Consolidation is the Future of Crime & Intel Analysis

DuCOMM, in DuPage County Illinois

For decades, small and mid-side public safety agencies have been consolidating their communications centers. The costs (financial and other) associated with maintaining technology and staffing 911 call-takers and dispatchers have driven police and fire departments to share the burdens.

This is a clear example of economies of scale. Most simply, the overhead costs are spread out across multiple jurisdictions. The financial advantages are so obvious that some governing bodies have mandated such consolidation.

As a police officer who works under a consolidated communications system, and who has also worked under an in-house program (where each city maintains their own isolated 911 dispatch center), I attest the quality of a consolidated system is significantly higher. This has little to do with the quality of the people, but rather the efficiencies of the system that includes the people. It's a system where workload is (or can be) redistributed, which allows for the capacity to absorb surge demand.

These consolidated centers do a significantly better job at recognizing when a public safety incident impacts multiple contiguous jurisdictions, at trigger mutual aid responses, and in seeing links between events. Because of these centers oversee 911 calls and first responder radio transmissions across a broader geographic area (which includes multiple radio channels), they are positioned to have better overall sense-making for large scale incidents or smaller-but-connected incidents than isolated centers focused on smaller geographic areas. 

I'm arguing we get higher quality with lower price. That's pretty good, right? ("Blue Ocean strategy" is what my business professors might call it!)

Now consider the growing functions of crime and intelligence analysis in police departments. Every contemporary law enforcement agency employs some degree of criminal or intelligence analysis -- whether in a formal, professionalized position or as a collateral duty for records clerks, administrative assistants, or sworn officers.

But analysis is now in the same phase that 911 and dispatch centers were in during the 1980s: isolated, costly, and narrow in geographic focus. In a nutshell, they're inefficient and quite often ineffective. You don't think criminals keep their activities to artificial boundaries on a map, do you? [Daily, I follow crime patterns, some of which extend into literally hundreds of small individual police jurisdictions in Chicagoland.] Keeping an analyst's work focused within lines on a map is hardly appropriate.

What if we adopted the consolidated model of 911 centers for the function of intelligence? What if the costs associated with this were shared and the responsibilities broadened?

This would allow for the sharing of burdens that go into developing and distributing information across the strategic, tactical, case support, and real-time scopes.

Which brings me to the next economic principle: economies of scope, which is different than scale.

If we develop consolidated intelligence centers (and I don't mean "fusion centers" as they've been deployed post-9/11), we will enjoy the variety, quality, and speed or tempo of services that are possible through workload redistribution within a larger system

You really want to harness the power of economies of scope? Integrate consolidated communications centers with consolidated intelligence centers! There is certain co-production, shared input, and complimentary relationship here that can be exploited. I know the analyst mindset; some of you aren't ready for this change!

I predict this is the future. The costs associated with maintaining an isolated crime and intel analysis program, as well as a lack of quality caused by the system (not the people!), will drive integration. 

Then again, maybe it's just my BADM 449 course that's getting the best of me...

Or my ideas for a retirement job.

***

Lou Hayes, Jr. is a detective supervisor in a suburban Chicago police department. He's focused on multi-jurisdictional crime patterns & intelligence, through organic working groups compromised of investigators & analysts from a variety of agencies. With a passion for training, he studies human performance, decision-making, creativity, emotional intelligence, & adaptability. In 2021, he went back to college (remotely!), in hopes to finally finish his undergrad degree from the University of Illinois - Gies College of Business. Follow Lou on LinkedIn, & also the LinkedIn page for The Illinois Model

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