The National Intelligence Model

Paige Keningale, PhD Researcher

Introduction

Understanding the job of intelligence officers is comparable to a jigsaw puzzle; they begin with a few pieces, over time more pieces are gathered.  As analysts their job is to make sense of the information and form a report that others can act on. However, analysts can never be certain that all the pieces are necessary, or if all the pieces have been collected or perhaps come from a different puzzle. During the 1990s, serious and organised crime became a top priority internationally, which saw the development of Intelligence-led Policing (ILP). ILP reinforces problem solving ways of dealing with increasingly sophisticated offenders and to reinforce this, in the UK, the National Criminal Intelligence Service created the National Intelligence Model (NIM) in 2000 (Ratcliff, 2008).

Drawing on my master’s research, during which I interviewed intelligence practitioners about the NIM, this blog discusses the limits of the National Intelligence Model identified by my interviewees- culture, dynamic decision making and information sharing- and how these can lead to intelligence failures.

The National Intelligence Model

The NIM is a business framework which provides structure in a police investigation to process information and turn this into actionable intelligence. Innes and Sheptycki (2004, p.6) explain the distinction between information and intelligence thus:

Information consists of bits of data that, when combined and viewed together with relevant background knowledge, may be used to produce intelligence, which informs the actions and decisions of policing organisations.

The NIM allows information to be processed through different points of the decision-making cycle, generating intelligence to act on (Police ICT, 2019):

  1. Setting strategic direction
  2. Making decisions through the gathering of information
  3. Allocating resources
  4. Developing tactical plans
  5. Tasking and co ordinating activity

The collection, development and dissemination of intelligence allows decisions to be made about priorities and tactical options. The NIM works at three levels: level one- Local/Basic Command Unit could include low value thefts and criminal damage. Level two- force and or regional which involves more than one local command unit, advice from national experts and bordering forces. Finally, level three- serious and organised crime which is on a national and international scale.

The Limits of the NIM

In practice, investigators are able to leap back and forth between each stage of the process outlined above which could affect the analysis and investigators cognitive processes when making decisions. Gill and Phythian (2012) note, that police forces are at varying stages of development with the NIM, which means it is interpreted differently in different places, with police investigators having a varied approach, thereby contradicting consistency the model promotes.

So, is the NIM a hinderance to investigations or is it a framework that is instrumental in today’s policing? I interviewed six intelligence practitioners, five were from police forces in the UK. This included a Sergeant and a Chief Inspector; one individual based at the Ministry of Defence, one individual had twenty-five years of intelligence analysis, one managed a team which investigated cybercrime and the final individual was based in the RAF. They described problems with the NIM in three themes bases on the applicability and effectiveness of the model: culture, dynamic decision making and sharing information.

Culture

When referring to culture one means how police culture has changed since the forces adopted ILP for the better but also, how culture is a key factor in the causation of intelligence failures. When discussing intelligence failures (e.g 9/11, 7/7 bombings) two respondents suggested that errors can occur from managers being overconfident. Two experienced police officers expressed:

When discussing cultures, many emphasise a lot of time serve, so someone who has served thirty years despite their competence their views will be considered over a junior who also knows how to use the information, but they are not valued enough.

Within the police there is very much a focus on police officers that they have the voice and analysts are staff members whose voices are probably less powerful.

This sentiment is also supported by a senior police professional

Senior police officers on the outside world show they are changing and they want to share things, however privately they are still very much I am the boss and we will do as I say.

This is a concern as analysts play a vital part in every investigation as they are the main source of information. Thus, culture must change to a more open-minded setting where top ranked police officers listen to analysts and take on board the suggestions which the individuals pose in terms of how to act on the available intelligence.

Sharing Information

Practitioners described sharing information as a problem within their workplaces. This is supported by one respondent who provided the following answer:

Different organisations do not work together as it is classed as a hindrance to an effective investigation.

 Senior officers are guilty of receiving information but then do not know what to do with it and don’t share it appropriately to those who know what to do with it.

This is of a concern due to there being a strong emphasis on the importance for organisations to understand other professionals and agencies and knowledge of the tasks performed by others (Alison and Crego, 2008).

However, one Sergeant in a police force spoke highly of analysts

 My experience with police analysts, is that they are good at what they do, they won’t try to mask or embellish and they will say it how it is. I trust them very much in the products they produce are balanced.

From this, we could learn that analysts are valuable, and their voices must be heard. Instead of police forces just simply obtaining the reports produced by these experts, analysts must be seen as a key player during investigations, whom are able to make decisions and guide intelligence practitioners throughout for positive outcomes.

Dynamic decision making

Dynamic decision making discusses the pressures of the environment which the practitioners work in and how that can negatively impact decision making. One interviewee stated:

It is down to the analysts to take that step back, understand you are not going to have all the information all the time. The analogy of 80% of information on time is better than 100% information late.

Indeed, analysts want to improve their performance especially under such pressure however, to do this, analysts must remember their past decisions, knowing what they knew at the time and how the decision was made, this can be achieved by having a decision log. The effectiveness of the evaluation process and of the learning process to which it gives depends on the accuracy of the decisions under the pressures of the environment which the practitioners work under.

The NIM which information is generated through still has gaps and those gaps can cause intelligence failures. Many articles, books and journals focus on the analysts needing to be more blue skied thinking about the possibilities or too poorly focused (Richards, 2010; Gill and Phythian, 2012; Reiner, 2010. However, as one respondent noted, there are concerns with police training:

I oversaw analysts in the second biggest police force in the country and some of those analysts never received training in eighteen months.

Thus, the above comment might suggest that intelligence failures exist, not due to failing of individuals, but due to a lack of training or because the training provided is not of an appropriate standard.

Conclusion

In summary, taking all the above limitations of the NIM highlighted by my past research into consideration, for the NIM to be as effective as hoped, analysts need training around the model. But most importantly, police culture needs to change and listen to those who are vital to investigations- the analysts. However, from the findings it seems that improvement is far in the distance, thus my PhD research continues to understand the operation of intelligence processes, critically examining  how information is generated, recognising forward communication processes and understanding whether the NIM is appropriate for all levels of policing, all of which will be answered in my PhD research.

Paige Keningale is a PhD researcher in Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Surrey. Email: pk00517@surrey.ac.uk Twitter: @PKeningale LinkedIn: Paige Keningale

4 thoughts on “The National Intelligence Model

  1. Paige,
    Like you – I have researched police intelligence. First as part of my MA on the organised crime/terrorist Nexus, then as part my professional doctorate on the police firearms intelligence network and recently whilst researching the part played by a UK police force in a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to investigate organised modern slavery. I also have to declare some insider knowledge as a former Detective Inspector.
    I remember the NIM being introduced into policing in the early 2000s and it being viewed with some scepticism by many. It was seen as the domain of intelligence officers and detectives and it conflicted with other priorities such as community policing, as highlighted by Maguire and John (2006). I recall the argument and indeed the challenge was always around finding the resources to fully analyse intelligence, debrief major investigations to draw out actionable intelligence and then find the resources to action any useful intelligence. As ever, and in line with many organisations, there was a culture in policing that liked the old ways and did not like change. They did not understand the role of the analyst and as pointed out by Smith (2009) they saw NIM as empire building, where an array of computers, analysts, financial investigators, researchers and source handlers, amongst others, have replaced the criminal biographical expertise of the loan collator (I used to be one of those as well!).
    That said, by the time I retired in 2009, it is right to say that NIM was established in the UK. It was operated at all levels of policing by UK police forces and their partner agencies. Indeed, as Harfield (2008) states NIM and the European Criminal Intelligence Model (ECIM), implemented by the European Police Office (Europol), is evidence of the increased organisation of organised crime policing but it needs to go further. I have since found in my research that, whilst there is still a reluctance to share intelligence at all NIM levels in the UK and transnationally, usually as a result of efforts to protect sources, there is a ‘willing and able’ culture within the police (called for by Heeres (2012)) that results in getting things done and overcoming challenges in sharing intelligence and allocating resources. That ‘willing and able’ culture needs capturing to make sure it is a dominant culture in policing. Academia can play its part in that, by assisting in research that supports the police with debriefing and evaluating operations to draw out further actionable intelligence and knowledge that assists with preventing, investigating and disrupting crime (particularly organised crime) whilst at the same time aiding student learning; particularly those embarking on policing degrees (See Severns, Paterson and Brogan 2020).
    All the best with your PhD research. It is relevant and will add to the gap in knowledge on police intelligence as well as support the vital role analysts play if they are allowed to do the job they were employed to do.
    Dr Richard Severns (Sheffield Hallam University).

  2. Dr Richard Severns, thank you for your comment. I could not agree more with all the points stated. During this research i found that most practitioners believe that the NIM is a great model and helps produce great intelligence to act upon. However, some intelligence practitioners find it difficult to see the how the model has positively contributed to police investigations which reflects on analysts whom sometimes feel under appreciated.

    In regards to sharing information, i believe there is still a need to know vs a need to share attitude within organisations. You may agree, that there are many problems that have occurred in the past with sharing information, such as culture and accountability. All of which, is evident when drawing upon past surprise attacks, which this research did. Ultimately one argues culture and accountability has and does play a part when sharing information with the appropriate, which can then lead to intelligence failures… if that is such a thing as many academics argue.

    Thank you for taking the time to read this post.

    Paige Keningale

  3. Interesting piece of research thank you.
    Academic critiques of the police tend to default to cultural issues. I’m not saying that this is necessarily the case here, but it might still be worth adding a bit of wider context.
    ILP was developed in the 1990s following big rises in volume crime – in particular burglary, and thefts of and from cars. By the mid 2000s these had fallen away, probably for a number of reasons:
    – better car security
    – the market for stolen goods largely dried up. Consumer goods in general were cheaper and even old cars came with a reliable stereo
    – cultural – it wasn’t an ‘in thing’ for young males to do any more
    – influence of ILP etc made policing more effective, creating more deterrence.
    Because much of the highly patterned crime has gone, the case for ILP rests more on its ability to deal with the serious/organised crime side and also the protection agenda. If there’s less of a quantitative element eg we have imprisoned prolific offenders and thereby reduced burglary by X number – success is harder to demonstrate and thus the centrality of the intelligence becomes a bit less obvious.
    Good luck with the research.
    Rob Heaton

    • Thank you for your comments Robert.

      Yes, much of the existing literature does delve into police culture and the issues that tend to occur. Following on from this, your point regarding intelligence becoming less obvious and how difficult it is to monitor success supports a section of my thesis. This involves the changes since ILP was introduced and how Police services and other intelligence organisations had to adapt to the changes as you clearly state above.

      Part of this discussion relates too organisational change, and why sometimes (often in fact) organisational change is hard to achieve and organisations end up doing things for reasons other than optimal efficiency when managing intelligence. So, the ‘political issues’ or the various roles and hierarchies within an organisation and the ways in which people are accountable to one another for what they do can really influence decision making. However, adding wider context, i think will help understand this topic from a different standpoint, as at the best of times this topic is difficult to understand

      Thank you for reading this post

      Paige Keningale

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