Strip the TSA

By | December 12, 2011

When the TSA came into existence, their screeners worewhite. Then, they became Transportation Security Officers(TSOs), and got new blue uniforms. Their embroidered

English: A TSA officer screens a piece of luggage.

Image via Wikipedia

badges got replaced with metal ones to “represent the continuing evolution of the officers’ role and responsibilities.”

At the time when this happened in 2008, we were against this. We preferred the old uniforms, and thought there was little reason to change them. Three years later, someone agrees. Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), introduced the STRIP Act(Stop TSA’s Reach In Policy Act). It would prohibit TSOs from using the title officer, and would ban them from wearing a metal badge resembling a police badge or uniform resembling that of law enforcement unless they receive law enforcement training.

Some have countered that Congress should be supporting federal employees instead of ‘stripping’ them, and ensuring they get the training and experience to support the title. We are not against that philosophy. Clearly, something needs to be done.

Senator Charles Schumer(D-NY), want the TSA to create a new positionat all airports. That of passenger advocate to immediate act on all complaints by passengers over security screenings. The idea is not without precedent. Airlines must already designate Complaints Resolution Officers(CROs) at all airports to deal with complaints under the Air Accessibility Act. Of course, the problem is that this person would likely be a TSO already, which could cause friction.

So, what is the solution? Passenger advocates? Changing the uniform? Some would say it is akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Our proposal is this:

  • Stop the roadblocks to airports hiring their own private screeners, who must comply with federal screening guidelines.
  • Make the TSOs look less like law enforcement, but still give them a consistent uniform people can respect.
  • We are all for additional training, but giving TSOs law enforcement training and escalating them to law enforcement agents creates an additional problem. This is a thorny issue when many of them are already acting as if they had law enforcement powers.
  • Ensure the procedure for complaining about the behavior of a TSO or the nature of a screening is well-publicized, and that steps are taken to ensure no one feels uncomfortable or fears reprisal for using it.
The TSA is a deeply flawed organization, and we aren’t that thrilled with its leader, or his boss right now. It needs serious solutions, and the unions are right. The government should be finding ways to build the organization up instead of tearing it down. But a little tearing down may be what is needed. TSA enforcement is inconsistent, and the quality and worthiness of their brand of airport screening continues to be questioned. They should be reorganized to be beyond reproach, if nothing else.