After the Webinar: Intelligence Driven Strategies. Q&A with Mitch Volkart

Webinar presenter Mitch Volkart answered a number of your questions after his presentation, "Intelligence-Driven Strategies: Creating an Integrated Approach for Justice Agencies." Here are a few of his responses.


Audience Question: How important is it to have an analysis policy in place? What is the best approach to working with the command staff of the correctional facility to get a policy in place? 

Mitch Volkart: Having a policy in place provides a guideline for your staff to recognize what your philosophies are, what your strategies are, and what direction you want to go in. It helps protect the agency and the employees.

Having an intelligence policy is no different than any other policy. It’s there to guide operations and protect the agency and the staff. I believe it is important. The policy itself doesn't have to box people in too tightly. You don't want to necessarily lock them down to only being able to do certain things unless it is necessary.

Ultimately, it is to communicate your vision, the mission statement, and a commitment to intelligence-driven practices. I believe it is very important and most agencies that have adopted this process do so for the policy and procedure.


Audience Question: I have a team of analysts and an attached detective, what's the best way to integrate the sworn perspective into that analytical process? 

Mitch Volkart: At one point in my career, I managed both analysts and investigators. In my experience, I often found that investigators took the approach of, "I'll go get my confession by using my energy in interrogation and skill sets to get what I need," without any pre-analysis before asking those questions. I found two gaps in this process. One is that not all investigators are trained equally in these skills – and so the results are inconsistent. The second is that you don't know what questions to ask without some sort of analysis being performed prior to going into that interview or interrogation. Without a data-driven understanding of the direction to take, it’s all “gut instinct” (which can be misleading).

I think if you can identify, it's obviously a selling point if you can win people over. Whether the detective will be onboard or not with the intelligence-driven process or the value that the analyst brings to the table, it is imperative to show those connections so that they will say, "I didn't know that person A was connected to person B." That's very critical in the questions that I would ask during the interview.

I believe it's a give and take as far as the parties at the table seeing the value that each one brings, and a lot of that is done through experience. We also do that quite regularly with the tools that we provide, for example showing the value the tools bring which then sparks more interest to have access to the tools. I think the best thing there is time.


Audience Question: How do you overcome the challenges of a statistics-driven department? As an intelligence detective, I find it difficult to provide command staff with the statistics they desire to justify the amount of time necessary to research and gather and analyze intelligence.  

Mitch Volkart: For me, it's trust. We have that discussion as well as a private company. A lot of people want to be able to hold you to a measuring stick and numbers game. Whether it is monitoring x number of phone calls at a given period of time. From my perspective, if I monitor 1,000 calls and generated one actionable intelligence item, or I listened to 500 calls and generated 5 pieces of actionable intelligence, which one would you want? Obviously, you want the approach that generates more actionable intelligence.

In terms of how you communicate that within your agency, it's got to be a balance between quantitative and qualitative. Work with those individuals and build mutual goals. Find out what it is they really are interested in. When I talk with our own partners, they come to the realization why how much you simply churn than really interested on the out which is very difficult to quantify because you don't know what you don't know until you produce it.

When I have those types of discussions, they generally come down to trust. We talked about accountability. Do you believe that we have the right practices and strategies in place? Do you believe that we have the right personnel who are trained and have the skills and the tools available to them? Do you trust me to hold them accountable to produce actionable intelligence? 


Audience Question: How do you select those fields? How do you start matching identities cross systems? Can you talk about the approach you use to identify these appropriate fields? 

Mitch Volkart: A lot of times it is part of the implementation process. As you start looking at technologies that can integrate these disparate data systems, our first step is to sit down and interview the end users to identify the data systems you touch during your investigations and analysis. We'll identify generally around 10 to 15 different systems, most of which are disparate that don't integrate.

From that point, it's really about diving into the backend of the data and looking at an offender, for example. Maybe the jail uses a booking number, but the RMS system is using a permanent ID, but the crime lab or the fusion center is using the State ID, versus another group using an FBI number. It's about diving in, finding the raw data and looking to see what correlations need to be made and how to make these correlations. It's some legwork, I'll put it that way.


Audience Question: In your experience, what systems typically provide the most useful information for crime analysis? 

Mitch Volkart: If we've got a correctional officer on the phone — their data systems may be different than what the law enforcement or policing agencies own. What I would always start out with is, think about reliability: The reliability of the data, and when people are most honest.

If you think about when people are most honest, it is when they want or need something and who they call for help. One of the most overlooked data points that I tend to find is in CAD systems. When people call for help, they call 911 and when you say, "What is your name?" "What's your phone number?" they're generally going to be pretty honest. You have to check with your local laws on whether or not the CAD data can be accessed. Once again, always remember that it starts with the legality of everything you do.

You just have to look and see what you touch on a regular basis. Look at reliability, from the correctional perspective. A lot of times it's your inmate calling data and visitation data, deposit data, etcetera. But it can vary from place to place and that's an important element of any tool that you look at.  Focus on what's important to you, not what's important to me or some vendor that's providing the tool. It needs to be flexible to meet your needs.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of "Intelligence-Driven Strategies: Creating an Integrated Approach for Justice Agencies."

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