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How to Manage Business Intelligence

After 26 years as a police officer and 14 as a senior detective managing serious and organised criminal investigations I have an experiential grip on the management and use of criminal intelligence. This article explains how the police manage it, but it also helps business leaders to conceptualise where this fits into their organisation. Because believe me, you need it.

I explain:

1. How the police collect ‘information’

2. What they do with it to make it into ‘intelligence’

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3. How the police then use that product

4. The strategy around it’s use in the broader context.

So, What is ‘Criminal Intelligence’?

The police collect information from many sources. From direct physical evidence at the scene of a crime, like glass at a broken window or blood swabs from a physical assault. They collect witness statements and accounts. In the 21st century they will ‘scan’ open source information on the internet. They will secure digital information from devices seized from scenes/criminals. And they will secure information from the public and officers alike. In this article I’m focusing on the information sourced from members of the public and officers.

What’s the difference between ‘information’ and ‘intelligence’?

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These two words are frequently inter-changed by the uninitiated but they are quite different.

Information is the raw ‘words’ supplied by a member of the public that are detailed by an officer or staff member and submitted to the intelligence unit.

That information only becomes useable intelligence when it goes through an element of analysis/grading. An intelligence analyst will assess the information to try to match it to a criminal pattern or individual(s).

The police will assess the validity and provenance of the information and essentially ‘grade’ its potential use. Not all information is recorded on systems and clearly the grade will dictate the utility of the now intelligence. A problem in this process relates to volume.

Frequently there are ‘queues’ of information reports waiting to be assessed and recorded on systems and this can cause issues with time sensitive/important information being missed. The continuing need to educate officers and staff who submit intelligence reports for brevity and relevance is an ongoing battle for intelligence staff. It is a fine balance to strike to encourage officers to collect it, in and amongst the ever increasing volume of other tasks they have to undertake.

Clearly keywords are used to immediately identify terms like ‘firearm’ to expedite intelligence submitted electronically to allow dynamic assessment. Officers can also escalate the submission by speaking directly to a supervisor and not blindly submitted via electronic systems that most forces use nowadays. Officers also ‘grade’ the intelligence themselves pre-submission.

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What are the ‘grades’ of intelligence?

The first grade to consider is the provenance of the intelligence. This basically identifies how reliable the person supplying the intelligence is. Have they provided intelligence previously? If so, how acurate was it? The UK police used to use a system called 5x5x5, it was altered to 3x5x2. Three sets of grades, the first grade relates to provenance.

‘1’ grade would tell the receiver the person is known to be reliable.

‘2’ would indicate the person is ‘untested’

‘3’ means they are ‘unreliable’ .

The five system was abandoned because of a lack of use of some of the grades and officers using it with variance the system was changed nationally. The danger of this is officers not bothering to record anything when they ‘grade’ the person as ‘unreliable’.

This may seem intuitively correct but when you consider the way an officer views the individual, information could be supplied that the officer immediately discards because they view the person as ‘unreliable’ and if he/she grades the information as such why bother submitting it? Most ‘useful’ intelligence comes from other criminals and of course most of those are ‘unreliable’ in one form or another. It takes experience for officers to understand criminals and get the gut feeling for accuracy.

When the volumes of information being submitted are causing capacity issues, it could likely be discarded by the receiver in any case if graded ‘unreliable’. The truth is, however, the person may well be viewed as unreliable but the information they are providing isn’t and may well ‘fit’ into a wider picture of previously recorded information to provide the final piece in an intelligence product. So my personal view is dropping to three grades was an error because it will be stopping useful intelligence being submitted.

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The second ‘grade’ relates to how the information became known to the source.

A. Known personally to source. Something they have heard, seen, touched, tasted or smelt.

B. Known indirectly to the source but corroborated. Information has come to the person reporting to the police from another but it is corroborated elsewhere. It is important when corroborating information the corroboration comes from a second source and not the original source.

C. Known indirectly to the source. Second-hand information to the source that has not been corroborated.

D. This is essentially ‘anonymous’ and uncorroborated information.

E. Suspected false. Clearly not known directly to the source and police believe to be potentially malicious information.

Elements of the grades are then risk assessed further with information justifying the grades from the submitting officer.

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The content.

All police officers are taught 5wh. What, Where, Who, When, Why and How. After the initial ‘source grading’ officers write out a report in a professional conversational style with the intelligence contained in the report.

Times of writing and the time the information was received are recorded and each piece of intelligence broken down. Brevity is key to aid easy reading, abbreviations and jargon should be kept to a minimum. There should be no need to refer to other documents to ‘decipher’ the report.

Good receivers do cross match individuals mentioned to ensure the report relates to the right subjected criminal(s). Nowhere in the report is the source identified. Analysis the officer has done to corroborate the report should be included to prevent duplicity, for example an officer might establish the identity of the criminal in the body of the report by interrogating other systems.

Sometimes it might be necessary to further assess the grading of individual facts within the report, or even separate reports submitted altogether to ensure information is graded for each piece and not the whole where there are different grades. If the report is part of an ongoing or planned operation it will be identified as such.

The final piece of grading relates to dissemination of the intelligence. Who can the police tell, is it just internal or can they disseminate it more widely outside of the police? With ‘plural’ policing nowadays more and more authorities are sharing information to combat crime. Be they a local authority trying to identify best deployment of their wardens to other police forces with cross border criminality. It was this part of grading intelligence that caused most confusion and caused the change to 3x5x2

Risks with the intelligence and duty of care issues are catered for within the intelligence unit. Clearly this includes risk to the source, in case they are identified by the criminals he/she informs upon. On some occasions intelligence can be sanitised to prevent this.

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Dissemination codes.

Code ‘P’ This means the intelligence can be shared for a ‘policing purpose’. It is then further assessed to see who the police can share with. Local policies and procedures will dicate local issues but the wider context of the law comes into play also.

Data Protection allows the police to share intelligence even as far as to the European Economic Area and wider but these rules will again be under examination post Brexit. A lawful policing purpose is defined as:

  • assist others to protect life or property
  • assist to preserve order
  • prevent the commission of offences
  • assist others to bring offenders to justice
  • linked to any duty or responsibility arising from common or statute law.

Within those bullets a consideration then needs to be made as to:

  • are there legal obligations?
  • who is asking for it?
  • why do they want it?
  • what are they going to do with it?

In light of GDPR the police are undertaking data audits to identify all routes data takes through police processes and intelligence is just one of those areas. The overall aspect of sharing is to protect the public and that has to receive precedence once information is correctly weight/graded.

An example being all the rubbish being spoken about with regard to Brexit and how it will impact the sharing of intelligence. Of course there will be ‘bumps in the road’ while the bureaucrats sort out their differences but essentially I have every confidence intelligence will be shared equitably post the ‘iron out’ of the bureaucracy. Anything less could jeopardise lives, I’m confident these issues will not be allowed to stop, say, sharing terrorist data.

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However, the sharing of intelligence is fraught with danger. Even within the police itself. I was once the Commander of a local drug enforcement team and noticed that our operations were frequently getting ‘blown’. We’d have plans to execute a search in a ‘dawn raid’ when the criminals would be waiting with open arms for us.

Then we had a covert post ‘bricked’ by local hoodlums putting one of my officers at risk. At that time we could restrict the circulation of intelligence internally via our software systems. This was a bit of a double edged sword because if there was a ‘mole’ the minute they couldn’t read the intelligence they would suspect something was happening and alert the criminals. However as restriction was the lesser of the two evils, I had no choice, I had to restrict.

We increased the security around the office and I put the whole team on alert to share nothing with anyone. No loose lipped talk in the canteen etc. Within a couple of weeks I received a visit from a uniformed officer. An officer that had expressed an interest in joining my team. An officer that was submitting substantial amounts of intelligence.

He approached and passed me a slip of paper with a vehicle licence plate and cell number for one of our street dealers. Useful but not exactly case cracking. He then proceeded to tell me he wanted me to get this, to make sure I knew because he had noticed intelligence was being ‘restricted’ and he somehow tried to justify he thought I too woudn’t be receiving the intelligence.

He then asked why we were doing that and what was going on. Obviously I didn’t tell him and ushered him out of my office. I alerted our professional standards team immediately. They caused a covert investigation into him and he was eventually ‘required to resign’ after we linked him to the group in a gym and uncovered the fact he was a cousin of one of the dealers; not immediately evident because he was a different ethnicity.

He was digitally implicated in passing information to a criminal wanted for murder but this could not be evidentially proved, hence he resigned. This cop was a well liked, high performer and previous military veteran. I learned a lot from this, in that when you have individuals getting lots of good intelligence you have to not just praise and encourage but inquire how they’re getting it.

The review of ‘best’ performers in all industries should be an avenue of enquiry for management in all ethical organisations to ensure lawfulness.

Code ‘C’ dissemination indicates the ability to share the information but with conditions. This has caused some issues in terms of the ‘anecdote’ I provided above.

If we cannot guarantee information security internally, how do we do it externally? Regardless of position or organisation, information is power. Knowing something others do not is significantly empowering and this element of intelligence can be and is abused.

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It stops sharing and encourages ‘hording’ of intelligence product for personal/team gain. For example, as a Commander with intelligence a tier 2 criminal is going to be at place ‘a’ at a given time with a consignment of drugs wold be useful to a Force level team. But it would also be a feather in the Commander’s cap if he complete the operation.

On a broader scale, while working in Afghanistan securing significant intelligence against the insurgency, I had a devil of a time getting my mentee, a senior Afghan security sector officer, to share intelligence.

He and the head of the national exploitation centre were from different tribes and hated each other. They wouldn’t share a telephone call let alone product. So grading of intelligence as ‘C’ can be abused to actually prevent its sharing through personal/team/organisational gain.

However, once intelligence is shared it has to be handled in line with the conditions set by the originating agency.


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  • A1 covert development – intelligence may be combined or corroborated with other intelligence but action cannot be taken directly. Permission must be sought from the originator before action is taken on any derived intelligence.
  • A2 covert use – covert action may be taken on this intelligence although the source, technique and any wider investigative effectiveness must be protected. This intelligence may not be used in isolation as evidence, in judicial proceedings or to support arrest.
  • A3 overt use – overt action is permitted on this intelligence. This information can be used for: …specified by the orginator in free text.
  • S1 delegated authority – the originator of the intelligence permits the unsupervised sanitisation of the material in order to allow dissemination to a wider audience.
  • S2 consult originator – the originator of the intelligence does not permit the sanitisation of the material for wider dissemination without consultation being sought.
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Even with that level of sharing on some occasions intelligence is redacted to protect certain elements of it.

Internally the UK police leave much intelligence open to view to its officers. This allows them to stay abreast of what’s happening in their area and research people they are interested in. It allows risk assessments to be conducted for arrests and plans to ‘house’ people for planned operations for example.

The local intelligence units will produce holistic reports to guide operational activity in planned meetings, keeping track of criminals, patterns, and operations. These meetings will task work in an intelligence led model to combat crime and further encourage information collect, to ongoing threats.

The unit will also produce strategic threat assessments, problem profiles and other intelligence products to guide and steer strategic planning and operational activity. One area the police can improve upon is measuring effectiveness of response. Little work is ongoing to understand what works in response to crime patterns. Was it the high profile patrols or the targeted curfew checks that did the trick?

Finally, a clear audit trail is required on the journey through the police system so all intelligence can be traced back to its root with decision making and authorities on its use correctly recorded for authenticity and legitimacy in use clearly evident.

You Need Intelligence

No matter your line of business things that can go wrong do. Knowing the ground truth inside and external to your business can revolutionise how you lead and manage your business. And it can positively impact your bottom line. Here at HX5 Encrypted we provide IT to help you gather that intelligence. We also provide operational support to help you gain it, use it and benefit from it. And we can supply retired police detectivesto help you with any internal investigation you need to complete to reduce operational risk or stop internal crime and compliance issues.

Talk to us today to help you.

Author bio.

Andy Parr is a career detective and anti-money laundering expert. He served in the UK, Afghanistan and the Cayman Islands. He welcomes critical thought leadership and commentary to expand his own ability and advance the subject matter. Andy now leads HX5 Encrypted to help organisations get to the groundtruth in their organisation. Andy has led on every type of criminality you can think of. From murder to white collar crime and everything inbetween. Contact him to see how HX5 can help you.

Read all of Andy’s Posts here.