Disruption tactics

In this post I’m going to put all references to “disruption tactics” that has been mentioned in public speeches by public officials, crime fighting literature and mass media. There is very little information about methods itself and a lot of time you have to read between the lines. No matter what it will ring the bell for many TI and is interesting topic to explore. With current emergence of new modern policing methods that are geared towards social nature of society “intelligence led policing” is based on creating intelligence product in order for police to be proactive in fighting crime. Intelligence comes from many sources – humint (informants), community, social media, statistics, etc… Now we can only speculate about safeguards and control checks for abuse for personal gain or criminal exploitation. How many times do we read about swat teams kicking doors of some wrong house in the middle of the night based on some wrong or coerced intelligence? Here we go:

Grant given by EU to Finland (in conjunction with 5 other European countries including Lithuania Ministry of the Interior (VRM – vidaus reikalų ministerija) as partner) to further pursuit the development of project called “Disruption of the Structures of Organised Crime through the Means of Organisational Psychology” (Reference JLS/2007/ISEC/AG/023 and JLS/2008/ISEC/AG/023). Of course the summary of the project is vague and nondescript, but it would be interesting to read it especially since project leader and her strong academic interest in psychopathy and stalking research.

Another cryptic, but revealing statement coming from Ireland’s Tánaiste (he second-most senior officer in the Government of Ireland). He is talking about Operation Anvil implemented to fight organized crime. Gardai is name for police in Ireland:

As we speak, the Gardaí, in the light of recent developments, have begun an intensified campaign aimed at the disruption of the activities of the persons involved. Deputies will appreciate that it would be counterproductive for me to give precise details of what is involved. What I can say is this: the Gardaí must, of course, act at all stages within the law but if the actions which they have been forced to take to disrupt the activities of these people are represented by the persons affected as harassment or persecution then in my view so be it.

http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/SP07000330 (archive.org)

here is this very interesting article by Martin Innes and James W. E. Sheptycki – From Detection to Disruption: Intelligence and The Changing Logic of Police Crime Control in The United Kingdom published in International Criminal Justice Review (local copy)

It is the first publication that i came up where they discuss disruption method in detail even giving examples:

There was a certain person who was a predominant person within a network, but there was no way that an investigation could get close enough for him to be arrested on the criminality he was involved in. But the research of the intelligence unit found that actually on a driving front, on a mundane driving front, he was picking up tickets for speeding, parking on double yellow lines, things like that. So obviously, he wasn’t that clean with regard to his driving situation. So it was assessed that possibly traffic could tackle him. So we had a main person involved in importations of all types of drugs, he had his own network for dealing the stuff. He was also able to provide other items, stolen items for other crime groups, involved in other crimes and none of that we could touch him on. So a week was done by the
motorcycle unit, the traffic department, looking at him, stopping him, checking his documents. Unfortunately he’s got a short fuse and a temper and he lashed out. He was dealt with for assault on police and criminal damage to a motorcycle and put away for three years. . .That was him out of the network, a main player, a main problem for this county anyway. But he wasn’t dealt with on what his core business was. (taped interview, Detective Inspector, County Force, Study Two)

Another interesting quote from “Assessing the Effects of Prevent Policing”, A Report to the Association of Chief Police Officers.

Disruption is emerging as an important tactical policing option for inhibiting the often sub­‐criminal activities of extremists. However, to date the processes of how to design and implement effective disruptive interventions appear to have been relatively neglected. An established tactical menu of options for conducting disruptions has yet to be distilled from practice.

In addition to the entrepreneurial mode of disruption, there is a more extralegal form of disruption used by police, where agents do not even attempt to effect an arrest or submit the suspect to due process. Instead, they design actions intended to prevent or at least make it more difficult for the suspected person or persons to continue to engage in unlawful activity. One simple way to achieve this is to intensify overt surveillance of a criminal target, but there are obvious limitations to the duration of this tactic.

Not limited to Police – SEPA (Scottish Environment Protection Agency) also mentions disruption tactics in order to fight crimes against environment:

4.5.1. SEPA will also implement more of a problem solving approach. This is complementary to compliance based regulation and enables the regulator to target its effort to achieve measurable results. For an environmental organisation, it means that sound evidence of harmful impacts or behaviours is routinely gathered and analysed. This analysis is used to diagnose the nature and scale of problems for selection. Solutions are developed that use bespoke and sometimes novel interventions, unique to the problem. Sometimes these interventions are within the organisation’s normal regulatory remit or require regulatory ‘discretion’ to be applied. Novel solutions such as covert tactics, disruption tactics, influencing tactics or partnerships could be used to solve a problem. Through a prioritisation and decision making process, the organisation allocates resources to solve a selected range of problems through start and finish projects or initiatives. Outcomes and clear success measures are set for each one and these are tracked and managed in a portfolio.

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2012/05/6822/4 (archive.org)

Police will use disruption tactics against it’s own if they suspect them of corruption.

The investigation of corruption was seen by PSU staff as different from conventional investigations. In part, this was because achieving convictions of police officers appeared particularly difficult. Further challenges include the demoralisation of forces and bad publicity as a result of investigations, hostility towards PSU staff by force colleagues, and the resource-intensive nature of PSU investigations. Ideas for good practice in investigations were identified, including: The successful use of discipline procedures or ’disruption’ tactics can, in some cases, be achieved more realistically and with fewer resources than convictions. These approaches might be used where the corruption is less serious, or where it may be difficult to achieve convictions. Efficient investigations might also involve focusing resources primarily on those most seriously involved in corruption.

http://www.levesoninquiry.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Exhibit-DOC4-to-ws-of-Denis-OConnor-November-2003.pdf (local copy)


Disruption tactics include strategies such as interdiction, deportation, threatening interviews, or almost anything that would prevent a serious security event from happening. These preventative and largely secretive, policing strategies are seen as more desirable and effective than conventional policing strategies that rely on victim complaint, verifiable evidence, and public arrest and trial. In a conventional policing context, these strategies would be seen as forms of harassment and intimidation and raise a number of serious ethical and legal issues. It was this use of “disruption” tactics in the name of national security that led to the removal of security intelligence functions from the RCMP
and the creation of a separate civilian security and intelligence service (the Canadian Security Intelligence Service: CSIS), establishing the principle, if not the practice, of separating security and public policing in Canada.

http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/rcmp-grc/_fl/eng/rthnk-plc-eng.pdf (local copy)

Another interesting sound-bite from Ireland. Really interesting use of word “dissident”:

Minister Shatter added: “Organised crime comes in many guises. It will manifest itself wherever there is the opportunity to make financial gain. It will have no regard to the consequences for our communities, for the pain and suffering caused to those who become its victims or for the disruption caused to, and interference in, our legitimate economy.”

Minister Shatter highlighting the link between organised crime activity in both jurisdictions and the activities of paramilitary gangs said: “All the trappings or orations in the world will not disguise the fact that what we are dealing with are criminal gangs. Like many, I resent the fact that these groups want to characterise themselves as ‘dissidents’. There was a long and honourable tradition of dissidents in totalitarian regimes. But what these people dissent from is democracy itself and the rule of law. They are not just people who ignore the democratically expressed wishes of the people. They are prepared to engage in the most serious types of criminality to fund their lifestyles. They are not dissidents but criminal terrorists.”

http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/PR12000271 (archive.org)


Disruption of perpetrator activity is an important tool in preventing child sexual exploitation.
All agencies need to work together to develop appropriate disruption tactics. Individual
agencies must consider how they can contribute to disrupting perpetrator behaviour (local copy).


And overall, of significant and lasting disruption to criminal networks coming from angles they had never even thought of never mind attempted to avoid. We disrupted the personal circumstances of criminals on five occasions, using intelligence-led information and our links to a variety of partners to impact on
their personal lives. Forcing criminals to sell their houses and taking their cars from them upsets them
and affects their ability to carry out their criminal activities.

Deputy Chief Constable Gordon Meldrum QPM. Director General Scottish Crime and Drug Enforcement Agency, July 2012. SCDEA annual report 2011-2012

So disruption tactics against organized crime is a measure that we have very little information even though it is deployed in many leading democracies. There should be public enquiry on it’s methodology and possible routes of abuse. What prevents psychopath criminal investigator from doing some extra curriculum activities by using some of his informants to harass inconvenient neighbour of his own or do a favour for someone?


2 thoughts on “Disruption tactics

  1. Lots of interesting links here. But precisely because you are one of the few to make an explicit link with what I think this is all about – not a mysterious conspiracy but simply disrupt policing – I am surprised about your conclusion in the other post about accepting it as a systemic problem.

    It is conceivable that the police are using it as a form of “terror policing”, i.e. when the general population sees what is going on, it responds not as one would expect in a democracy (“OMG, this is horrible, it violates A,B,C, we must stop it”) but instead as one does in a police state (“OMG, this is horrible, it must never happen to me so I’d better shut up right away”). But this will have the unintended consequence that the hardcore enemies of the police, of which there will always be some, will become even more determined to avoid unwanted police attention and develop ever more radical and possibly dangerous subcultures. This in the long run will become embarassing to the police and create unintended side effects – as can be seen for example in my own case where Norwegian police spent resources harassing me instead of detecting Anders Breivik Behring, the 22 July terrorist, who was quite careful to avoid police attention.

    In sum, then, I think it is far more fruitful to continue to study carefully the police’s discourse on disruption methods and expose how they sometimes violate the law even in their own writings, than to resign to strategies to cope with a systemic problem which is accepted as an evil but unavoidable given.

  2. I wouldn’t put blame on police perse for using such tactics as weapon. These people are given tools and are trained to use them accordingly without giving much thought to it even if it’s inhumane. I don’t see many policemen being thinkers and defenders of human rights. If they started questioning what they do they would be out of the force. They are enforcers, but they are also humans. People who can be driven and steared by motivations other than “serve and protect”. What about detectives who are working closely with underworld, using informants, undercover cops, balancing on the edge of whats legal and not? How about the tactics being employed simply to get rid of person who is perceived as not part of community or business getting rid of competition? So it all comes to personal responsibility in a new system that is designed to shield it from being ever revealed. Also it’s about power of persuasion without evidence in the system based on comradership and mutual trust. If you look at this experiment:

    Maurice K. Temerlin split 25 psychiatrists into two groups and had them listen to an actor portraying a character of normal mental health. One group was told that the actor “was a very interesting man because he looked neurotic, but actually was quite psychotic” while the other was told nothing. Sixty percent of the former group diagnosed psychoses, most often schizophrenia, while none of the control group did so.

    Obviously this strategy is coming from above and could be viewed as tool to respond to problems in modern democracies. It looks like simple procedure is:
    Intelligence led policing + problem oriented policing -> {discussion and initiation process} -> proactive enforcement
    So who and how defines the problem? Anyone in any oversight organization, community can raise the issue. I guess intention is that multiple organizations participating will prevent any abuses automatically. What if the problem is in the eyes of beholder, personal point of view vs law position? What if it can be misinterpreted? There has to be public enquiry into methods and tactics and procedures, so appropriate safeguards to be put in place.

    If you check this article http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/moslive/article-1262573 the disruption process is made to look quite transparent on paper since you’re being notified that you’re a target or “nominal” as they call it. For some reason they do not address issues that mother raised about becoming an (un)intended target too.
    If you look at Breivik case it’s obvious that police didn’t do their job. Intelligence wasn’t there since Breivik wasn’t perceived as problem by community. Even former airport behavioral profiler didn’t notice anything out of ordinary in Breivik at the bar the former profiler owned and Breivik used to visit. By becoming a farmer he covered his back to buy fertilizers. So i’m sure criminology experts will argue for makings eyes of the fishing net that supposed to be catching the likes like breivik smaller. Meaning more intrusive surveillance, so more intelligence could be generated.

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