Officials at the Transportation Security Administration just can’t help themselves. TSA is beginning to equip its 48,000 screeners with a 3-inch-by-2-inch, silver-colored badges that will be worn on new royal-blue police-like uniforms. Upset by the lack of respect some of their screeners are receiving, TSA has made the flawed judgment that a badge will solve the problem.
The badge issue is not new. During my tenure (2002 – 2005) at TSA, the agency floated that idea of providing badges to the screener workforce several times. These occurrences took place mostly during the early days of TSA when the agency was still searching for its identity and believed it was created to be a law enforcement agency. Cooler heads prevailed during those days, but that clearly didn’t stop select bureaucrats at the agency from pushing their agenda.
Let’s be clear – TSA screeners are not law enforcement officers. They are not certified inspectors. They do not require access to crime scenes and they are not equipped or trained to respond to law enforcement incidents. They only special access they require is to certain areas of airports – for which their TSA badge and credential provides them access.
This decision has angered law enforcement authorities at airports as well. They are concerned (and rightly so) that the traveling public will confuse screeners equipped with a badge with legitimate law enforcement officers. They are also concerned about the possible misuse of badges by a less trained and lower-paid workforce.
The agency believes that badges will improve the morale of its workforce and at the same time convey a sense of professionalism. If these issues are truly areas of concern for TSA leadership, they should first consider higher pay and additional training for their screeners.