Re-imagining Policing: Using the JSOC/CIA F3EAD Model to Lower Crime

By William Gage, MTI Contributor


May 2, 2011, Operation Neptune Spear. The raid that killed Osama Bin Laden.  Much has been written about the raid conducted by U.S. Navy Seals of the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, or DEVGRU.  There was even a Hollywood movie about the raid titled, “Zero Dark Thirty.” Most of what has been written and displayed on the big screen has been on the men, the gear, and arguments over who took the final lethal shot on Bin Laden.   Very little has been written on the painstaking efforts made by intelligence analysts that spent years and thousands and thousands of hours poring over tiny pieces of micro-data recovered from raids by Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) commandos in Iraq and Afghanistan.   

Author Mark Bowden, in his work “The Finish,” chronicles all the intelligence work that went into Operation Neptune Spear.  Bowden focuses on the method by which the intelligence data was collected by operators during raids, and then given to the intelligence community to synthesize.  The intelligence community would then provide more data on additional terrorist targets, which would let to another raid, and the cycle would continue.  Operators were encouraged to conduct Sensitive Site Exploitation (SSE) operations after a raid was conducted.   Specific focus was placed onto what became known as “pocket lint,” or tiny pieces of micro-data. These included handwritten notes, phone numbers, addresses, etc. And always cell phones.   A particular focus was also placed on developing human sources of information (HUMINT) to complement the intelligence gathered during the raid. 

This fusion of intelligence and special operations became known as find, fix, finish, or F3EAD cycle: Find, Fix Finish, Exploit, Analyze and Disseminate.   

Legacy policing models in the United States are outdated.   Violent crime is on the rise.  The public are demanding that the police do more to lower crime without resorting to older policing methods that only focused on deterrence through incarceration and arrests.  Old policing models such as random traffic stops are not effective.   Could using the F3EAD model work in local policing in the U.S.?  Could it be used to help the violent crime rate in the U.S.?


Quick Note on Crime Stats

Many politicians, unelected bureaucrats and academics have attempted to accurately measure crime statistics and propose methods to lower crime since the dawn of modern policing.   As a result, there have been many crime and crime reduction studies and proposals from the academic world.  Also, politicians have promised solutions to lower crime and make communities safer.   Regardless of academia’s theories and politician’s promises, it is impossible to predict human behavior.  Crime happens because of human emotions such as selfishness, greed, anger, jealousy etc. and external environmental factors such as racism, economics, and poor parenting.   

Human emotions aside, most academic studies on crime reduction argue that there are three main methods to reduce crime.  These methods are: (1) targeting the underlying causes of crime (2) increasing the difficulty of offending by reducing opportunities to commit crime, and (3) deterring potential offenders by ensuring that the cost of offending is greater than the benefits. 

This article is not a sociological exercise about poverty and racism, although these obviously play a large role in causing criminal behavior (see # 1 above).  This article is also not about making businesses and citizens hardened targets (see # 2 above).  I want to focus on number 3: deterring potential offenders by ensuring that the cost of offending or re-offending is greater than the benefits, i.e., going to jail and going to jail for a long time.  However, it should be obvious to anyone by now that we cannot simply arrest our way to safer communities.  

Old policing models of zero tolerance enforcement policies (see Broken Windows) and stop and frisk (see New York City Police Department) have only exacerbated already heightened racial tensions and harmed the fragile police citizen relationship in some communities.    However, what we should be doing is focusing our law enforcement efforts on the most violent chronic offenders in our communities and removing them from the street.  Using the Find, Fix, Finish model here is how that might look.  



Violent crime is committed by relatively few individuals. 5 percent of the criminal offenders (not 5 percent of the general population) in a given city commit about 50 percent of that city’s violent crime. Surprisingly, one study  of violent crime in Sweden found that just 1 percent of offenders were responsible for over 60 percent of violent crime.  

Additionally, one study  showed that violent offenders (those committing rape, robbery, murder, aggravated assaults) reoffend or do not comply with their probation/parole conditions within two years at rates exceeding 60%.   And over 25% go on to commit more violent offenses, usually within 18 months or sometimes sooner.   

We do not need to find these violent individuals.  They are already in our communities.  So how do we accomplish the FIND?  

First, police departments should have crime analysts compile a list of chronic offenders.  The list should contain persons arrested for violent offenses ( Part I crimes rape/homicide/robbery/violent assaults) within the past 5 years.  A statistical score should be given to each person based on the number of violent crime arrests in the past 5 years.  The more arrests for violent offenses, the higher a given person will be on the list.  Those that do not commit any additional violent offenses are removed from the list after 5 years.  

Being on the list is not a scarlet letter.  Additionally, being on the list does not serve as reasonable suspicion or probable cause for the police to detain someone in any manner.  It simply provides the police with a list of individuals, based on statistics, most likely to commit violent crime.  

Second, armed with the chronic offender list police can now begin to track those most prone to committing violent acts as those persons are released from incarceration.  This is important because based on the statistics, 25% of those arrested for violent offenses re-offend by committing a violent offense within 18 months.   Probation and parole officers should notify departments immediately when someone convicted of a violent crime has been released into the community, either through completion of sentence or on supervised released.  

Officers can now encourage these individuals not to re-offend when they encounter them in the community.  It could be as simple as an officer encountering a chronic offender recently released during a call for service (loud party, narcotics call, disorderly persons etc.) and letting them know “hey….you do not need this. Go home.”    

As part of the tracking process departments should also be immediately notified when a person arrested or convicted of a violent crime violates the terms of pre-trial release or probation/parole.  The sooner this person is located and re-arrested, the less likelihood that they re-offend by committing additional violent crimes.  However, often these people are not on anyone’s radar.  

Frequently, violent offenders violate terms of pre-trial release or probation/parole, and a warrant for their arrest is issued.  But no one is actively looking for them.  These types of arrest warrants, sometimes called bench warrants or capias, are rarely followed up on.  Meanwhile, these violent individuals, now with active arrest warrants are roaming the community committing violent acts.  This is where the focus should be: removing violent individuals that have active arrest warrants from the street.   

Third, police departments need to enhance operational agreements with state Intelligence Fusion Centers.   Intel Fusion Centers were originally stood up after 9/11 to address terror threats within the U.S.  These Fusion Centers should develop new areas of focus to include developing criminal intelligence on violent individuals in our communities.  This intelligence should focus on those responsible for past Part I crimes and keeping track of violent criminal offenders who are wanted for other offenses, or on supervised release.  

There are roughly 18,000 police departments in the United States.  90% of police departments in the United States have fewer than 50 police officers.  Very few, if any, police departments have robust criminal intelligence or crime analyst sections.   The fusion centers could fill in the gap for smaller police agencies that do not have criminal intelligence sections.   Fusion Centers are state and federally funded.  There are currently 72 in the U.S.  There would be no burdensome start-up costs for already strapped government budgets.  This resource already exists. 



Once the police receive criminal intelligence that a violent offender is wanted, the full gamut of intelligence collection should be applied by a competent and professional crime analyst.  The collected intelligence should include cell phone carriers, cell phone numbers, current addresses of family members, and current addresses of former girlfriends/wives.  Also, so-called “patterns of life” should be developed including employment history, or previous locations of police interactions (gas stations/hangouts etc.).  Every attempt should be made by the police to take this person into custody without force.  

Family members, girlfriends, wives, friends etc. should be notified of their loved one’s wanted status.   Usually, offenders know that they have violated the terms of their release.  It is no secret.   Family members and associates should be contacted by the police, usually in person, and attempts should be made to convince them to assist the police in getting the offender into custody.   In some communities there is a lot of distrust of the police.   Not every family member or friend of an offender will assist the police.  I am not naïve, but in my experience, no one wants to see their loved one involved in a potential lethal encounter with the police and when asked properly they might assist in getting their loved one into custody safely.  



Once a wanted violent offender is located, and their location confirmed, police must arrest this person as soon as safely possible.  There has been increased scrutiny on police tactical operations in the past 5-10 years.  This scrutiny involves police tactical teams using lethal force.   Volumes could be written on proper police tactical operations, and tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) for police tactical teams.   I have seen police officers get into physical altercations over tactical arguments.  Never talk religion, politics, or tactics.  Therefore, I will not cover or argue a position on police tactical TTPs in this article.    

However, I do want to emphasize that that during the FIX phase the police should have the best training (by qualified experienced instructors), the best gear (less lethal/gas/night vision/armored vehicles etc..) and have access to exhaustive real time intelligence.  The goal of any police tactical team in the FINISH phase should be to overwhelm and subdue an arrest target WITHOUT USING FORCE IF POSSIBLE by using superior training, using the best available gear, and equipped with comprehensive real time intelligence.  


Some localities are trying a version of this approach. Cincinnanti, Las Vegas, Dallas  are experimenting with this new model of policing and crime reduction.   Focused investigations and targeting arrests on specific violent individuals have resulted in 39%  reduction in gun related crime in Las Vegas.   This is not anecdotal evidence.   Why do we as a profession want to keep using old and outdated policing methods.  The public deserves better.  


Bill is a proud husband, father, VMI grad, and cop that spends his spare time reading, working out and endlessly debating the best Van Halen album.


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