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TSA defends behavior recognition detection

Monday, November 18, 2013

The TSA has defended its behavior detection program, known as Screening Passengers by Observation Technique [SPOT], against a GAO report that recommends cutting $200 million in yearly funding for it.

TSA Administrator John Pistole, testifying before the House Homeland Security subcommittee on transportation, said eliminating the program would result in more traveler frustration, including “fewer passengers going through expedited screening, increased pat-downs, longer lines.”

But some members of Congress said the money for SPOT would be better used elsewhere.

Some also questioned whether the program involved racial profiling. Pistole responded that "profiling has absolutely no place" in behavior detection, and allegations of profiling would be investigated thoroughly,” according to a report in USA Today.

"It's not good law enforcement. It's not good security work, from our perspective. And it's not constitutional," Pistole said. "Anybody who is found to be profiling will be investigated and dealt with appropriately."

Trained TSA SPOT officers are on the lookout for “anomalous” or suspicious behavior. Those exhibiting anomalous behavior, such as perspiration, fidgeting and restlessness, are put through a more rigorous screening process.

Last year, the keynote speaker at our TechSec Solutions conference spoke about behavioral recognition. Lauren Stover, director of public safety, security and communications at Miami International Airport, had at that time trained more than 30,000 people in the behavioral recognition program that she learned in Israel. She had nothing but good things to say about the program, as did Ray Davalos, MIA's building systems manager and co-keynote speaker.

"She knows you can't replace people's intuition" with technology, Davalos said of Stover. You can read about that here.

Meanwhile, with the amount of challenges/problems TSA faces and the amount of time Pistole finds himself testifying before Congress these days, it’s a wonder the agency gets anything done from the top down. And, I just read an article about plastic guns made by 3-D printers, virtually undetectable. When do you think Pistole will be on Capitol Hill again testifying about that?


How could this happen at a major hospital?

Monday, November 11, 2013

As my colleague Leah Hoenen and I discussed the article she wrote about the tragic death of a patient who went missing at San Francisco General Hospital and was found dead 17 days later in a hospital stairwell, we were flabbergasted to say the least.

We kept coming back to one question: How could this happen at a major metropolitan health-care facility? The 57-year-old woman was admitted with a urinary tract infection.

SFGH, a level-one trauma center with 598 beds serving 100,000 patients a year, contracts with the local sheriff’s department to provide its security. There’s no official hospital security director, no proprietary staff.

I called Bryan Warren, president of the International Association for Hospital Security and Safety, for some context around this event.

“Smaller and rural hospitals don’t always have good security. Sometimes maintenance people have to wear that hat. But at a large-scale hospital, it’s very unusual. It shocks the conscience,” Warren said in a phone interview, referring to SFGH.

It doesn’t appear that the sheriff’s deputies were up on hospital policies and procedures. There are missing patient protocols that need to be in place, Warren said. “There was a huge gap that resulted in a very tragic incident.”

It’s not unusual for major hospitals to supplement or complement their security teams with off-duty law enforcement, but to solely rely on them and not have them trained properly is a different story.

As Warren said, “Administrators take it for granted that because you’re a deputy you can do hospital security. But it’s a very different role, and until we get that point across as a profession, we’re going to continue to have these challenges.”

Thankfully, the hospital recently has made some security changes, and the sheriff has admitted flaws in his department’s system and is reassigning staff.

I hope Security Director News will never have to report on a similar event in the near future. Make sure you read Leah’s article here.



A big thanks to the veterans!

Friday, November 8, 2013

We here at Security Director News would like to give all veterans out there a big THANK YOU for your service to our country.

It’s reassuring to know that many veterans work in the physical security industry, and that more are on their way in.

I spoke recently to one of SDN’s “20 under 40” winners, a security director at a major installation, who I can’t name yet because we haven’t announced the winners. [But stay tuned for that … coming soon!] This winner is a veteran, as is his boss.

He said that when it comes to hiring for his team, he recruits ex-military, even to the point of going to local military offices to find out when personnel are returning to the area so that he can contact them about his job openings.

“We see value in hiring from the military,” this up-and-coming pro said. “The government spent a lot of money to train these guys.” Therefore, he knows they’re up for the task at his highly secured enterprise.

Jeff Hawkins at American Military University agreed that in many cases ex-military “are a perfect fit” for physical security positions. “We’ve supported the vets over the last 10 years and that’s a good idea,” he said during a recent interview.

So thanks again to all of you veterans in the industry, and outside of the industry, a personal thanks to my dad, uncles, father-in-law and grandfathers.












LAX shooting and a false sense of security at airports

Monday, November 4, 2013
Jeffrey Hawkins
American Military University

The attack on at a TSA security checkpoint Nov. 1 at Los Angeles International Airport seems to have shocked the media, politicians and the general public.

I truly hope that it did not come as a surprise to any law enforcement or security practitioner.

There is a false sense of security that has been created by investing billions of dollars in creating TSA and security checkpoints after 9/11.

Up until last week’s attack at LAX, many people really thought that they were safe from all threats at airports, and that could not be further from the truth.

In an article I wrote in July and several articles before that, I have expressed my concern with these TSA checkpoints, security in the terminal areas and the role of security and police.

Any metal detector/security checkpoint, be it at airports or elsewhere, without armed officers places everyone in jeopardy.

The fact that TSA has detected so many weapons over the years is laudable; however the fact that none of these weapons have been turned on them before the LAX incident is just lucky.

The initial thought of protecting airplanes from people getting on with weapons or explosives, as we experienced during the 9/11 attacks, is a good idea, but there is a distinct difference between a terrorist trying to “sneak” weapons or explosives onto a plane and an all-out assault.

And this applies to any security operation using metal detectors and security personnel.

One operation I was in charge of in Chicago years back was to provide security for a high-risk museum exhibit coming from another country. Even prior to the exhibit arriving, the museum was receiving threats.

The decision was made to deploy metal detectors for the three-month period that the exhibit would be in Chicago. It was a big decision at a big cost.

During the three months of the exhibit, we screened almost 400,000 people through three metal detectors. Every hour that the metal detectors were being used for screening the exhibit was staffed with nine off-duty armed police officers and 15 unarmed uniformed security officers; this was in addition to all other security personnel.

At the end of the three months the officers had confiscated 12 knives, six handguns and a stun gun.

Most of the people who had their weapons confiscated were honest people from other states who did not realize it was a felony to carry a handgun in Chicago even if you had a permit from another state. A couple of people were suspicious in nature and escorted out of the building, and the guy with the stun gun ran off once it was discovered.

But our role was to provide security, not to be the police and arrest or chase people; it was to keep everyone safe.

There was no way I would have staffed a metal detector checkpoint without armed officers being present—it doesn’t make sense when you are dealing with the public, especially in a high risk environment.

Case in point can be made with the incident in 2009 at the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington. A man with a rifle walked in and immediately shot and killed a security officer point blank.

The death of that security officer was tragic, but the immediate response from other armed security officers at the metal detector checkpoint shows why staffing these points with armed officer is vital: Several officers drew their weapons and returned fire, shooting through the glass doors and striking the gunman several times, stopping him.

Had the gunman made his way past the checkpoint, thousands of people, many of them schoolchildren, were potential victims.

As security practitioners it is our job to avoid creating a false sense of security, even at the cost of being politically incorrect on gun issues or having to tell our employers the truth about costs and risks.

Jeffrey Hawkins is manager, strategic initiatives, private security sector for American Military University. He is a former law enforcement supervisor who transitioned into the private security sector serving as chief security officer in the pharmaceutical, health care, cultural properties, religious and corporate industries.













LAX shooting fallout

Monday, November 4, 2013

The shooting at Los Angeles International Airport last week has sparked calls to look at TSA’s overall procedures.

John Pistole, TSA administrator, says he’ll be asking Congress for a thorough review, according to a report from NPR.

The shooting left one TSA officer dead and two other TSA employees and an airline passenger were injured. Suspect Paul Ciancia, 23, who was shot by police officers, faces charges of murder of a federal officer and committing violence at an international airport. Legal documents say that Cianca fired repeatedly at TSA officer Gerardo I. Hernandez, 39. Cianca then turned back to see Hernandez move and returned to shoot him again.

One fallout debate appears to be focused on whether TSA agents should be armed, the same debate that surfaced after the agency was created shortly after 9/11. It also focuses on ongoing turf wars between airport police and the TSA.

Early on, armed police officers were stationed at airport entrances, NPR reports, but then some airports, including LAX, decided it would be better to have them moving throughout the facility.

U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said on CNN's State of the Union on Sunday that Ciancia's actions show how difficult it is to protect travelers at a massive airport such as LAX, according to a report from The Associated Press.

The terminals are open and easily accessible to thousands of people. "It's like a shopping mall outside the perimeter, it's almost like an open shopping mall," McCaul said, according to the AP report.

Marshall McClain, president of the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association, says arming TSA agents is unwise because they don’t have firearms training and “weren’t brought in to do the job airport police were,” he told NPR.

Instead, McClain says, there should be more fortification at checkpoints and more use of biometrics such as face-recognition software.

American Military University’s Jeff Hawkins disagrees. You can read his opinion in Security Director News’ Guest Blog section here.

Meanwhile, a number of airports are upset with TSA’s recent announcement that it will not provide personnel to secure airport exit ways. My hometown airport, however, has a new system already in place. 





Just in time for Halloween: A ghoulish copper theft tale

Thursday, October 31, 2013

GLENDALE, Ariz.—When an unlucky thief failed to score the roll of copper wire he tried to nab from an air conditioning company truck in Glendale, Ariz., he left something behind that helped Arizona cops track him down: His severed finger.

An employee found a finger snagged in a spool of partially unwound copper wire, ABC News reports. Police took the digit to the Glendale Police Forensics Unit, took a print and matched it to one of Joshua Allen Goverman’s that was already on file.

 “I’m guessing he got in his car and was driving down the street trying to pull it off the spool and it got snagged on the car of this Subaru right here,” a neighbor told ABC News affiliate KNXV-TV. “When that wire pulled tight, it popped the finger off.”

When police arrested Goverman, 29,  he said he’d lost the finger while working on a car. He also posted a photo on Facebook the day after the attempted theft, showing the stump where his finger was, according to ABC News.

Ewwww! and Ugh!

Happy Halloween, readers!





Florida and guns at the airport

Monday, October 28, 2013

Quick, at which Florida airport do the most loaded-gun confiscations take place at security checkpoints or after being found in checked luggage?

No, not Miami, which serves 19.6 million department passengers per year. And no, not Orlando, which serves 17.5 million. It’s the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, which sees about 12 million departees on their way each year.

The Broward County airport has received this ranking for the second year in a row. So far this year, the TSA has intercepted 38 guns at Fort Lauderdale in both checked luggage and at the checkpoint. That compares to 35 in Orlando and 30 in Miami, according to a report in the Sun-Sentinel newspaper.

Last year, 42 firearms were intercepted in Fort Lauderdale, compared to 29 in Orlando, 23 in Jacksonville and 14 in Miami, the newspaper said.

For the record, travelers with gun permits may only transport unloaded firearms in a locked, hard-sided container or as checked baggage. All firearms, ammunition and firearm parts, including firearm frames and receivers, are prohibited in carry-on baggage. And all must be declared at check-in. All of the gun-carriers in Broward had concealed weapons permits, officials said, they just didn’t follow the right protocol.

No one's is quite sure why Fort Lauderdale comes in "first" on the list. The article points out that at New York's JFK, one of the busiest airports in the nation, only one gun was spotted.




Zombies and security

Friday, October 25, 2013

 “If you are prepared for a zombie invasion, you are prepared for anything,” Devan Tucking-Strickler, human services officer-deputy State Emergency Operations Center manager, told the Topeka Capital-Journal.

Sounds about right to me. I’m not big into zombies—don't understand that craze at all—and have never seen “The Walking Dead.” (Although I did love the "Triller" video, I say, aging myself.) Still, I’d like to know what to do if I happened upon one of these undead folks.

The Kansas Division of Emergency Management, as I write, is about to begin its third annual Zombie Preparedness Fair, a three-hour interactive event today aimed at educating the public about emergency preparedness.

“So, we want to give you information and ideas to consider when making a home emergency kit and developing an emergency plan so you’re ready for tornadoes, floods, blizzards or even zombies,” Tucking-Strickler said in the news report.

The newspaper reports, “A new feature at this year’s event will be a ‘Zombie Quarantine Area’ to hold people who become ‘zombies’ if they are unable to answer preparedness questions. They may become human again by successfully answering questions.

"Participating agencies will be providing informational brochures, family disaster plan wallet-cards, disaster kit labels, activity books, stickers and other items. Guests will visit different stations to learn about food storage, preparedness on the go, building a disaster bucket, automobile preparedness, building a family disaster plan, conducting disaster drills and more. There will be games and activities for the kids, prize drawings and a zombie walk at 7 p.m.

"Participating agencies include KDEM, Kansas Department of Health and Environment and Fred the Preparedness Dog, Shawnee County Medical Reserve Corps, Medical Reserve Corp of Douglas County, American Red Cross, Northeast Kansas Regional County Animal Response Team, Shawnee County Emergency Management, Shawnee County Community Emergency Response Team, and the Kansas Wing of the Civil Air Patrol."

I know a number of communities host these zombie/emergency events. But somehow the thought of this one in Kansas—think cornfields and such—gives me more of the willies.


Not again?

Monday, October 21, 2013

So I’m sitting here in the office after my lunch break outside on one of the most gorgeous autumn days in Maine when I read the news: “Middle school shooting in Reno, Nev. Two dead, two injured.”

As I’m writing this, it appears that the two fatalities were a teacher and the “student/suspect.” There was no word yet if the student/suspect was killed by law enforcement or if it was self-inflicted, CNN reported.  USA Today reports, however that the shooter died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Two male students were seriously injured. The last I read, one was in serious condition, the other in fair condition.

The school, Sparks Middle School, has about 700 students in seventh and eighth grades, reports said.

Thankfully, all other students were evacuated safely.

I'm even more heartsick because I've spoken to so many of you knowledgeable, caring security professionals who have worked to protect our children at their schools, be they pre-K to university campuses. know of your efforts.

But this alleged shooter was in seventh or eighth grade? Making him 12, 13 or 14?

When will this stop?


ASIS conference attendance grows

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—It’s official. Attendance was up by 5.5 percent at the 2013 ASIS conference, held last month in Chicago, the organization reports. Good news for ASIS, great news for the industry.

The 59th annual conference drew 20,600 security professionals from 76 nations, and more than 640 companies were on the exhibit floor. Nearly 200 educational sessions were held, too. No wonder I have barely caught up since my return!

It truly was a productive, action-packed event. If you missed it here’s a roundup of the visits I made along with Martha Entwistle’s from Security Systems News.

Next up on the conference circuit for me is our very own TechSec Solutions, coming right up in January. I’ve just started to speak to my “20 under 40” award winners in preparation for that, so stay tuned. Again, a great “class” of your pros.