Standing Watch for Liberty
Just three years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 closed the Statue of Liberty, America’s great monument to freedom reopened in August.
While closed, the Statue of Liberty underwent extensive renovations that enhanced visitors’ experiences and improved security. “Now more than ever, the Statue of Liberty represents an evolving symbol of freedom, inspiration, and resilience for people the world over,” says Secretary of the Interior Gale A. Norton.
To safeguard the monument, its visitors and park employees, numerous safety and security measures were put into place during the renovation. Key improvements include heightened security on and around the islands; visitor screening before boarding the ferry to Liberty Island; secondary security screening prior to entering the Statue; an advanced tour reservation systems; additional emergency lighting and exits; upgraded and expanded fire detection and suppression systems and a series of compartmentalized spaces; expanded smoke detection and speaker systems; additional communication systems to alert visitors with safety messages; and new elevators, ramps and evacuation routes.
In addition, staff and contractors of both Ellis and Liberty Islands participated in all-hazard emergency preparedness training as a part of the Department of Homeland Security’s Citizen Corps Community Emergency Response Team.
Training for a select 45 employees and law enforcement officers assigned to the park went even further and addressed the potential of terrorist threats from suicide bombers. Consultants from the Washington, D.C.-based New Age Security Solutions trained personnel in a technique called Behavior Pattern Recognition (BPR).
BPR is a system for observing people, their clothing, and mannerisms, identifying suspicious behaviors, and mounting an appropriate response.
BPR caught the attention of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and other federal agencies including the National Park Service when it proved successful at Logan International Airport in Boston. Rafi Ron, president of New Age Security and the former security director at Ben-Gurion Airport in Israel, developed the BPR concept used at Logan.
Training in BPR aims to give people objective ways of evaluating behavior and identifying what is suspicious. “It is a methodology for identifying suspicious people that you want to pay more attention to,” Ron says.
Ron provided two levels of BPR training for personnel at the Statue of Liberty. First, he ran an awareness program for employees. Second, he provided law-enforcement level training for the Park Police officers assigned to the facility.
BPR techniques can push the detection ring to the outer perimeter of a protected target, which is important when dealing with terrorism, continues Ron. At the Statue of Liberty, pushing the detection ring back meant training employees that run the metal, X-ray, and trace detection station that screens visitors before they board the ferry to Liberty Island. Employees at facilities on the island also took the course. The employee awareness program helped build observational skills for detecting suspicious behavior that might be relevant to detecting terrorist behaviors.
Training for law enforcement officers assigned to the park went beyond observational skills and included an interviewing technique called targeted conversation.
“I’m reluctant to go beyond a general description of BPR,” Ron says. “It includes observations of obvious behaviors such as sweating and other signs of nervousness. In addition, a terrorist will have a different agenda than a visitor, and so you can expect and look for behaviors quite different than those of typical visitors. Imagine, for example, how a terrorist wearing a 15-pound belt of explosives on his or her body would act and feel. The explosives belt would require different clothing and alter his or her gait. Now suppose a law enforcement officer decides to interview that person. This would create a lot of emotional pressure that would show up in body language.