Matt Bonner, Black Rainbow’s Head of Investigation Technology, on how the true measure of an intelligence and case management system is its ability to produce outcomes.
My career in law enforcement took many twists and turns along its path. As a young officer working on uniform response teams I often measured my success by the number of arrests I made – I was always particularly pleased with those self-generated arrests arising from a stop check on a car known to be used regularly by a habitual car thief, burglar or even drink driver.
But often of course, they weren’t really self-generated, they were informed by team briefings where I would be told about known suspects, their cars and associates.
I moved on to work on a local proactive team targeting street level drug dealers, executing search warrants at the home addressed of those known or believed to be involved in the illegal supply.
Sometimes, the arrest of one suspect would result in information being obtained that would lead us to the next dealer up the chain and another successful search.
And towards the end of my career leading murder investigations in London, I would regularly use the information obtained from wide range of sources to inform the direction I took an investigation.
I have countless examples of murderers who were convicted and sentenced to lengthy terms of imprisonment as a direct result of intelligence obtained by others and recorded on police systems.
The reality is that at each stage of my career, my levels of success (or otherwise) were only ever as good as the actionable intelligence that underpinned the activity.
My experiences only go to reinforce the view that the true measure of an intelligence system is not how much intelligence is obtained, but what you do with it that counts.
I am not alone, in June this year, Asad Bhatti of Holland Close, Redhill, was handed an eight-year jail sentence following an investigation by Counter Terrorism Policing Southeast (CTPSE).
The investigation began when it was reported to police that documents with suspicious titles about bomb making were slowing down a repair process being performed on his laptop.
Although the witness did not know what the files were, he had some suspicions about the titles and decided that making a report was the right thing to do.
This led to a thorough investigation being carried out and searches being made of his properties and electronics, which ultimately helped to secure Bhatti’s conviction.
Speaking about the conviction, Detective Chief Superintendent Olly Wright, Head of Counter Terrorism Policing Southeast, said: “This case is a perfect example of how important it is that the people within our communities, the people who know it best, are confident to report anything suspicious into us.”
The court was told later that a search of the defendant’s home and a rented storage unit uncovered precursor chemicals and circuitry for the construction of explosive devices.
Experts also identified an improvised explosive device and three quantities of an improvised explosive known as black powder.
The prosecution said Bhatti had the explosives for “a purpose connected with the commission, preparation or instigation of an act of terrorism”.
Clearly, the use of Intelligence is fundamental to the work of the security services, as well as other agencies.
On its website, the National Crime Agency state that “intelligence is at the heart of everything we do. An accurate intelligence picture allows us to effectively prioritise action against the greatest threats and deliver the maximum disruptive impact on serious organised crime.”
There is still plenty of room for improvement though. In July 2021, HMICFRS published a summary of how law enforcement agencies use sensitive intelligence.
In relation to IT systems they found: “Unconnected and incompatible IT systems are long-standing problems for law enforcement staff managing sensitive intelligence. This reduces their ability to share and use it. In practice, SIUs are forced to rely on the varying quality of individual IT systems and the goodwill of senior officers in charge of those systems. Neither can be guaranteed.”
Reports of unconnected and incompatible IT systems are not a new phenomenon. UK Policing and the wider law enforcement community has struggled with this challenge for as long as I can remember.
NIMBUS, developed by Black Rainbow is the first integrated intelligence, investigation case and quality management system available to the market to start addressing these pressures.
Black Rainbow was formed with the sole strategic intent of providing a modern and innovative solution to market. Our NIMBUS solution is stimulating the future for the investigation sector, and our customers would testify that NIMBUS is the key technology policing needs to better manage investigations in this digital age and on the mission to protect the public.
The latest addition to NIMBUS is the Intelligence Hub. Here, organisational intelligence can be submitted, stored, tasked and developed. Stored intelligence can be quickly researched and where further development work is necessary, this can all be managed within the system.
As investigations become more complex and time sensitive, physical, and digital information needs to efficiently make its way into the central source of the investigation command.
This can only be done with systems and processes that allow an Investigator to sift through the vast amount of available information to identify what is relevant and what is not.
NIMBUS absorbs this information to rapidly understand and build a visual sequence of events. Designed to streamline this process, reduce data duplication, and optimise decision making whilst maintaining investigation integrity and disclosure rules.
The importance of Quality Management is the act of overseeing activities and tasks required to maintain a desired level of excellence, to effectively manage risk, without compromising on efficiency. This is only achievable by integrating all quality related functions and processes throughout operational delivery and into case management.
With numerous other capabilities, every bit of information is recorded in a coordinated way enabling investigators to see the bigger picture, with an effective and defensible audit trail, making it The Intelligence and Investigation Platform and of critical importance to policing.
By incorporating a fully integrated Intelligence and Case Management solution, the end user can ensure that they are not simply storing information for the proverbial rainy day. They can be working on the front foot, using intelligence to drive activity at strategic, tactical and operational levels.
Intelligence – it’s not how much you’ve got, it’s what you do with it that counts.