You may be noticing more canines in the screening checkpoint these days. This is part of TSA’s risk-based security strategy and is known as managed inclusion.
Taking of advantage of airports with pre-check managed inclusion takes randomly selected passengers from the normal screening queue and diverts them to the pre-check lane, while sometimes using a canine to do a preliminary inspection. In other cases, a TSA behavior detection officer will make a selection based on their judgement of the risk. Pre-check lanes only have metal detectors, not body imagers, and individuals in the lane do not have to take off their shoes nor remove laptops or liquids from their suitcase. Managed inclusion has slowly been making its way across the country and is headed to Denver International Airport next.
Pre-Check lines move quickly so the line for pre-check is usually small or non-existent. Randomly selecting passengers to go through the pre-check line makes more efficient use of the space. This allows TSA to better manage the checkpoint lines allowing for faster passenger processing times. And good queue line management is good security. Large numbers of people waiting in line puts psychological pressure on screeners to move faster and less effectively and can also create tempting targets for a terrorist with a bomb or a gun.
Programs such as pre-check and known crewmember reduce the amount of people in the regular screening lines and allow frequent fliers and others deemed low risk by TSA, to speed through the checkpoint. A side benefit of having so many frequent fliers enrolled in pre-check is that they are experts at navigating the screening system and can move even more quickly than if they have to stand behind travelers who only fly once a year or less. Imagine driving down the highway and then having to wait behind someone on a bicycle or even worse, walking in the middle of the lane. I’m an avid cyclist and I know I don’t want to be in the middle of the interstate. That’s what its like for frequent flyers behind infrequent flyers.
Managed inclusion has another benefit, which is to keep the K-9’s and their handlers working, which keeps them proficient. Like anything in life, if you don’t do it often enough, the skills get a bit rusty. So, by being able to exercise the dogs more in the screening lines, keeps the dog happy (who likes to work), and keeps the handler happy (who likes to get a paycheck) and increasing the teams effectiveness in detecting explosives.
Using canines in the screening checkpoint may also help when passengers get touchy about going through the body imager, or don’t want to get touched by a TSA security officer. This works particularly well with kids – much more customer friendly to just have the nice doggy walk over to the kids, then to have them taken into a special location for private screening.
Finally, this program puts canines into the variable of airport security. No bad guy wants to see a dog, particularly if they have to pass some sort of inspection from the dog. Having a dog in the mix may amplify behaviors from an criminal or terrorist, behaviors that can be detected by security or law enforcement professionals. There likely will never come a time when dogs take over the screening process. They can’t work for more than 20-45 minutes (depending on the handler you talk to and the nature of the work) before needing to rest while the machines can work 24/7 with only the occasional reboot. However, this is a good way to increase security, increase customer service and decrease the likelihood of a criminal or terrorist event.
Click here for New York Times article on behavior screening.