The Associated Press
BOSTON (AP) -- As Boston police officers prepare to deal with the thousands who will come to town for next year's Democratic National Convention, they are taking pointers from Logan Airport's state police troopers who are trained to spot people who behave suspiciously.
State police at Logan Airport were the first in the nation to adopt the "behavioral pattern recognition'' program, where troopers stop people who act strangely and briefly interview them to gauge their reactions and behavior.
With about 35,000 people expected to travel to Boston next July for the city's first national political convention, Boston police officers are being trained in the program to identify possible terrorists in crowds, Boston Police spokeswoman Mariellen Burns told The Boston Globe.
"It's a training that's extremely helpful with a special event like this one,'' Burns said. "You don't want people to be stopped based solely on subjective things. You want it to be based on people's behavior and based on their reaction to law enforcement.''
Major Tom Robbins, who heads the State Police Troop F at Logan, said the program had so far resulted in arrests on outstanding warrants or immigration violations. Most of the time, he said the entire interaction between an officer and a passenger took about 90 seconds.
While this program has been hailed as an effective technique by law enforcement officials, there is some concern among civil rights groups.
It's easier to identify suspicious behavior in the controlled environs of an airport than on the streets of a big city, said John Reinstein, legal director of the Massachusetts's office of the American Civil Liberties Union.
"We're talking about people who are walking on the street,'' Reinstein said. "We're pretty much allowed to be as erratic as we like.''
He said he would seek specific guidelines from Boston police about what training they were receiving.
"It's one thing to say we're looking for particular behavior, but the question is what you do about it,'' Reinstein said.
Burns said the Boston police department hasn't yet decided how the behavioral recognition techniques would be used outside the FleetCenter, but she said the training would prove helpful even after the convention.