The imperative of closer working relationships to improve airport security

Posted: 5 January 2017 | Neville Brooklyn Hay. Avsec PM, MSyI, Brooklyn Associates | No comments yet

An emotional and gripping insight from Neville Hay on renewed need for collaboration to strengthen aviation and airport security…


Whenever we create, adapt, suggest or implement security we should be mindful of the legacy we wish to leave behind…

Theresa May recently visited Bahrain and according to reporting will announce a series of additional security measures, to increase security at airports in the region including the establishment of a new joint UK-GCC working group on counter-terrorism and border security.  She warns that “More than ever, Gulf security is our security”.


In my humble opinion this has to be a great opportunity for all concerned to enhance these partnerships, work together, share information and expertise not just between law enforcement but with the industry to keep up with the ever changing global landscape of terrorism and crime in order to protect all generations. The recent events of last year and the New Year’s active shooting in Istanbul serve as the constant reminder for closer working relationships.

In 1987 with only two years in the Police Force as a young constable I attended a call to a school regarding a report of a young boy choking. Myself and one of the ambulance crew ran to the upper corridor of the school where we found a school teacher with an 11 year old boy by the name of Billy. Billy was unconscious on the floor the teacher by his side, she said Billy had informed her he had swallowed his pen top, he then collapsed.

“More than ever, Gulf security is our security”

Myself and the ambulance officer attended to Billy, working together to prevent his life deteriorating, everything we tried could not dislodge the pen top, Billy’s life was slipping away, we picked him up and ran to the ambulance where I carried out external heart massage and the ambulance man continued with mouth to mouth in an attempt to keep Billy alive, a journey I will never forget.

 As the ambulance arrived at the Hospital the crash team was waiting, they took Billy into the emergency room and carried out a procedure to remove the pen top lodged deep in his throat. Billy was placed on a life support machine but unfortunately never recovered. His parents spoke to me and told me that he was named after the local football team having all the names of the players. It made me smile in such sad and traumatic circumstances.

Following his funeral his mother campaigned about the dangers to children and pen tops. She was supported by local government and as a result leading manufacturers made sure that all pen tops had holes in the top of the cap to prevent tragic events such as Billy’s death occurring again. It had a global effect.

It took me two years before I could speak Billy’s name without the feeling of overwhelming sadness. Billy’s death brought about change, it involved team work and joint working, it involved change and the recognition for change and although difficult to measure it no doubt prevented others suffering the same fate. Working together, collaboration and communication made a global difference.   

30 years on having recently retired from border and ports policing at an international airport and the world’s busiest single runway, my role within Special Branch formed a link with all agencies at the airport. Not wishing to labour the point and with a proud smile and not to discredit any other agency around the world, but to highlight that Special Branch is the oldest counter terrorism unit in the world and its name famous throughout the world. 

Humour aside, the tradition and expertise Special Branch brings to the table will enhance and add value to all those employed at our borders around the world.  So maybe it is fitting the name carries on the tradition and is adopted by those other parties and mirrors the work by sharing best practise, learning and developing from each other.


Special Branch Dubai, Special Branch Kuwait, Special Branch Bahrain, Qatar etc. creates a certain element of bonding within the greater worldwide policing family, the same as the title police officer or aviation security person, all of which have the same goal in mind and are intent on dealing with the global issues of terrorism and serious organised crime in order to deter, detect, disrupt, pursue, protect our communities from those who are determined on causing harm.

As an individual who has spent recent years linked with aviation security and policing I have seen the need for a better understanding between the two entities. That is not to say there has not been some brilliant work around the globe because there has. However, some still work in silos. There has to be a balance between facilitation, security and the business side of the industry and this is where sometimes issues remain grey. It requires a greater understanding from all parties and therefore requires greater joint working.

Change is always a challenge, however, the rocky path of change soon becomes smooth and the journey together can then move at pace. My work with the shadow border police command bore witness to this, another initiative introduced by Theresa May, and we are now seeing the fruits of this. The formation of the National Crime Agency and its Border Police Command provided the vehicle for agencies to work together at the border building and developing trusted partnership for the greater good. It brought agencies together and whilst not all can participate in executive action they all have their part to play.  It integrates aviation security, the head of airport security, customs, immigration and police under one banner.  It enables an exchange of information, briefing updates, joint working and the sharing of resources.

The modern day slavery bill, introduced by Theresa May, is another example of joint working. Providing agencies to lift the stone and look underneath having the confidence of joint working to resolve this issue which brings so much misery to individuals around the globe. Gatwick Airport through A21 have formed joint working practises on this very subject.

Change is always a challenge, however, the rocky path of change soon becomes smooth and the journey together can then move at pace…

Modern day slavery affects us all and is seen on our streets every day. Not everyone will witness it. It has an impact on the state through the knock-on effect of crime, social and economic crisis, costing states billions every year.

Modern day slavery is born out of despair and the desperation of others to improve their life, to provide for families and loved ones or to escape their own surroundings, unfortunately all that glitters is not gold and the unforeseen circumstances that lay ahead are not often seen. Individuals exploit the vulnerable, young or old, there are no barriers, no morals, organised crime and those involved are not interested in the individual, the human being, they are only interested in the value of the commodity, that being the human element and what that brings, they do not value life as we know it.

If we were all to stand next to each other in the golden sun-kissed corn field wearing only the clothing, we were born in we would all be equal. Position, status or wealth would have no meaning, just human beings standing next to each other wanting respect for each other. Love and human kindness cannot be brought. It is more precious than gold. 

The UK has the minimum wage and the consolidated working hours in a week. It provided workers with basic human rights, the right to earn a living with a minimum wage set and the right to have time off work to spend with loved ones. Everyone should have two days off a week to recharge and to spend with those closest to them.


Anyone can be exploited we know in some countries around the world, workers are exploited as there is no minimum wage, there is no maximum working hours per week. This has to change and states have to provide this basic human need to individuals in employment. Each state has a responsibility to make it legislation and enforce it. Not debate it, not avoid the issue but to look at those individuals through their own eyes whilst looking at their own children. The aviation industry can and should act as world leaders and set standards of employment to ensure these basic rights for those employed in our industry. Leading by example.

Terrorism and Criminals exploit and prey on individuals in times of hardship or dissatisfaction with life, crime or terrorism is an easy avenue to find oneself.  Crime and the proceeds of crime finance terrorism. Joint Border Policing, working in partnership with airports, seaport and intelligence agencies with a common theme of protecting the people is paramount. It can only be achieved by the willingness of agencies to work together, to stand side by side, shoulder to shoulder, defenders of human kindness no matter what position or status and putting aside those inhibitors by becoming enablers forming a global partnership as gatekeepers to the globe, what one does locally effects all globally.     

Assisting each other where appropriate, necessary and lawful, sharing equipment and or facilities to aid investigations maximising technology…

Whilst taking into account the above and understanding how the agencies and entities can work together more effectively requires openness and mindfulness, every airport no matter what the size can form its own joint border team with a joint border intelligence and risk group. There can be information exchange, security management systems (SeMS) which itself will assist each entity to ensure a streamlined approach with accountability and responsibility.

Maximise resources with joint operations, identify persons of interest and investigate the insider threat by a multi-agency approach. Hold bi-daily management, joint border operational meetings which would complement and feed into either monthly or 6 weekly joint border meetings, reviewing with tactical tasking and coordination of all to ensure each agency where possible can assist, take an active part or support by other means, mitigating the threat from terrorism and serious organised crime and in times of heightened or a crisis come together as one, thereby preventing, protecting and preparing the agencies and the environment of the airport.

Educating the workforce with a community engagement program, integrated with a communications network via a fixed intelligence unit or control room where information can be shared or communicated effectively and efficiently or provided to the correct department for action.

Integrating HD CCTV with algorithms, linking passenger information and bio metrics. Assisting each other where appropriate, necessary and lawful, sharing equipment and or facilities to aid investigations maximising technology.

There is so much more we can do together, creating gateways with processes and procedure instead of acting in silos will enhance our security, enable a smarter operation and mitigate the risk whilst making best use of the available resource and technology.  Lessons learnt from Billy reinforces what can be achieved when we work together.

About the Author

Neville is a recently retired police officer with 32 yrs diverse policing experience, including representation on the multi-agency south east regional organised neville haycrime meetings discussing issues of modern day slavery, speaker at the World Airlines conference on how aviation can play its part in combating modern day slavery, the later part of his career spent in Special Branch dealing with Counter Terrorism and National Security. Speaker at various aviation security conferences around the world, a member of and now acting as an independent consultant for aviation security, and policing, advocating joint border policing, key stakeholder engagement, community engagement, looking at aviation security from a holistic approach, to include security by design, SeMS, integrated with the use of technology and most importantly the human factor. 

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