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Intelligence Cycle

The Intelligence Production Cycle

The Division of Intelligence applies the intelligence cycle to accomplish the tasks that fall under the Division's responsibilities. The intelligence cycle, as it pertains to criminal intelligence, is the process of developing raw information into finished intelligence for consumers, including policymakers, law enforcement executives, investigators, and patrol officers. These consumers then use this finished intelligence for decision making and action. Intelligence may be used, for example, to further an ongoing investigation, or to plan the allocation of resources.


The intelligence cycle consists of five steps, depicted in the following diagram and explained below:

Intelligence Cycle

1. Planning and Direction

Planning and direction involves management of the entire intelligence effort, from identifying the need for data to delivering an intelligence product to a consumer. It is both the beginning and the end of the cycle. It is the beginning because it involves formulating specific collection, processing, analysis, and dissemination requirements. It is the end because finished intelligence, which must support decision making and action, frequently generates new information requirements.

The intelligence process is consumer-driven. That is, the entire process depends on guidance from the consumer -- the end-user -- of the intelligence. Consumers from all levels of government -- federal, state, and local -- may initiate requests for intelligence. In addition, policymakers, executives, investigators, and patrol officers usually have different information needs. Thus, the effective planning and direction of the intelligence effort requires an understanding of the needs of a variety of consumers.

2. Collection

Collection is the gathering and reporting of the raw information that is needed to produce finished intelligence. To be effective, collection should be planned, focused, and directed. There are many sources of raw information, including open sources such as governmental public records, media reports, the Internet, periodicals, and books. Although often underestimated, open source collection is important to an intelligence unit's analytical capabilities. There are also confidential sources of information. Law enforcement officers collect such information from various sources, including citizens who report crime, investigations that are conducted, and speaking with persons who participate in criminal activity. To gather this information, law enforcement officers use a variety of collection methods such as interviews, undercover work, and physical or electronic surveillance.

3. Processing

Processing and collation involves conversion of raw information into a form usable by analysts. This is accomplished through information management. Information management is the indexing, sorting, and organizing of raw data into files so that the information can be rapidly retrieved. For example, the processing step includes entry of data into a computer, reduction of data, collation of paper files, and other forms of information management. Effective processing and collation requires an understanding of the consumers' needs, the types of information that are being processed, the collection plan, and the analytic strategy.

4. Analysis and Production

Analysis and production is the conversion of basic information from all sources into finished intelligence. It includes integrating, evaluating, and analyzing all available data--which is often fragmentary and even contradictory--and preparing intelligence products. In short, analysis gives additional meaning to the raw information. Analysts, who are subject-matter specialists, consider the information's reliability, validity, timeliness, and relevance. They integrate data into a coherent whole, put the evaluated information in context, and produce finished intelligence that includes assessments of events and judgments about the implications of the information for consumers.

Intelligence and analysis units may devote their resources to producing strategic intelligence for policymakers and executives, providing operational intelligence to continuing investigations, or making available tactical intelligence for an immediate law enforcement need. These important functions are performed by monitoring current crime and non-crime events, warning decision makers about actual and potential threats to public safety and order, and forecasting developments in the area of criminal activity.

Intelligence and analysis units may produce numerous written reports, which may be brief - one page or less--or lengthy studies. They may involve current intelligence, which is of immediate importance, or long-range assessments.

5. Dissemination

The last step, which logically feeds into the first, is the distribution of the finished intelligence to the consumers -- the same consumers whose needs initiated the intelligence requirements. These recipients of finished intelligence then make decisions or take action based on the intelligence that has been provided. This step should also include an opportunity for feedback, to assess the value of the intelligence that has been provided. The decisions, actions, and feedback may lead to the levying of more information requirements, thus triggering the intelligence cycle once again.

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