NEWS of the Day - October 8, 2012
on some LACP issues of interest

NEWS of the Day - October 8, 2012
on some issues of interest to the community policing and neighborhood activist across the country

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following group of articles from local newspapers and other sources constitutes but a small percentage of the information available to the community policing and neighborhood activist public. It is by no means meant to cover every possible issue of interest, nor is it meant to convey any particular point of view ...

We present this simply as a convenience to our readership ...


Secret observers find 'shocking' lapses in Newark airport security, report says

by Steve Strunsky

NEWARK — Screeners at Newark Liberty International Airport are properly executing standard pat-downs of passengers only 16.7 percent of the time and they identify and take appropriate action on prohibited items in only a quarter of all cases, according to a secret internal report.

The revelations are contained in a document, obtained by The Star-Ledger, titled "PACE Airport Evaluation" and dated June 8. It was compiled by an undercover team of Transportation Security Administration employees from other airports who were asked to observe screeners at work at Newark Liberty.

PACE is an acronym for Presence, Advisements, Communication and Execution, the four job performance headings that included a total of 47 individual procedures or skills observed by the visiting evaluation teams.

To some TSA watchdogs, such poor performance on standard procedures was startling coming a decade after the TSA was formed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

Thomas McDonnell, a Pace Law School professor and author of "The United States, International Law and the Struggle against Terrorism," said the findings are unacceptable.

"There's that often-repeated phrase, ‘We've got to get it right all the time,' " said McDonnell. "When it's under 50 percent, under 20 percent, that to me is very shocking."

A finding of the evaluation that was particularly shocking to McDonnell and other civil rights advocates was that in no cases — 0 percent — did screeners properly inform passengers of their right to opt out of a full-body scan in favor of a pat-down.

"As a civil libertarian, I am very concerned that people are not being advised what their rights are," said John F. Banzhaf III, a professor of public interest law at George Washington Law School.

"There are certainly anecdotal reports, in addition to this, that people who elected not to go through the scanner and have elected the pat-down have been patted down much more aggressively."

The PACE evaluation by out-of-town TSA employees — nicknamed "secret shoppers" by the screeners being scrutinized — comes amid a crackdown that has resulted in retraining or disciplinary action against dozens of Newark screeners and is now working its way up the local TSA ranks. The crackdown is being led by Federal Security Director Donald Drummer, who replaced the airport's former security chief in April 2011 amid a string of security breaches and reports of plummeting employee morale.

Asked to comment on the PACE evaluation, TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein issued a statement saying: "TSA is an agency that evaluates its workforce constantly with an eye toward continuous improvement."

"PACE evaluation is designed to be a ‘snapshot in time' to assess various areas of passenger interaction. TSA uses the results as a guide to educate its workforce on areas where its employees are strong and areas where it can improve."

Despite his defense of fliers' liberties, Banzhaf said he by no means advocates sacrificing security in the name of liberty. He calls for incorporating racial and religious characteristics, along with age, sex and other factors, into calculations of how closely to screen individual fliers, and, for example, would favor closer scrutiny of young Muslim or Arabic men than of elderly women.

The PACE report was not all bad. In 17 categories, including removing prohibited items found during physical searches and exhibiting good listening skills, screeners were observed carrying out their duties properly 100 percent of the time.

The PACE evaluation process at Newark began several months ago, and has involved at least three visits by PACE teams, according to TSA employees in Newark. In some cases, the team members position themselves discretely at checkpoints in order to observe a particular screener performing the same function over and over on a number of passengers. At other times, the evaluator will pass through the checkpoint as if en route to a flight, in order to undergo the various screening procedures himself.

While Newark Liberty has been undergoing a staffwide shakeup over the past year resulting directly from a string of repeated and sometimes high-profile security breaches, TSA officials say PACE evaluations are carried out at the country's largest airports not necessarily to address chronic security-related problems, but rather to ensure standardization of procedures nationwide. Officials say the evaluations are not meant to gauge screeners' performance in extreme situations and, for example, the prohibited items that evaluators attempt to carry through checkpoints include oversized liquid containers and gels not properly stored in so-called 3-1-1 bags — not guns or bombs.

Mecca Scott, a former Newark screener who is now a national organizer with the Association of Federal Government Employees, the union representing 44,000 screeners, said scrutiny comes with the territory.

"They're tested on a regular basis locally, so it's not something they're not used to," Scott said.

Stacy Bodtmann, another AFGE union official who is still a screener in Newark, said the evaluation points to the need for more training.

"I'm not blaming everything on training," Bodtmann said. "I just feel that Newark doesn't get the amount of hours it should."




Help APD, Participate in Community Policing Self-Assessment

The Atlanta Police Department wants our community input to make better decisions and choices when policing our communities

Editor's note: The following is a message from Atlanta Police Chief George Turner

Our agency has chosen to participate in the Community Policing Self-Assessment Tool (CP-SAT), an online survey which collects information about our practice of community policing. I strongly encourage you to complete this assessment, which you may access by clicking the URL below. Through your participation in this assessment, our agency will be able to gather valuable data allowing us to enhance our community policing practices and identify community policing strengths and areas for improvement. The assessment is sponsored by the COPS Office and is administered by ICF International.

Your responses to this survey will be kept confidential. There are no individual identifiers in the data that the agency will receive, and the agency will not be able to link an individual's data to their email address. This is not a test, so there are no right or wrong answers. Please answer each question honestly. The assessment will take you approximately 15 minutes of your time.

Assessment URL: https://survey.icfsurveys.com/se.ashx?s=04BD76CC552D21AD

Agency Pass Code: GAAPD00-C1

(You will be prompted to enter your agency pass code when you click the above URL. Please copy and paste the above pass code to ensure accuracy ).

Please complete the assessment by October 22, 2012. If you have any questions, please contact the Atlanta Police Department Community Liaison Office at 404-546-2677 (404-546-COPS).

Thank you,

George Turner
Chief of Police
Atlanta Police Department