The June 16 issue of USA Today includes a story by Thomas Frank on how some police officers are taking exception with Transportation Security Administration airport screeners wearing police-type uniforms and police-type badges.
On the one side, TSA says their transportation security officers need the uniforms and badges in garner respect from the traveling public. On the other side, police officers say their authority is undercut by the screeners.
Whenever I hear anything law enforcement-related, I have to run it past my sister, who is a police detective in California. So I sent her a link to the article and asked her to poll her co-workers about the TSA badges. Here's a compilation of what they had to say about the issue:
To give airport screeners police like badges and uniforms is a grave mistake. You are not only putting the screeners themselves in harm's way in that they will be mistaken as sworn law enforcement, but you are creating more of a safety risk to the general public.
The public relies on law enforcement to keep them safe, period! It is not fair that because they have mistakenly identified a "screener" as a sworn peace officer that the response to their emergency is hindered, delayed, or flat out ignored due to a lack of proper training.
Let me play devil's advocate. Any good police officer must be able to think like the average criminal. That's how we get into who they really are and what they are capable of. Frankly, it allows us to mirror what type of behavior they may exhibit. This ability comes from extensive and on going training on a quarterly basis by properly trained personnel.
If I were a criminal and it was my intention to commit some egregious act then suffice it to say that I am going to do anything and everything possible to get away with that act. This includes preventing any law enforcement and/or "look alike" from stopping me.
As a criminal, all I see is the badge and the uniform. During the commission of my crime, I cannot develop the immediate ability to ascertain if it's security or sworn police. I'M JUST SIMPLY TRYING TO GET AWAY AND I WILL DO ANYTHING TO MAKE THAT HAPPEN.
Just as a police officer is really quite unable to differentiate the difference between a real gun and a plastic gun (in a spilt second), we are just going to protect the public and ourselves in that split second.
The bottom line is this. Nothing good can come of the people we protect and serve not being able to differentiate between us (armed and trained very well and on a consistent and ongoing basis) and airport screeners.
Back in March, I went out to Washington National to see TSA's airport checkpoint of the future. Included in that tour were TSOs wearing the new uniform and badge. I did a Podcast with TSA's Christopher White and I asked about the badges. You can listen to his 1:28-minute reply here.
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