Small Wars Journal

Designing Law Enforcement

Designing Law Enforcement

Many crime control strategies developed today are based upon successes of the past. Given the complex nature of the environment, the chances for these strategies to achieve real success are limited. Design thinking and Adaptive Campaigning recognize and incorporate the evolutionary nature of the environment in their structure, allowing law enforcement agencies to not only expect environmental changes to occur as operations are ongoing, but anticipating those changes and manipulating the responses toward an intended future. Design strategies permit law enforcement agencies to be increasingly effective in disrupting criminal activity and reducing crime, particularly against criminal organizations like street gangs. To develop such adaptive strategies, law enforcement command staff members must first assemble a group of critical and creative thinkers who can take the necessary time to understand the complex network of relationships within and between members in these criminal organizations and who can use this knowledge to target those relationships. By understanding the environment as it exists in real time and continuing a cycle of understanding, designing, influencing, and evaluating, designers can guide their target through a series of intended responses. Used against criminal organizations such as street gangs, adaptive strategies target and exploit the relationships among middle-tier operators resulting in their incarceration and removal from the operational environment. Without these middle-tier operators, the ability for the criminal organization to effectively conduct its criminal affairs is lost, resulting in the disruption, destabilization, and dismantling of the organization in a way that prevents a power vacuum and the violence typically associated with it.

Categories: El Centro



Fri, 11/09/2012 - 4:39pm

In reply to by ViolentCrimeIn…


I have had a couple lengthy discussions with some state troopers who are also SOF, and with Maj Michael Burgoyne - whose writings have also appeared here - on organizational anaylsis. Maj Burgoyne's area on emphasis has, with obvious reason, focused on transnational threats. These discussions have shown, to me anyway, that there is some confusion especially at the local police level over what constitutes organizational analysis and what is instead more of an exercise in organizational classification. I've got something in the works on that thought, which hopefully will be out soon. The goal is to present a better understanding of organizational analysis to be used for fracturing criminal networks. By all means, I'd like to float you a copy.



Fri, 11/09/2012 - 2:13pm

I appreciate your writing here. Counter Threat Network seems to be the best solution to the US gun violence problem. By identifying the critical factors of Transnational Criminal Organizations and their associated Criminal Groups and Gangs in the US we can degrade the organizations and their ability to function in US Cities. Strategic targeting of individuals and assets will provide the best return on investment for Police and Sheriff's Departments facing shrinking resources and persistent threats.
Terrence Clark
Violent Crime Intelligence Division


Fri, 11/09/2012 - 10:32am

In reply to by pgriggs

Email sent. Stay safe.

Mr. Bertetto,

If at all possible could you shoot me an email at I'm a retired Military Police Sergeant Major working as a Road Patrol Deputy in Columbia County GA. I'm also a POST certified General Instructor and my Chief Deputy has asked me to teach a Professionalism/Ethics/Leadership Course to the entire agency. I recently read your article, "Toward a Police Ethos: Defining Our Values as a Call to Action" and for obvious reasons I loved it and was wandering if you could assist me.



Prescott Griggs


Sun, 10/21/2012 - 8:26pm

In reply to by Hammer999

No prob. I've got something dropping this week or next that might stir some interest - Adaptation of pop-centric COIN lessons learned in creating anti-gang policing strategies.

Stay safe.


Sun, 10/21/2012 - 7:33pm

In reply to by JohnBertetto

Your mini version was enough. It confirmed a couple thoughts I had on the subject. keep stuff like that comming! Thanks for the time.


Sun, 10/21/2012 - 7:18pm

In reply to by Hammer999

Hammer, they have books and college courses that try to explain the myriad reason for gangs having formed, continuing to form, and for what purposes. Anything I add will be entirely too anecdotal, unreferenced, and lacking. But here's the exceptionally brief version.

In the sepia-toned days of yore, many gangs formed for protection, be that from other nationalities, other 'tribes' from the same nation, or from safety from prison predators. Today, most gang violence stems from the drug trade. Here in Chicago, it's virtually impossible to separate gangs from narcotics. There are gangs that still feud over territory, to be sure, but those gangs are outnumbered by the narcotics trading ones.

I don't run across too many ideologues, be that ideology social change or religious. There are many gangs that embed themselves in local community issues and causes, creating a "Robin Hood" image to the public. These gangs, however, earn the money they give to the locals through narcotics sales. It's circular: the gangs give money to address the very issues they themselves cause. Why so many residents cannot see through this I do not know, perhaps it's ignorance or perhaps it's willful. I tend to believe the latter, because in the end you are dealing with residents who have to live amongst these sociopaths, and it's safer to avert a gaze.

It is my experience here in Chicago that the vast majority of gangs exist now simply to engage in narcotics sales.


Sun, 10/21/2012 - 6:42pm

In reply to by JohnBertetto

Thanks for responding. I figured that promoting to replace to due to losses would as you said put in less experianced, less capable players on the feild, making more mistakes, taking more risks, not as in tune with opsec... Making them easier to clean out during the next round. The same thing happens (though occasionally a smart one does move up) over in the sandy places. As I am far more familiar with that area than here a couple more questions. Obviously monetary gain is a large reason (and maybe the biggest, you tell me) we have gangs here in the states (again we see that across the water as well, generally very low level and not regular players). In the sand we run across political, religious (I think a few thrill seekers to, to be honest) and those who have some grip with the current situation forming the groups etc. What are other reasons why gangs form here in the states? I have heard protection? And could you give examples. Also from a LE point of veiw the difference in gangs and types of gangs you encounter?


Sun, 10/21/2012 - 5:55pm

In reply to by Hammer999

I feel you, and thanks for commenting again.

Gangsters are like sharks - they are territorial. Typically one of two things occurs relating to dope spots. Either the gangs fight it out over the spot, or one gang pays the other 'rent' to use it. Certain locations are better than others, and this is why this occurs. Consequently, there is not a lot of 'shut down and relocate' going on with these guys. Further, drugs are a product, and as such each gang 'brands' their product. Standing down to reset not only means loss of revenue, but can be a 'marketing' disaster. If you're not selling, you're falling or you're ripe for a rival's attack. So, the 'reset' button doesn't really apply with these guys either.

Yes, an ideal sweep would be to target and clean up all of the middle-tier managers. Is this possible? Yes, it is, if the investigation is wide and deep enough. In most gang investigation, utilizing Title III taps, UC officers, and whatever other infiltration and surveillance techniques are needed,this width and breadth is practiced - but the focus is on the top layer or layers. When these offenders are swept up, the middle-tier cats stake a claim on their underlings, form a faction, and begin fighting with the other middle-tier managers from their founding gang. What I advice is the same scope of investigation as traditionally conducted, but with a shift in focus down a few layers of operational control.

In these larger and deeper gangs, the top level "leaders" are so insulated that putting a case on them takes time, effort, and luck. The middle-tier players, involved in day-to-day operations at the street level, are more exposed. Consequently, sweeping them up often takes less time and less energy comparatively. Hopefully, this forces the top level players to "stick their necks" out a bit more if they wish to keep things together, and this in turn makes them more exposed. If LE is already dug in deep and watching the gangs, we already typically know who these people are, we just have a difficult time tying them down evidentially. If they step further out from the shadows to maintain control, we can get this needed evidence.

Will the gang promote to fill? Yes, but these promotions are typically younger, less seasoned, or less reliable gang members than those whom they replace. Again, this leaves them exposed and they can be picked off, too.

Make no mistake, this is not something I propose to be a quick solution, or a one- or two-step solution to gang problems. Investigations must be on-going and operations must exercised routinely. What I do believe, however, is that this is a better was to attack these criminal organizations, better in that it's more effective in eventually dismantling the gang overall and better in that it reduces the chances for factionalization and the violence associated with it.


Sun, 10/21/2012 - 4:37pm

As I said my previous post, interesting article. I am not in LE (military) but I do have a question. You state by taking out middle mangement you can disable the organization without the assocated violence that so often accompanies shifts in leadership. Would this not create opportunities for promotion within the ranks or possibly recruitment of replacements to fill voids in the organization? I can see where it would be totally disruptive to organization, along with creating problems such as flow of product, rebasing of services, loss of income etc. Would this not require taking out all or a majority or the middle near symaltaniously to have a direct and quantifiable impact? It would seem to me that anything less, could be worked around. And by using the cycle you can repeat this as required, until you acheive distruction. Would not this method leave enough of the organization intact to either move operations to a new AO or a stand down to conduct a reset and then then are up in running again in short order?

PS. I am still no fan of drones and camera in America!


Sun, 10/21/2012 - 9:26am

In reply to by slapout9

Thanks Slap. I'm glad you enjoyed the article.

Yes, let me expand. a power vacuum is created when we target senior leadership and the gang is left without someone at the top to remain in control. This is different than when we remove critical players at other levels that create an efficacy vacuum, if you will, which prevents the gang from being able to relay command, remain in control of it's bottom-level members, and effectively conduct operations.

Let me give you an example from here in Chicago. Early in the year the CPD embarked on an extensive gang audit. When the results were tallied in May, the results indicated 59 active gangs with 625 factions. In 2003 there were 68 gangs and 500 factions. So while we've seen overall gangs decrease, we've witnessed a concurrent explosion in factionalization. Digging a bit deeper into Chicago's largest gang, the Gangster Disciples, the city records 30,000 members across 250 factions - in one gang.

Why are there so many more factions? Because traditionally we've targeted senior gang leadership and removed them through incarceration. Without their control, the gangs split into factions, and those factions engage in violent internal fights over turf they once shared as a single gang.

By focusing on middle-tier "managers," however, LE can remove critical operating layers without creating that type of power vacuum at the top that leads to factionalization. Operational efficacy is eliminated - orders from the top have a difficult time getting to the street and feedback from the street has a difficult time getting to the top. This is destabilizing, and either the leader must become more active in those lower functions of operations (making him more visible and susceptible to LE enforcement action), promote lesser trained or capable members to fill the void (leading to poorer efficiency and making the more visible and susceptible to LE enforcement action), or the gang collapses.

Two further notes on this. First, removing middle-tier managers and senior gang leaders is ideal. This will likely kill the gang or, in the case of huge gangs like the 30k membership GDs, the targeted faction. However, if this is not possible, senior leadership should not be removed alone. If forced to "choose," enforcement action should focus first on middle-tier managers, or enforcement action against senior leaders should wait until middle-tier managers can be included in the sweep. Second, removal of middle-tier managers is not the end of LE operations against a particular gang or faction; I do not claim that removing these mid-level players will destabilize the gang enough to topple it like a house of cards. It may, depending on the strength and size of the targeted gang, but I don't expect it to. Rather, it is the first step in dismantling that gang. LE enforcement actions that target senior level members, street level players, and gang operations (narcotics trafficking and sales) should and must continue. Conditions for collapse are positively primed without middle-tier managers, further LE operations cause the collapse.

Thanks for taking the time to read the article and comment.


Sun, 10/21/2012 - 1:16am

John Bertetto,
I thought this was an interesting article. I liked the fact that it brought the important point of focusing on the Relationships!!!! between parties in order to identify points of attack. But I must confess that I was a little stymied at this attack middle management in order to avoid creating a power vacuum???? Can you expand on that? or Did I just not understand it properly? I always tried to create as many power vacums as possible. And I tried to aim as high and to get as many memembers as possible. Drones are coming because of the overwhelming cost advantage, not sure at what level(maybe keep most at the State level) and to what extent but they are coming. As an old timer I like to to see the next generation of LEO's thinking out of the box.

My experience is not necessarily with street gangs, but with both domestic and international Drug Trafficking Organizations. In my experience the key to your investigation is information - without it you may still conduct enforcement activities, but you will not have successful prosecutions.

In my experience information (evidence) is usually obtained through informants, undercover operations and lots and lots of surveillance (that's where drones would be helpful). IMO the point of infiltrating an organization is to identify the C2, source of supply, method of operation, assets, and additional organization members before cutting the head off the body.

Title III investigations can be very effective at dismantling DTOs and I would assume street gangs as well if the members are communicating with phones Now that I think of it rarely have I been involved in investigations which had a great deal of success dismantling a DTO by starting at the bottom of the totem pole. For the most part I would say that we usually end of infiltrating an organization somewhere in the middle.

As far as LE management is concerned they are no different than any other -remain flexible in your thinking, don't be resistant to change, invest in your people, embrace technology, and most importantly GET OUT OF THE WAY.

Air support in LE is very expensive, but so useful for rolling surveillance operations. Having access to a drone/UAV to assist with a mobile surveillance or undercover operation would be huge. I would think it would cut down on costs considerably for local law enforcement - not having to maintain air frames and associated costs, but air traffic control would most likely be an issue.

IMO LE does go in too hard at times, but its from experience and lessons learned. I also think LE forgets that they (we) work for the public, the tax payer and need to act accordingly - but that also goes for the public -be respectful.


Sat, 10/20/2012 - 9:25am

In reply to by Hammer999

Thanks for taking the time to comment, even though this article does not mention or suggest either drone usage or patrol techniques. But since you brought it up...

I'm not entirely against 'drones' in LE, but it's dependent upon their usage. In specific investigations, aerial surveillance is necessary and warranted, and can even serve to protect the target when LE moves in for an arrest. Myself, I am not a proponent of using drones for a type of continued overwatch of the general public 24/7. That said, we've already passed that point. In Chicago and other cities there are cameras mounted on light poles all over the city, providing a constant overwatch of citizens as they go about their daily lives. Most of these cameras are unmonitored and the footage reviewed only if a specific incident occurs, but they all can be centrally and remotely watched and controlled, allowing officers to actively employ them as part of both specific enforcement actions and general neighborhood surveillance. Courts have routinely ruled that there is no expectation of privacy on the public way, and officers are trained that they may not look into any places that are not in the public view. Proponents argue that using these cameras is no different than having a UC on the street watching a target, but that they enhance the ability to do so by making it more cost and manpower effective. In this manner, I guess it comes down to a matter of how much public way overwatch we as a society feel comfortable allowing.

Regarding combat patrol v street patrol, in my city homicides are now over 400 for the year. Not a week goes by where an officer does not come under fire from a gang member. In the most recent this past week, two officers were sitting in their car when a subject stepped out and opened fire on their vehicle without provocation, firing through the windshield. In this type of environment, I think it's a matter of officer safety to develop some manner of 'combat patrol' mindset, always remaining vigilant and being cognizant of surroundings. Does this mean indiscriminately 'rounding up' community members or violating their rights? Of course not, but the real and constant threats to our officers cannot simply be shrugged off with "there are rough areas."

I think that if you to read the article youll find that the discussed strategy employs a very narrow focus relying on specific intelligence gathered from specific targets.

Thanks again for taking the time to comment and for your support of LE.


Sat, 10/20/2012 - 8:36am

What we need is some common sense in law enforcement, not more of it. What the hell does LE need drones for? On the Border... Maybe. But this "very necessary and needed tool" will be abused like so so many others. Don't get me wrong I am not against LE... But far too many of them think they are on a combat patrol, not a street patrol. Yes I am well aware that there are rough areas.