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“THINKING LIKE A TERRORIST”


April 24, 2014
By Bill Grodzinski

838 words – MR

“THINKING LIKE A TERRORIST”

RCMP and GO Transit team up to counter terrorism

by Derek McDonald & Bill Grodzinski

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Transit is an open concept mode of transportation. The ease and convenience of access without the need to go through screening devices or barriers makes it attractive and convenient to thousands of commuters.

Like every progressive organization, GO Transit (Government of Ontario Transit) constantly reviews and improves every aspect of operations, with a strong emphasis on improving customer experience. Nothing is more important than the safety and security of riders, so following the arrest of two suspects involved in an alleged plan against a VIA train in April 2013, GO reviewed its existing safety and security measures.

A division of Metrolinx, GO is the regional public transit service for the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA). Its routes extend to communities across the greater Golden Horseshoe and it carries 65 million passengers a year. Upwards of 265,000 passengers per day across an 11,000 square kilometre area take 240 train trips and 2,414 bus trips daily from a network of 63 stations, including Toronto’s Union Station.

Since its inception, one billion people have ridden a GO bus or train. GO is the 2013 large system winner of the Outstanding Public Transportation System Achievement Award from the American Public Transportation Association (APTA). The award recognized aspects of GO operations, including safety and security.

Part of the go forward strategy was to enhance and strengthen existing relationships with public safety agencies such as the RCMP, CSIS, Transport Canada, OPP and, in particular, those police agencies in the GO service areas. The regular exchange of information and best practices helps GO Transit continue to evolve processes to ensure customer and staff safety and security.

As a result of these efforts the RCMP offered GO Transit Safety and Security an opportunity to participate in a training program it had developed for agencies responsible for the security of critical infrastructure. This involved enhanced training for front-line officers to help them properly interpret and assess certain behaviours or activities that may jeopardize safety.

The RCMP National Security Section’s Terrorist Event Pre-Incident Indicators (‘TEPII’ for short) originated from the idea that it would be a huge benefit to increase the number of front line personnel looking for active terrorist plots.

The half-day interactive workshop teaches that terrorist events and their planning do not occur in a vacuum and are largely both observable and reportable.

The RCMP ‘O’ Division Outreach section in Ontario travels throughout the province conducting TEPII workshops to law enforcement and critical infrastructure security employees alike. Each year dozens of training sessions are provided and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

TEPPII is a participant driven, interactive workshop created to help address an identified need among front line investigators for national security training. Its purpose is to expose front line personnel to a variety of terrorist event pre-incident indicators so that they may leverage their knowledge and experience and assist in the effort to detect, deter and prevent possible terrorist activity.

Graduates will be able to:

<> Recognize possible pre-incident indicators and explain their significance.

<> Identify the possible indicators within the various phases of a terrorist attack.

<> Recognize the importance of their role in identifying suspicious behaviours and/or actions.

Given the nature of the VIA arrests and the fact downtown Toronto was one of the targets of the Toronto 18 in 2006, the training was seen as relevant and appropriate for GO staff. Training dates were set in January 2014. CBC National News was given unfettered access.

RCMP instructors employed a teaching technique which involved the class breaking into small groups and using information presented to develop a “mock terrorist attack.” The goal was to ultimately develop staff skills to recognize possible suspects involved in preparatory steps to carry out an actual attack. CBC reported on the training March 17, 2014 in a national news segment entitled “Thinking like a Terrorist.”

While unconventional in terms of the training normally received by GO staff, feedback indicated it was relevant and very well received. It created a lot of discussion and no doubt raised awareness around potential security issues. As an additional benefit, other GO Transit employees widely watched the coverage, raising their awareness and increasing appreciation for their security team.

It is important to note, this is just one aspect of improving our security – training that allows us to assess and continually improve the effectiveness of our response and our investigative judgement when we receive calls for service.

Canada’s Counter Terrorism Strategy states in part, “working through partnerships is central to the success of the strategy.” <1> In an ever changing world, with new challenges emerging daily, the CBC story provided a strong example of such a partnership.

<1> Building Resilience Against Terrorism: Canada’s Counter-terrorism Strategy http://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/rsrcs/pblctns/rslnc-gnst-trrrsm/index-eng.aspx

BIO BOX

Bill Grodzinski (william.grodzinski@gotransit.com) is GO Director of Safety and Security for the Toronto area. Derek McDonald (derek.e.mcdonald@rcmp-grc.gc.ca) is a RCMP sergeant and the regional community outreach and counter terrorism officer (OINSET).