Overview of Passenger Behaviour Observation

Canada uses a multi-layered approach to aviation security that benefits from a variety of tools and methodologies. These include technologies, intelligence assessments and cognitive-based indicators. While no single layer of aviation security may defeat terrorism, together the layers of security provide a robust defence.

Passenger Behaviour Observation (PBO) can provide an additional layer of security to Canada’s aviation system that focuses on identifying irregular or suspicious behaviour and not racial or ethnic profiles. The emphasis is behaviour-based, for example, wearing heavy clothes on a hot day or paying unusual attention to the screening process. Screening officers trained in passenger behaviour observation screening may check a passenger’s documents and ask simple questions about the passenger’s identity and reasons for travelling to alleviate any security concerns.

Similar programs are already in place in airport and law enforcement environments, carried out by agencies such as the Canadian Border Services Agency, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, as well as Special Transit Constables in a number of Canadian municipalities. 

In the aviation environment, a number of Canada’s international partners have either introduced or are developing similar behaviour observation initiatives for inclusion into their aviation security programs, including Israel, the United States, Singapore, Hong Kong, United Kingdom, Russia, Australia and Indonesia.

As part of Budget 2009, Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) was provided with one-year funding to conduct research and initiate the development of a PBO program.

In January 2010, the Government of Canada asked CATSA to design a PBO program proposal, in order to respond to the continued threat of terrorism and evolving terrorist methods as evidenced in the December 25, 2009 terrorist incident. CATSA has completed its design phase and will be conducting a 6-month pilot program at a major Canadian airport in the New Year.

All program parameters, including rigorous quality assurance and oversight, recruitment and training will be customized to the Canadian operational, legal and cultural environments and reflect the particular norms and customs of the Canadian society.
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