My research project
A Critical Examination of the Operation of Intelligence Processes.
During the 1990s serious and organised crime moved to the top of the agenda for policing internationally. This shift occurred during the same period that new information and communications technologies were being adopted across the policing sector in most European countries, a shift known as the risk of intelligence- led policing (ILP). this term was originally used to describe an approach to crime reduction that moved resources away from retrospective crime investigations into pre-emptive operations based on analysed intelligence.
In support of ILP, the National Intelligence Model was first piloted in England and Wales in 2000 as a decision making model, which described the different roles, responsibilities and procedures in an ILP environment. Some argue the NIM provides what is considered a useful framework for understanding the different elements investigators must process information through.
Since 9/11 and 7/7 bombings the scale of threat that the UK face increased significantly and unfortunately there is no guarantee to prevent all attacks as we have seen. There will always be gaps in ILP and decision- making, however despite Section 39(a) of the Police Act 1996 stating that the NIM supports operational policing through Intelligence- led decision making I strongly disagree. Not only does ILP influence police officers to not react to events as they happen, but rather use the knowledge already acquired to determine crime trends which will then lead the investigation. But most importantly, ILP develops quick resolutions and influences police officers to (unintentionally or intentionally) misinterpret information, refer to organisational pathologies, culture, blue skied thinking, lack of awareness. Arguably, these are ingredients to inadequate decision- making during investigations.
Following on from my masters research- An exploration of the cognitive processes when analysing information which can lead to intelligence failures, I decided to continue my academic studies and focus my PhD research on police reform in terms of ILP, providing a higher degree of contextual specificity in order to understand if ILP has transformed policing for the better.
The research aimed to discover what cognitive processes functions are engaged when analysing information and to identify what affects the cognitive processes that lead to intelligence failures. In order to achieve these aims, three objectives were formulated: (i) to critically analyse the existing literature surrounding intelligence failures and explore how policies in the UK contribute to intelligence organisations (ii) through interviews with professionals critically examine how decisions are made and determine how the cognitive process functions when analysing information through the Intelligence Model, (iii) to investigate practitioners perceptions and opinions on why intelligence failures occur through interviewing respondents.
This study employed a qualitative approach, drawing upon secondary literature surrounding intelligence failures through books, journals and articles and on primary data by interviewing professionals employed by intelligence organisations in England. Although this research focused on how analyst make decisions when using the Intelligence Model the interviewees were asked about personal experience of strategies and methods the professional would suggest to future analysts to prevent intelligence failures. This provided an insight to alternative strategies to deal with cognitive intelligence failures.
This research exposes that intelligence failures can occur from 'cultures', whereby, defining intelligence show a discrepancy, internal pressures on the organisations which affects analysts decision making and senior officers not paying attention to analysts. The differentiated response by professionals to the cause of intelligence failures is sharing information between organisations which is affected by, attitudes and values and analysts not fully aware of the cognitive weaknesses when making decisions such as hindsight bias and making the information 'dirty'.
The study concluded that analysts need to acknowledge cognitive processes utilised when making decisions and how those processes can limit the decision- making process our to the lack of awareness in relation to the brains weaknesses. Analysts must avoid utilising hindsight bias or other short cuts to help make decisions or pre determine the outcome of an investigation, as this can cause the information to become dirty before the analysis has been conducted- as history shows.
To avoid any misinterpretation of the information, the intelligence community must create an environment which includes critical thinking and critical thought even within fast- moving operational scenarios; analysts must be able to challenge not only the individuals decisions but others around them.