficient in feeding law enforcement agencies with desired information (Audit Commission, 1993, p 26). Community policing was integrated into the by having members of the public provide the necessary information. This lesser role provided by the members of the public has resulted in some dissatisfaction from interest groups. Unfortunately, intelligence agencies have done little to ensure that members of the public understand the reasons behind the current scenario, as well as seeing that the public’s role is increased to satisfactory levels (Audit Commission, 1993, p. 11).

Intelligence agencies have provided the excuse that tasks performed in this process as too complicated to be handled by regular civilians (Tilley, 2003, 321). This has resulted in critics arguing that such excuses help intelligence agencies to expand their operations, much to the expense of civilians in their position as taxpayers (Hale, Heaton & Uglow, 2007, p. 303). Hale and colleagues have added that excuses provided intelligence agencies with reasons to increase bureaucracy in their operations. The intelligence community in the regions has kept mum of the accusations, which have been aired for some period now. However, a study done by Anderson et al. (1995, p. 47) illustrates that penetration of intelligence-led policing helps in reducing secrecy in Intelligence agencies.

Problems Associated with Intelligence-led Policing in Europe

Despite the success achieved in the application of intelligence-led policing in European countries, several thinkers have found gaping holes in the systems, some of which have to be sealed before matters get out of hand. Indeed, Pawson and Tilley (1997, p. 211, HMIC (2002, p. 36), and Weatherfo (1997, p. 119) have suggested that failure to deal with problems facing the system today could lead to greater failures that would compromise efficiency. According to Labrousse (2003, p. 28), the biggest problem has been the failure of intelligence-led policing is the failure to involve members of the public in the decision-making process, especially on matters pertaining to data collection. Processes used in data collection are sometimes characterized by the gross abuse of individual liberty (Redcliffe, 2002a, p. 64 ), the reason being that authorities feel justified in employing all measures possible.

Treverton (2002, p. 1) argues that the abuse of individual liberty in data collection could be avoided if members of the public are involved in the development of procedures to be followed. However, authorities tend to just develop data collection mechanisms with little regard for individuals they would be dealing with in the field (Ronezkowski, 2003, p. 16). According to Ryan and Rush (1997, p. 101), intelligence agencies use the pretext of national security to justify their forceful collection of data. Involving members of the public in developing mechanisms to collect data would lead to lesser abuse of liberties. In addition, members of the public would feel more obliged to help authorities with data collection, which would help in improving efficiency in processes involved. Adamoli (1998, p. 216) added that intelligence officials should consider taking members of the public as key stakeholders in data collection processes. Having intelligence-led policing working in such a manner has the benefit of being an all-inclusive process that would lead to greater efficiencies in the countries and around the greater European region.

Implementation of the system has also proved difficult at the beginning stages due to the number of resources and manpower needed to make the system work (Reuter, 1983, p. 111, p. 54; Passas, 2001, p. 53). This means that regions and countries must be willing to spend lots of resources in the system, failure of which would lead to the demise of their policing activities. For instance, law enforcement agencies must understand that manpower with greater skills and knowledge in collecting data will be required. In addition, departments will need data analysts. These two groups of individuals (data collectors and analysts) do not come cheap; agencies have to invest enough resources to get such expertise. In addition to the hiring costs, agencies have to ensure that the employees are constantly updated on trends recent trends in their respective fields, which could be done through re-education, participation in conferences, and activities that serve as refresher programs.

The lack of a universal definition and framework guiding intelligence-led policing activities in Europe, as well as worldwide, reduces the possibility of integration of different countries’ operations (Gressy, 1997, p. 11; Reuter, 1983, p. 111, p. 54; Passas, 2001, p. 53). This problem of failed integration means that intelligence agencies between European countries are not well-positioned to take the advantage of increased data occasioned by enlarging the membership of the European Union (Caldera, 2001, p. 65; Ratcliffe, 2005, p. 56). Failure to cooperate in intelligence operations has the danger of providing criminals with a free hand in their activities. This is because law enforcement agencies would not be in a position to get information regarding connections between local criminal activities and those of other countries or regions (Coles, 2001, p. 550; Deflern, 2002, p. 82).

The delegation of duty is a key requirement for efficiency in the system (Lupsha, 1981, p. 97; Cope, 2004, p. 189; ACS, 2000, p. 15. ). However, law enforcement organizations in several European countries fail to delegate data collection and analysis duties to the experts hired for that purpose, which could result in the de-motivation of the officers (Woodiwiss, 2005, p. 28; Dunningham & Norriss, 1999, p. 68). Having such a scenario happen at the lowest level of intelligence organization makes collaboration with other agencies more difficult (Sherman, L, 1998, p. 86). Indeed, Maguire and John (1995, p. 31) have found that internal failures in respective intelligence departments are replicated at national levels, the reason being that overall decision-makers do not have the necessary information needed to make effective decisions.

In addition, concurrent studies (Maguire, 2000, p. 332; Albanase, 2004, 111; UNDOC, 2002, 120; NCIC, 2000, p. 203; CALEA, 1999, p. 51) have found that specialists employed in data collection and analysis departments of intelligence organizations tend to develop cliques that seclude themselves from colleagues performing other tasks. According to Paoli (2003, p. 34), the specialists take their positions as highly important and colleagues’ work as less important in respective organizations. As a result, the specialists may display some arrogance towards other employees. De Lint (2006, p. 5) and Laycock (2000, p. 77) agree with Paoli and add that employees in law enforcement organizations tend to respond by displaying their operations as also important in battling crime. According to Held (1995, p. 112) and Weatherburn (2001, p. 23), countermeasures applied by other officers lead to the creation of work turfs within law enforcement organizations. This does not happen within departments alone. Two independent studies, Powell (1990, p. 30) and Walker (2000, p. 76) observed that protection of working turfs between law enforcement organizations among European countries has contributed to low integration and partnership levels. This happens as each agency tries to protect internal operations from being copied by others, which are seen as rivals instead of partners.

Another problem involves the usage of data collected in intelligence-led policing. Some studies (Zuboff, 1988, p. 25; Goldstein, 1990, p. 340) have found that lots of data has been collected through the system and has been saved in various databases. However, agencies do not have enough time at their disposal to deal analyze all that information, meaning that data that took so much time and resources just lie without being used. Instead of analyzing all that data and developing solutions to problems facing society, intelligence agencies have chosen to continue with the collection of more information, and thus increase backlogs (Europol, 2007, p. 115; Mathiesen, 1997, p. 220). This further means that authorities have to employ more analysts to work on the increasing loads of data, but the limitation of finances does not make this possible.

In that case, argues McGrew (2002, p. 211), intelligence organizations should consider developing mechanisms that would help reduce the backlog and get scent analysis that would help develop solutions to societal threats. Intelligence authorities stand accused of collecting inconsequential information that is filling their databases without credible reason (Gill, 2000, p. 17; Maguire, 2000, 319). This has especially been caused by the increased risk of terrorist activities worldwide, which has made intelligence authorities expand the amount of information collected from the field (Vellinga, 2004, p. 380; Sheptyeki, 2002, p. 15). However, there are studies that have come strongly in support of intelligence agencies’ increased data collection. For instance, Held (1995, p. 74), HIMC (2001b, p. 19), and Gill (1998, p 289) have noted that collecting lots of information through intelligence-led policing should not raise alarm because advancement in information technology will provide greater efficiency and productivity during analysis and dissemination stages, a sentiment shared in Ratcliffe (2001, p. 164; 2004, p. 81).


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StudyCorgi. (2021, October 9). Intelligence-Led Policing in Europe. Retrieved from


StudyCorgi. (2021, October 9). Intelligence-Led Policing in Europe.

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"Intelligence-Led Policing in Europe." StudyCorgi, 9 Oct. 2021,

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1. StudyCorgi. "Intelligence-Led Policing in Europe." October 9, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "Intelligence-Led Policing in Europe." October 9, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Intelligence-Led Policing in Europe." October 9, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Intelligence-Led Policing in Europe'. 9 October.

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