Real Leaders

The Man Who Brought Silicon Valley Innovation to Law Enforcement Intelligence

Each day, throughout the United States and around the world, teams of law enforcement personnel strive to serve their communities by providing much needed, sometimes life-saving services. Despite the data-rich environments they work in, they don’t always have the proper resources to turn these insights into active crime-fighting or community building projects. 

The current age of rapid digital innovation is overflowing with data analytics and agile workflows. This has created immense value for the private sector, but states and local municipalities in the U.S. often lack the resources and expertise to take advantage of these trends. Recognizing both the complexity and the opportunity of the situation, Benjamin Smith founded Directorate 2, a boutique intelligence consultancy that serves the law enforcement community. “I’m fascinated with failure and experienced with success,” says Smith, who is a longtime army veteran, ex-policeman, and member of the U.S. Intelligence Community.

His work with Palantir Technologies that specializes in analyzing the hundreds of small moments that might go into a terror attack and joins the dots for law enforcement agencies earned him a place among the 30 intelligence officers to ever receive the Galileo Award — the U.S. Government’s highest award for digital innovation.  

“What we find in local government is the same thing we find in private enterprises — layering analytics on top of legacy workstreams, rather than rethinking how work should flow through the system, or which questions we want to answer,” says Smith. “Ideally, we should structure workflows to reflect the organizational architecture that we hope to have in the future, not what we’ve had in the past.”

While education and training have always been solid foundations for law enforcement, they are even more relevant during times of modernization. Conventional law enforcement training has typically been an instructor leading a classroom of employees. Smith believes this training model is expensive and thinks it’s partially responsible for the lack of enthusiasm among law enforcement agencies to adapt to newer systems. “Many local governments can’t afford to bring in data consultants to do this work, so we’ve leveraged online learning platforms to minimize the cost,” he explains.

Advanced training technologies and techniques can prepare officers with a combination of knowledge and skills that improves the effectiveness of law enforcement and directly benefit communities. On a national level, Smith’s work has raised eyebrows at the highest level. James Clapper, former director of National Intelligence, has said of Smith: “Benjamin’s innovative ideas have shaped the future of intelligence in the United States.” 

One of Smith’s secret is to train everyone, not just the analysts. Beyond his ongoing passion for educating others, he has served as an analytic coach and mentor to colleagues, trained foreign intelligence agents abroad, and even taught undergrads at George Mason University. 

Always with an eye on the future, Smith founded the U.S. Central Command’s “Forecasters Club,” which does reference class forecasting in the Intelligence Community’s prediction markets — a method of predicting the future by looking at similar past situations and their outcomes. 

“We know that bad analytics don’t look bad, they look ‘Ok,’” says Smith. “An organization should love the analysis it creates and constantly be asking for more. If that’s not happening, then you’re leaving a lot on the table.”

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