6 Things You Might Not Know About TSA Screeners

Maybe the Kardashians surpass TSA officers as internet punching bags, but the reality show stars have plenty of defenders. The TSA, not so much. So how do they deal with it? I haven’t done a study on this, but from my casual interactions and casual conversations with screeners (and from those of some of my colleagues), I can make the following six observations:

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1. Security officers are good and bad (but mostly good)

Yes, there are bad apples and in some cases criminally bad, like the TSA officers found guilty of theft at JFK. However, there have been instances where TSA officers have helped to save a life – or potentially many lives, especially when you consider how many loaded guns they confiscate each week (plus grenades, knives and more bizarre weaponry).

2. Sometimes they hear compliments

Officers tell us most passenger are nice but in a hurry, yet some find the time to tell them what a good job they’re doing. One of my employees saw this happen and said the TSA officer was so startled he actually stopped what he was doing and looked around as though confused (but then he smiled).

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3. Security officers get screened, too

They go through the screening process just as any other passenger is required to do, so yes, they know what it’s like for us on the other side of the process.

4. Security officers mess up, too

I’ve heard this directly, that despite all the years we’ve been forced to follow the no liquids over 3.4 ounces rule, even TSA officers make mistakes and bring their water bottle through (and this even happens to officers who criticize passengers for messing this up).

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5. Security officers don’t make up the rules

If you don’t like what the TSA is required to do at the security checkpoint, take it up with a supervisor,¬†file a complaint or contact your elected official. One man was apparently so exasperated¬† by security at the Portland, Oregon, airport last spring that he stripped naked – he was found not guilty of indecency last week by a judge who viewed his actions as a protest protected by free speech.

6. Security officers do feel beaten down (just like passengers)

A number of security officers have said they’re proud of the job they do, but I’ve also heard that many are beaten down by all the criticism. Which begs the question: Is it time for us as a nation to totally revamp our air travel security? If it is, what would you change?

More from Rick Seaney:

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Published: July 26, 2012