Union seeks armed TSA unit

A TSA agent at Terminal 3 at Los Angeles International Airport screens travelers the day after a shooter killed an agent and injured three others. The incident has prompted calls by the union representing screeners for an armed TSA unit. KEVORK DJANSEZIAN / Getty
A TSA agent at Terminal 3 at Los Angeles International Airport screens travelers the day after a shooter killed an agent and injured three others. The incident has prompted calls by the union representing screeners for an armed TSA unit. KEVORK DJANSEZIAN / Getty
Posted: November 06, 2013

The Transportation Security Administration said Monday that the public should "not anticipate a change in airport security" after the shootings at Los Angeles International Airport last week.

"However, passengers may see an increased presence of local law-enforcement officers" across the country, the agency said. "Security measures will be both seen and unseen."

Friday's slaying of Gerardo Hernandez, the first TSA employee killed in the line of duty, was not unlike mass shootings at a Colorado movie theater, a Connecticut elementary school, or the Sept. 16 massacre at the Washington, D.C., Navy Yard: A single shooter opened fire in a public place.

Airports have been thought to be safe, given the level of government security. The TSA, created after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, has the job of keeping bad guys with weapons and bombs from boarding airplanes.

"TSA was put there to make sure that this sort of thing didn't happen on airplanes, and they succeeded," said George Hamlin, a former airline executive who runs Hamlin Transportation Consulting in Fairfax, Va. "But how do you protect the protectors?

"If you keep pushing the perimeter out, pretty soon we are trying to protect the entire world from itself," Hamlin said. "Privacy would be utterly out the window."

The accused shooter, Paul Ciancia, 23, of Pennsville, N.J., is charged with killing one TSA officer and wounding two TSA employees before he was shot by Los Angeles airport police.

TSA administrator John Pistole, who met Saturday with the slain officer's family, said the agency would discuss "writ large" security issues with Congress, including whether TSA officers should be armed.

The union representing 45,000 screeners at 440 U.S. airports wants armed law-enforcement officers at screening checkpoints nationwide.

"We believe they should be a new class of TSA officer," said David Borer, general counsel of the American Federation of Government Employees. "We aren't supporting arming the entire TSA workforce."

The union would like a law-enforcement component within the TSA workforce to provide better and more consistent security. "Friday's event was the most extreme, but our officers are verbally assaulted every day. They are frequently physically assaulted," Borer said.

If armed officers are deemed necessary, they should be a separate force, Hamlin agreed:

"The TSA has a job to do - screening - which requires concentration on a screen for periods of time. Do you want them also to be trained in weapons? This is not the Wild West."


lloyd@phillynews.com

215-854-2831

comments powered by Disqus
|
|
|
|
|