Backpack security at the Pittsburgh Marathon

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posted on May, 13 2013 @ 06:25 AM
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On May 5th the Pittsburgh Marathon was held. I listen to my police scanner regularly, and especially when there is a special event like the marathon. What I heard that day managed to be frightening and comical at the same time.

Police units were dispatched over and over again for "man wearing a backpack". The first one made me chuckle. Eventually I realized that they were stopping nearly every person who was wearing a backpack. From what I could hear over the radio the dispatches did not seem to be made because of the person's behavior or overall appearance, but simply because of the backpack. It seemed like an absurd waste of manpower to be dispatching officers to every backpack wearing person who is near the marathon route.

It was like a perfect little microcosm of why the war on terror is pointless: If one were inclined to bomb the marathon that day they could have significantly increased their chance of success by simply not using a backpack, because the police were all focused on backpacks. They made a big deal before the race about DHS being more involved than usual in the marathon security because of the Boston event. I do not know if the focus on backpacks was something the Pittsburgh police were doing on their own or if they were directed to do so by DHS.

I am sharing because I am specifically interested in hearing the personal opinions of any LEO's about this sort of thing. Is checking every pedestrian with a backpack a sound counter-terrorism tactic simply because a backpack was used in a recent bombing? Do you ever receive orders like this and question, either privately or openly, their usefulness? Do you have any stories of similar 20/20 hindsight responses like this?
edit on 5/13/2013 by Slugworth because: clarification of wording




posted on May, 13 2013 @ 06:31 AM
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It is the same here. Any sports and public event gets a strong check : backpacks/purses, patting down (frisking), sometimes even metal detectors (rarely) etc.

It is common sense. Just keeping anybody with detectable weapons out of the events. Nothing like Boston or some shooting has ever happened here, although most public events require something like that.



posted on May, 13 2013 @ 06:33 AM
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I wonder what would happen if it went like this.

Officer. "What's in the Backpack"
Citizen "Got a warrant?"

In the US, it is a violation to search a person because they are wearing a backpack. If a car bomb goes off, are they going to think they can search any and every car?

It seems that your 4th amendment rights are being thrown out. It is not just throwing the baby out with the bath water, they are throwing the bath and the mum out as well.

The only requirement for evil to win is for good folks to do nothing.

P



posted on May, 13 2013 @ 06:37 AM
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reply to post by Cabin
 


If you enter a 'sporting facility' or a hotel or some other place deemed private property then yes, they can ask you for permission and if you say no, they can deny you entry. They can not search you if you elect to walk away.

On a public street, no way!

P
edit on 13/5/2013 by pheonix358 because: (no reason given)



posted on May, 13 2013 @ 06:38 AM
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reply to post by pheonix358
 


When a sports events are happening, streets were they are held are closed and you can enter as an audience from only certain entry points, where the check is happening.



posted on May, 13 2013 @ 06:44 AM
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reply to post by Cabin
 


What set this apart was that police were being dispatched via radio towards backpacks. This was not a checkpoint set up where bags were inspected. The marathon loops around the whole city. The whole city is a spectator area. I sat on my front steps as they ran past me, 20 feet away.

The whole issue of "should they be allowed to constitution my backpack ammendment rights blah blah" has already been beaten to death. When I was writing this I wondered how long it would be before someone took the thread in that direction. The answer: second reply.

I'm more interested in the effectiveness of dispatching police towards backpack-wearing pedestrians or whatever the terrorism flavor of the month is and particularly from the viewpoint of LEOs. It seems like the type of thing that could actually reduce security by distracting everyone away from other potential threats.
edit on 5/13/2013 by Slugworth because: (no reason given)



posted on May, 13 2013 @ 06:55 AM
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reply to post by Slugworth
 


Well, something like that is also sometimes used. Anybody who is acting suspicious might be searched. Couple of weeks ago, I went to an outdoor public event with around 15k people. I came directly from training and in 5 minutes of the event, I was already asked to show what was in my bag...

To be honest, I see no problem with it or some kind of invasion of rights. Only people who would have something to hide would see it like that round here. Having a gun, drugs or anything like that in your bag is illegal. Coming to watch an event as an audience with a heavy packback is out of the ordinary...

It is just common sense. Nobody wants something to happen like in Boston. The security is just doing their job to prevent stuff like that.



posted on May, 13 2013 @ 07:09 AM
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reply to post by Cabin
 


I'm not questioning the legality of the searches, just the wisdom. I'm questioning the assertion that this is "common sense". If it is, then a potential bomber's common sense reaction would be to not use a backpack, and therefore avoid scrutiny. I didn't hear any dispatches to check on anything that wasn't a backpack. If someone had a briefcase or a baby stroller or KFC bucket with an explosive device inside they probably could have strolled right past the police while they focused on backpacks.

Also, I doubt that everybody who was stopped was there to watch the event. My girlfriend walked to work that morning wearing a backpack that contained her work stuff. She avoided the marathon route out of convenience and was not stopped, but she said she was worried about being stopped on the way. She was running a little late for work and started jogging towards the end of the trip, then stopped because she remembered the radio chatter (we were laughing about it before she left) and didn't want to look suspicious.
edit on 5/13/2013 by Slugworth because: (no reason given)



posted on May, 13 2013 @ 07:16 AM
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reply to post by Slugworth
 


I think there is more variables on it. I do not know much about bombs, although I guess any bag, whether a purse, handbag, luggage or backpack, which seems heavy might be checked. Also everything depends on the carrier of it - clothing style, body language etc. Of course these are all subjective measures, although it is the best we currently have.

Of course, a professional who really wants to do it, is nearly impossible to be stopped, although it would work against amateurs, non-professionals who want to make some attack.



posted on May, 13 2013 @ 07:37 AM
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reply to post by Cabin
 



I do not know much about bombs, although I guess any bag, whether a purse, handbag, luggage or backpack, which seems heavy might be checked.


From what I could hear on the radio there are two possibilities:

A) there were no other types bags being carried by anyone along the route that warranted a dispatch
B) they were focused on checking backpacks and ignoring other types of containers

Option B seems more likely to me than option A.


Of course, a professional who really wants to do it, is nearly impossible to be stopped, although it would work against amateurs, non-professionals who want to make some attack.


This sort of gets to the point. According to official accounts, and as far as anyone can prove, terror attacks are always performed by amateurs. If the same acts are carried out by a professional soldier they are called warfare, not terrorism. Even an amateur is able to adjust his tactic to the current situation. If the plan is to stop only the attacks that are attempted by the dumbest, least capable terrorists it doesn't seem like a very good plan. If that same plan actively diverts police resources from the overall security situation it is counterproductive to the goal of securing the event.



posted on May, 13 2013 @ 07:40 AM
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Originally posted by pheonix358
I wonder what would happen if it went like this.

Officer. "What's in the Backpack"
Citizen "Got a warrant?"

In the US, it is a violation to search a person because they are wearing a backpack. If a car bomb goes off, are they going to think they can search any and every car?

It seems that your 4th amendment rights are being thrown out. It is not just throwing the baby out with the bath water, they are throwing the bath and the mum out as well.

The only requirement for evil to win is for good folks to do nothing.

P


Hang on though, who got searched. What right has been eroded. Diligence is not being intrusive. I am sure that they have people looking out for 'suspicious people' with backpacks long before boston. But it's noticed now, because of boston.

As you say in the next post, if it were a private venue, then they have every right to deny entry if you refuse to reveal the contents of your bag.

Unless I am mistaken, no one appears to have been searched from the OPs story. So no rights eroded, no good men doing nothing to fight bad deeds.

If anything, due diligence was observed. I certainly don't want to see another person able to target public gatherings because there was fear of being seen as over zealous in being cautious allowing them to meander unhindered and leaving items in places without any observation.

It's not simply the law being an ass... it's a reaction to evil people with evil intentions. Society is an innocent victim, but what else can be done?

and if someone replies with "those who give up liberty for safety deserve neither" in this, I'll scream.. and my neighbours will not like you very much... Oo



posted on May, 13 2013 @ 07:46 AM
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reply to post by winofiend
 


I am really sorry and I respect your views but start screaming.

those who give up liberty for safety deserve neither

Mate, if I was not hearing about Police clubbing a man to death, shooting old ladies etc etc etc until you want to puke, I may see it differently. If I was not seeing 911 for what it was. If I could not get hold of u tube videos showing young soccer players being wasted by drones and a second missile takes out the first responders then perhaps I could agree with you.

The reality is that we must IMO look at the whole and the whole picture is one of tyranny and the destruction of liberty and not just our liberty but the liberty and freedom of people from many countries.

P



posted on May, 13 2013 @ 07:59 AM
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reply to post by winofiend
 



Unless I am mistaken, no one appears to have been searched from the OPs story.


This is worth emphasizing. I did accidentally use the word "search" in the OP, so sorry if that was confusing. The fact is that the dispatches were telling the officers to "check" the people in question. This may or may not mean searching the backpack. I heard no discussion of actual searches.

I fixed the wording in the OP to reflect this.



posted on May, 13 2013 @ 08:03 AM
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reply to post by pheonix358
 


I am not justifying any police officer overusing their power, although we must admit that in most cases the "victim" had at least some responsibility of getting "mistreated"

As far as I have met police officers, most of them are people who just want to do good. Some are corrupt, most aren´t, just like in any field. Some scientists might be only after money, most just want good. There are all kinds of people

I have seen police officers, bouncers, security people overusing their power, although in absolutely every case the victim was responsible for their mistreatment. They showed no respect for the "authority", cursed at them, were very arrogant and afterwards angry because they were "mistreated".

It is like going to some tough guy at a bar, telling him he is an "a*****e" and then being angry when you get beaten up... Cops are people too after all - even though they are taught to hold their temper, they might get angry too, they may have a bad mood etc. Just don´t push it and you are fine.

Never heard about a person getting "mistreated" when they showed respect. I have been pulled over by an officer several times, here and also in USA. I just acted with respect and everything was fine.
edit on 13-5-2013 by Cabin because: (no reason given)



posted on May, 13 2013 @ 08:29 AM
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reply to post by pheonix358
 


No, but I said in this. As in, this case.

Gotta have a line somewhere, and it's not any use to claim that line we must not stand for the police checking out people with backpacks in crowds, given the most recent cases of public terrorist activities have been perpetrated by people with backpacks in crowds.

No ones liberty was compromised by the police being made aware of people with backpacks.

Sure they could be checking prams, kfc buckets, big hats, but they didn't. We can't say "Stop it you fools, it's a liberty!" when it's only common sense to be diligent in these times.

Had they actually stopped people, corralled them into a corner, searched them without any other cause than carrying a backpack, then I'd not have said anything about it. But it's becoming a catch cry, and wearing thin.

It seems that it's used every time something happens when there is a requirement for concern.

If we don't do something, then we say we accept that people can explode things in public and kill innocent people. Safety be damned, freedom is paramount.

There is a line, it has to be watched. It's being crossed by both sides of late.

ps - I wasn't referring to you, I was referring to any one else who may read my post and come back with the liberty line..



posted on May, 13 2013 @ 08:32 AM
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Originally posted by Slugworth
reply to post by winofiend
 



Unless I am mistaken, no one appears to have been searched from the OPs story.


This is worth emphasizing. I did accidentally use the word "search" in the OP, so sorry if that was confusing. The fact is that the dispatches were telling the officers to "check" the people in question. This may or may not mean searching the backpack. I heard no discussion of actual searches.

I fixed the wording in the OP to reflect this.


I read it a few times, and I seriously missed it oO lol. I didn't get the impression they were searched from it however, but directed to observe them. If someone with a backpack was wandering around, and put it down somewhere, it would be best to know before something happens rather than screen cctv footage for anyone who may have done it.

How come an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure, works, but never when liberty for safety is concerned, I wonder.. Either way, as I said to Phoenix, had the case been different, and people were being hassled for nothing more than their accessories, I'd have been in agreement with the consensus that it's unwarranted and illegal search and detention of a public citizen. Unless they smell of petrol or were ticking, obviously.. Oo



posted on May, 13 2013 @ 08:52 AM
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Originally posted by Slugworth
From what I could hear on the radio there are two possibilities:

A) there were no other types bags being carried by anyone along the route that warranted a dispatch
B) they were focused on checking backpacks and ignoring other types of containers

Option B seems more likely to me than option A.


Agreed! And here's why:

I work as a software tester. A large part of my job revolves around understanding the interactions between different components of the system, and plotting "safe paths" through the functions presented to users. Another large part involves coordinating front-line users to review system functionality and give feedback. That means that I have step by step instructions for any function of the systems I deal with, and they're written in such a way that any guy off the street could use them. From experience, and observation, I've learned that these step-by-step instructions MUST NOT be too specific. ("Navigate to the New Customer Entry page." over "Press Tools --> New Customer", for example.) If you specify the way something should be done, it will (nearly) always be done that way, even if there are seven easier and more appropriate ways to do it.

Likewise, if you too specifically identify what you're looking for, that is all that people will look for. "Go to the main screen and make sure the screen elements are all correctly positioned." You can still get success from this if half of the words are misspelled, fonts are all different, five different shades of blue are used, all of the graphics are replaced with cheezburger gifs, and access rights deny you from loading the actual content of the screen. "You asked if everything was in the right place, not if they were the right things, or consistent, or broken, or correct."

"Go to the summer cabin and make sure no rats have moved in."
"There are no rats in the cabin." Further questions may reveal the presence of a family of raccoons, the winter usage of your cabin as an outhouse, or the unwitting release of Candarian demons. For now, "There are no rats in the cabin."



posted on May, 13 2013 @ 09:02 AM
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reply to post by winofiend
 


Prevention is a fine thing, but I just don't think this was an effective way to prevent anything. I wasn't monitoring secret communications. Anyone with a scanner could have heard this happening, including a bomber. The police even announced before the race that backpacks were prohibited along the race route. If anyone with half a brain wanted to commit an attack of some kind they would have avoided backpacks, and therefore avoided scrutiny. It was almost as if the police said "if you want to get away with something make sure you don't use a backpack".


If someone with a backpack was wandering around, and put it down somewhere


By focusing on backpacks you can stop this particular action from happening, but it seems to me like it could make it easier to do the same thing with a different container that is not a backpack. I think it may be a better idea to, instead of focusing on backpacks, allow the officers to survey the area and use their own judgement when trying to identify potential threats. I'm sure they were doing this to some extent; I only heard the radio dispatches and was not walking around with them. However, the idea of an officer patrolling the area and then having his attention diverted away from the scene in general and towards a kid with a backpack by the dispatcher or a higher-ranking officer seems like it could potentially increase the risk that an attack that does not utilize a backpack could succeed.



posted on May, 13 2013 @ 09:03 AM
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Just go to a theme park. If you have a backpack (and what party doesn't, going into one of these), they have to search it. This perfunctory search is useless. If I REALLY wanted to conceal something harmful in it, these "searches" would not prevent it.

It is a waste of time and money.

I even had one ask me what pills these were (my wife has several prescription meds). I told him that unless he wanted to violate Federal law that day, (HIPAA regs) I'd just politely forget he asked me the question.
Absolutely ridiculous. (he of course, withdrew the question when I explained why he couldn't ask it)

On private property, they can do the search and make it mandatory...for the PUBLIC marathon though, I don't believe an officer can search through your backpack without probable cause. (and just having a backpack is NOT legal probable cause).


The police even announced before the race that backpacks were prohibited along the race route


I can't see how that would be legal.


edit on 13-5-2013 by Gazrok because: (no reason given)



posted on May, 13 2013 @ 09:14 AM
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reply to post by Gazrok
 


I double checked and I was mistaken. The exact word used was "discouraged" not "prohibited" and limited to the start/finish area.

Spectator's Guidelines
edit on 5/13/2013 by Slugworth because: (no reason given)





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