Intelligence-led policing

Definition & Introduction

Intelligence-led policing (ILP) refers to a model of policing in which law enforcement officers utilize data collection and analytics technology to generate intelligence, with the goal of preventing criminal activity before it happens.

It was developed in the United Kingdom and the United States in the early 1990s and gained worldwide attention following the 9/11 attacks. ILP is often enabled by data fusion systems such as the NYPD's Domain Awareness System, an emerging technology that automatically collates and analyzes data from a wide variety of sources.

ILP has been criticized by privacy advocates and community organizations, arguing that it could perpetuate heavy-handed policing in minority neighborhoods and unfairly target individuals and groups who have not committed crimes. However, it has gained backing from police associations in the UK and North America.

For more on ILP and analysis of its ethical implications, explore Carnegie Council and off-site resources below

International Policing, Ethics, & the Use of AI in Law Enforcement, with Interpol's Jürgen Stock

In this episode of the Artificial Intelligence & Equality podcast, Senior Fellow Anja Kaspersen spoke with Dr. Jürgen Stock, secretary general of the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), about the critical role of global police work in keeping societies safe.

Listen to the podcast

Data Fusion & Surveillance

Impact on Freedom, Security, and Human Rights

Discussion Questions

  1. Under what circumstances is it ethical to engage in intelligence-led policing?
  2. Should ethical guidelines be developed for intelligence-led policing? How, if at all, could those guidelines be effectively enforced?
  3. Does leveraging emerging technology in intelligence-led policing operations introduce novel ethical concerns as compared to traditional forms of policing?
  4. When it comes to how intelligence is used, should there be different standards for federal law enforcement agencies as compared to local ones?
  5. How can this method of policing be regulated across different nations?
  6. What are the pros and cons of using a utilitarian model (weighing the potential benefits and costs) to determine whether an intelligence-led policing operation is ethical?
Camera. Credit: Pixabay.

CREDIT: Pixabay.

Eyes in the Sky: The Secret Rise of Gorgon Stare and How It Will Watch Us All, with Arthur Holland Michel

In his book Eyes in the Sky and in this public event, Senior Fellow Arthur Holland Michel traced the development of the Pentagon's Gorgon Stare, one of the most powerful surveillance technologies ever created. When fused with big data analysis techniques, this network can be used to watch everything simultaneously, and perhaps even predict attacks before they happen.

Watch the Event
Camera and barbed wire. Credit: Pixabay.

CREDIT: Pixabay.

Artificial Intelligence, Justice, & the Rule of Law

In this episode of the Artificial Intelligence & Equality podcast, Senior Fellow Anja Kaspersen was joined by Thunderbird School of Global Management's Nicholas Davis and University of Virginia's Renée Cummings to discuss the impact of AI-based technologies on justice, the rule of law, and law enforcement operations.

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Additional Off-site Resources

Hard Won Lessons: The New Paradigm—Merging Law Enforcement and Counterterrorism Strategies

Writing for the Manhattan Institute in 2006, Mark Riebling details how local and state police agencies are merging crime prevention and counterterrorism models in their work, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, leading to a new paradigm.


Intelligence-led Policing: Changing the Face of Crime Prevention

This 2018 article in "Police Chief Magazine" from Rich LeCates provides definitions of intelligence-led policing, the theory behind the methods, civil rights concerns connected to the practice, and examples of how it's being used in U.S. cities.


Data-driven policing’s threat to our constitutional rights

Writing for Brookings Institution in 2021, Ángel Díaz discusses the many issues he sees with intelligence-led policing, including the use of biased, unreliable, or false data and data-driven harassment.