Regardless of how you feel about the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) they agency serves a defined purpose, that of securing transportation security in the United States, primarily in airports. Working along side the TSA in airports are police officers, who are supposed to enforce the laws within the airports, ensuring airport security regulations are properly adhered to. While some police officers may disagree with TSA policy and procedure, their job is to follow the law. When a police officer blatantly disregards security procedure in a rigid environment such as an airport, and in the process drags a Federal Agent into the situation, what happens next is exactly what shouldn’t happen, creating a situation going on today at New York City’s LaGuardia Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport.
So, what is exactly occurring and what caused it?
Let’s go back to the 4th of April … A United States Department of Education Special Agent, a Federal law enforcement agent carrying a Glock.40 caliber handgun, arrives at LaGuardia Airport’s Terminal C and the West Checkpoint to meet Secretary of Education. The Special Agent, having been through airport security previously is familiar with the protocols for passing from the “land side” to the “sterile” with their weapon and seeks out a Police Officer to escort them past security. The Special Agent meets with their New York-Jersey Port Authority Police (PAPD) escort to pass through security, however rather than following the protocols set in place by not only the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) but also the PAPD itself, the PAPD Officer removed a sign blocking a closed walk through metal detector and brought the Special Agent through. The Special Agent with the PAPD Officer was undocumented to either agency at the time of the incident, and as all of this was captured on security cameras, this person appeared to be a civilian identified as carrying a gun bypassing security.
Strict policies are in place to document when a firearm is brought into the sterile area of the airport. Furthermore, properly documenting an armed law enforcement officer entering the sterile area should take less than a minute.
Once on the “sterile” side of security a TSA Transportation Security Manager approached the officer and asked them to follow proper procedures. Rather than simply complying with the Transportation Security Manager’s request, the officer responded with “Who the f%$k are you?“ This unwarranted response prompted a call to the PAPD Captain to discuss the incident, smooth things over and move on.
This could have been the end of it, the PAPD and TSA must work hand in hand, side-by-side, day in and day out at multiple airports in New York and New Jersey, however the Captain chose to ignore the TSA and refuse to return phone calls.
The PAPD’s lack of response to the TSA caused the agency to follow established protocols in dealing with such a significant security violation and issued a Letter of Investigation. As a result the PAPD Officer could face a fine of up to US$24,000. The Department of Education Special Agent is not under investigation, they properly followed their PAPD escort and violated no rules pertaining to them.
So … here is where the pissing match begins … as of today Port Authority Police Officers have begun targeting Department of Homeland Security vehicles and issuing tickets to the drivers in response to the Letter of Investigation at the airports they oversee in New York City. In addition to issuing moving violation tickets to those driving DHS vehicles, the PAPD has begun citing TSA Transportation Security Officers smoking on the curbs at JFK Airport.
TSA Supervisors have reported some subordinates are being intimated by the PAPD Officers and are fearful for reporting to work due to harassment by the PAPD.
Now two agencies charged with providing the highest level of aviation security at some of the busiest airports in the United States, and the World, are engaged in a pissing match that ultimately impacts the integrity of security commercial airline flights.
Once the Port Authority Police Officer created a security breach situation, he had the immediate opportunity to correct it and moved on. Chest thumping and creating a territorial pissing match that diverts the attention of police officers and distracts transportation security officers is good for no one.
Commercial aviation security is a serious business; it should not be treated in the same manner as a drunken intra-fraternity house grudge match.
Like my Grandma always said, “Cutting corner now to save a minute now can cost you five minutes later on.” Not a bad thing to keep in mind if you’re the cop who didn’t follow the rules and now faces a potential $24,000 fine.