Pistole: TSA Considering Making Some TSO's Sworn Officers

Any Such Move Would Be At Least A Year Away
Two years ago, TSA angered some police groups by issuing police-inspired uniforms and badges to its screeners, which it calls "Transportation Security Officers," or TSOs.

TSA said the change would increase respect for its screeners. Real police agencies saw it as akin to impersonation of an officer, and noted there had already been cases in which TSOs had crossed the line from their role as screeners to "play cop." But TSA assured the law enforcement community that all badged TSOs would first receive two days of training, and TSA Deputy Administrator Gale Rossides added it was highly unlikely screeners will ever be given true law-enforcement authority.

But that may be changing. In an interview with Washington Post columnist Joe Davidson last week, new TSA Chief John Pistole, a 26-year veteran of the FBI, acknowledged reports the agency is considering creating a corps of TSOs who would become actual, sworn law enforcement officers. "It would be a force multiplier, not designed to replace airport law enforcement authority but to supplement those as appropriate," he said

Pistole (below, right) added he'd like to see those new officers come from outside police agencies. "Those details are currently being worked out, but I like the idea of having those who have experience in this business. But I'm looking at all the options."

Action on the idea is not expected for a year.

Still unclear is how this might be reconciled with the fourth amendment. If a screener is now a cop, will he or she then need a warrant to search your underwear for illegal shampoo bottles, or would the simple act of attempting to get on an airplane constitute "probable cause"?

Meanwhile, if the effect of the TSA's uniforms and badges on respect for screeners can be measured by gauging workforce morale, it hasn't worked. According to a survey by the Partnership for Public Service, out of 216 federal agencies, TSA ranked 213th in "Best Places to Work."

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