Behavioural Detection Capability: training to identify abnormalities

The effective training of behavioural detection officers is the subject of considerable debate. The challenge each behavioural detection trainer faces is how to instruct officers to identify a broad range of behaviours, often unspecified in nature, amongst thousands of passengers. We all recognise that powers of observation alone are not enough; officers have to be able to analyse and draw conclusions as to whether or not a particular passenger has to be screened using enhanced security processes. There is no doubt that, in respect of behavioural analysis, on-the-job training is a very useful tool – one is dealing with real life and with genuine passengers with no need to simulate a threat environment. At the same time, we should not disregard the power of training in class. There is no one right way to train behavioural detection officers, but one should give consideration as to how to combine training methods. After all, we are training humans to work with humans. Alina Zela shares Riga International Airport’s approach to both embracing behavioural detection as a security methodology and developing an effective training programme to accompany it.

The issue of behavioural detection as a security solution provokes discussion on a par with the pros and cons of liquid explosive detection restrictions and/or the benefits of utilising TIP systems to improve X-ray operator performance. There are conferences and workshops organised by various agencies, to assist airports in the development of behaviour detection programmes, but despite all the concepts discussed at such events, they do not provide answers to all the questions.

One of the greatest challenges airport face is finding the right format for the training of behavioural detection officers; only a few airports undertake the creation of their own behavioural detection training programmes and integrate them within their aviation security regime. One such airport is Riga International Airport where, two years ago, we made the decision to endorse behavioural detection as a security methodology; we are now able to share with the global aviation security how we went about developing the associated training programme.

The first step in establishing any effective training course is to identify what information is essential; the second step is to choose the most effective method to deliver that information. When it comes to behavioural detection training, some specialists in the field have reached the conclusion that training people to identify lie indicators is a must. However is it so? Of course it is beneficial to detect lies, but most research on the detection of deception indicates that accurate direct lie detection is more a case of luck than reliance on particular skills. On the other hand some research has found that people more accurately detect deception if they are asked to indicate changes in behaviour. Moreover research also shows that there are no ubiquitous lie indicators; the behaviour of liars changes according to the individual. Thus, seeking changes in a person’s behaviour at the moment an act of deception is attempted could be more fruitful than seeking out specific lie indicators. According to some research, deception indicators appear when the liar experiences various emotions, such as fear or nervousness causing fidgeting.

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