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The Right Way to Profile

How well-trained police officers could have spotted and stopped the Tsarnaevs before they set off their bombs.

by
Jack Dunphy

Bio

May 29, 2013 - 12:30 am
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Yes, the Tsarnaev brothers could have been stopped.  Even after Tamerlan slipped past all of the so-called trip wires designed to detect potential terrorists, even after the brothers procured and assembled the components for their bombs undetected, even after they evaded the vast government security apparatus erected to thwart them and their ilk, they could have been prevented from carrying out their crime if only we had dared to engage in the kind of profiling practiced successfully in other parts of the world.

Note well that I do not refer to racial profiling.  The kind of profiling I endorse is based on behavior, on trained officers observing a crowd of people and looking for individuals whose behavior is anomalous from that exhibited by those around them.  In a previous column on the Boston bombing, I wrote the following:

In every police department there are officers whose ability to spot a stolen car or an armed gang member seems so uncanny to their peers that it is assumed their success is the result of luck.  Similarly, at every international airport and port of entry there are customs agents whose “hit rates” in interdicting contraband far surpass those of their coworkers.  The successes these men and women have are not the result of luck, but rather of their ability to detect the subtle behavioral cues exhibited by people who drive stolen cars, carry weapons, or attempt to smuggle contraband into the country.

The techniques employed by these officers and agents can be taught and put to use in venues where, as at the Boston Marathon, there is no effective way to screen everyone who enters the area.  The Tsarnaev brothers, as they moved through the Boylston Street crowd in the moments before their attack, surely exhibited behavior that would have caught the eye of an alert and properly trained police officer.

So why was there no properly trained police officer there that afternoon?  Because in the United States, law enforcement executives — which should be sharply distinguished from rank-and-file police officers and federal agents — are fearful of being labeled as anything other than fully supportive of the multiculturalist agenda, so much so that even hearing the word “profile” uttered in their presence can have them wetting themselves and collapsing in tears.

Sadly, though the first part of the counterfactual scenario I present above is plausible, with police officers taking note of the Tsarnaev brothers’ behavior and then preventing them from carrying out the bombing, so too is the second part, with the media’s obsession with profiling and the parade of people whose longing for grievance is their primary reason for getting out of bed in the morning.

Witness a 2010 Washington Post report on security measures used on commercial flights to and from Israel.  Most passengers board their flights with relative ease, while a small number is selected for what sometimes is very lengthy and intrusive screening.  While acknowledging the success Israel has had with its methods, much of the story is given over to accounts of Arabs and other non-Jews being subjected to what they felt was unfair and excessive scrutiny.

Though successful profiling focuses on behavior rather than race, we live in the real world where the threat to an El Al flight or to a soft target like the Boston Marathon is most likely from a Muslim male between 17 and 30 years of age.  Officers searching for a potential terrorist from among a group of airline passengers or in a large crowd would be derelict in their duty if they failed to give a person who met that description a second look.  When the statistics are added up — and you know these statistics are recorded in minute detail — the ethnic balance of those stopped and questioned will likely be out of sync with the overall population.

And so what?

While the 9/11 hijackers were indeed Arabic and recognizably Muslim, the Tsarnaev brothers were not.  But anyone familiar with the history of Muslim terrorism realizes that though the odds favor a terror bomber being of Middle Eastern appearance, he may also be a white from Chechnya, a Uyghur from China, or a black from Sub-Saharan Africa.  That such people are subjected to more police attention than some great-grandmother from Dubuque or a sorority girl from Ole Miss is a sign of a security arrangement’s reasonableness rather than its insensitivity.

But none of this matters, of course, to those responsible for making security policy in America.  Better to inconvenience every last passenger going through an airport, better to hoist paraplegics out of their wheelchairs so as to search them than focus attention on those who history teaches are most likely to blow up an airplane or fly it into a skyscraper.  And better to let a few people get blown to bits and a few dozen others get maimed every so often than employ techniques that will prevent such horrors, albeit with the side effect of having members of the racial grievance industry get their backs up on television.

The threat of Muslim terror is not abating.  How many more Americans will be killed before this changes?

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Jack Dunphy is the pseudonym of a police officer in Southern California.

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Top Rated Comments   
Wrong. We need to profile people who act suspiciously at major events. The writer described how the bomber's behavior would have been highly unusual compared to the rest of the crowd. Despite what he mentioned about demographics, he was not in fact profiling by race or religion. Instead, he was zeroing in on someone with unusually heavy luggage, who focused on police officers, extremely rare behavior by people at events.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Thank you for saying it as is, not how some people wish it was.
You don't go off to the desert to go fishing.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Catching some flack already Jack .... ... Since their first introduction to the WH in 1953; the Muslim Brotherhood has planned and successfully implemented a plan to establish cells all over America, beginning in the late sixties with the MSA (Muslim Students Association) cells used for recruiting suitable youngsters into the MB. This is common knowledge to many, and to others that don't know; the information is readily available. The success of CAIR (Council of American Islamic Relations) alone, has been wildly successful in their political stealth jihad and the establishment of sharia to the point that our highest levels of government are becoming more and more thuggish in implementing the agenda of the MB making officials very:

"fearful of being labeled as anything other than fully supportive of the multiculturalist agenda, so much so that even hearing the word “profile” uttered in their presence can have them wetting themselves and collapsing in tears."

Jack ... what you've described as "profiling" is right on, and a common sense approach which is ordinarily what enforcement would do if it wasn't for the cowardice and ignorance of those that do not understand the threat of Islam and the reason for the Quran-sanctioned terror attacks that occur worldwide on a daily basis.
We need to completely dismantle the thousands of MB cells around the country FIRST and FOREMOST and at the same time begin profiling in earnest. Israel have been "profiling" for a long time, and it works well; they HAVE TO because they have an existential threat from Muslims. For example; Iranian leadership just issued a call to all Muslims worldwide to join with Iran and Syria in the jihad against Israel - and yes that call includes Hizbollah and other sundry rebels of Islam (all Muslims) operating in Syria. By the way, the Tsarnevs were trained in Russia and it's no coincidence that Russian missiles and warships have been delivered to Syria ... but that's another story. Profiling is NOT wrongheaded either ... thanks Jack.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (50)
All Comments   (50)
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If there is a reason for profiling,,,so be it.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
There were members of a security firm, Craft International, at the marathon. Ironically in the crowd sourcing analysis of photos after the bombing the security firm members were the ones that people identified as standing out. They were all young men, close-cropped hair, khakis and windbreakers, wearing ball-caps with death's heads on them, carrying backpacks and talking into cell phones, not paying attention to the race. If it was their job to identify terrorists in the crowd they failed terribly. This was not a drill. This was the real thing. They did not stop and talk to the bombers when they had every opportunity to do so.

I think this is a harder problem than suggested by the author.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
"They were all young men, close-cropped hair, khakis and windbreakers, wearing ball-caps with death's heads on them"

Given only your description to work from, why do I have a hard time taking such people seriously? Why am I not surprised that they were completely ineffective? Why does THEIR failure not, to me, reflect at all on the validity of profiling?

They sound a lot more like wannabes than serious security professionals.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
There is something different about how the English, Canadians, or Aussies do this kind of profiling. They handle consensual contact in a more casual and less confrontational way in my experience than Americans. And Americans get upset about their constitutional rights more quickly when confronted. Perhaps when you don't have an idea of strong written constitutional rights, but only a commonsense idea of what is reasonable it ends up less confrontational because the line between coercion and consensual is fuzzier and less brittle on both sides. In any case I agree with the thrust of this article because it is a plea to enable our officials use their full intelligence and instincts to protect us.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
Whenever the subject of Islam in America or Europe arises, I've had but one response since 9/12/01. All other thoughts on the subject are a waste of time:

DIDADIN

Detain
Intern
Disempower
Aand
Deport
Islamaniacs
Now

D-I-D-A-D-I-N!
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
We used to have this immigration law called the National Origin Act, it worked quite well for decades. People from certain parts of the world were simply not allowed to immigrate here. it would make the need for National Security profiling redundant and unnecessary if we went back to it.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
This situation is nothing like an Israeli airport. I have been there. Ben Gurion is the only international airport in Israel. It is a tightly controllable situation. Screening begins when you drive up before you even get into the airport. It continues at multiple steps before you board a plane.

There is profiling to be sure but even a Jewish American tourist family like mine is questioned and observed at every step. For example as you are waiting for your bags, check in, a helpful young man or woman asks for your ticket and documents and asks why you were there, what did you do, were you with an organized group etc.

After check in luggage you taken to another desk where someone asks about the contents. Did you buy this here? Where? Did someone approach you or did you buy in a store? I had a textbook which I had forgotten about. It was searched because I could not remember at 1:00 AM so it was removed and checked.

We had travelled with a Jewish organization on an organized tour. We were asked pop questions about our religious affiliation. To what synagogue do you attend? To my son, then 17, what was your Torah portion on your bar mitzvah?

Then it hit. My son had forgotten that there was a switchblade knife at the bottom of his carry on backback. It totally was missed by the TSA on the way there. He did not know it was there the whole time. Teenagers- whatever.

The Israelis saw it just as we were ready to board the plane on X-ray.
They let us go with stern warning.

Anyway that kind of security in tightly controlled circumstance is not possible at the Boston Marathon. This fictional account is nonsense. Not only that but Israeli security measures at airports and other places would never be tolerated in the US and still some get though even there.



47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Israelis have a pretty good track record of nailing terrorists BEFORE they do any damage. A perfect record? No, but a very GOOD record.

They do this with behavioral profiling. It works. There's not one trace of racism about it.

Given the number of people who greatly desire to blow up Israelis for Allah, I'd say that anybody who dismisses Israeli expertise in this area is either a blithering idiot, or evil.


We should be learning from them and doing what they do.
46 weeks ago
46 weeks ago Link To Comment
I suppose you can lend some credence to these fantasies. puff pieces or whatever you want to call them if you suspend disbelief and acknowledge the heroics of an (antiwar) argentinian cowboy who miraculously saves the main witness from bleeding out (from a bloodless life threatening wound) close to two minutes post blast. Miracles be praised. And the cover photo op is a race to an emergency medical tent arteries, clenched in hand to stop the non bleeding of an individual who by all rights should be dead. I have serious disdain for people that ignore the obvious because of the propaganda backfill that diverts attention form same. It's so over the top that it insults each and every one of us.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think any 5 year old that watches the Sesame Street's 'One of these things is not like the other' can probably sniff out perpetrators in a crowd. The problem is as you stated Mr. Dunphy - profiling scares the hell out of our otherwise effective police departments.

It doesn't seem to scare Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his well trained deputies - the mere presence of seems to cause illegal immigrants (can I say that???) to pull their hoodies up around their heads in 90* weather and start to sweat.

Multiculturalism is going to get us all killed.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Please read the US Supreme Court case called Terry VS Ohio, which deals with "reasonable suspicion". This case is also known as "stop and frisk". This case law was decided long ago - it is NOT "profiling", and is an accepted law enforcement tool.
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Please read the US Supreme Court ruling called Terry Vs. Ohio. This case
has to do with the issue of "reasonable suspicion". This case is also known
to law enforcement officers as "stop and frisk". The issue was decided long before I entered law enforcement in the early 1970's, and it is NOT "profiling".
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
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