Working the frontlines at TSA requires that officers keep their cool under pressure and stay vigilant to ensure security – even when the unexpected happens and things get a bit chaotic.
An example of this occurred at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, when a passenger tried to bring a knife onto a plane in an unusual way, and then became disruptive during screening.
Typically, when passengers try to sneak prohibited objects past security, they hide them in carry-on bags. This time, though, the offending traveler concealed the illicit item inside clothes she was wearing – her bra.
Officers found the knife with the help of Advanced Imaging Technology, a specialized X-ray system designed to detect physical threats. They confiscated the knife, prevented the passenger from boarding the plane, and called Phoenix police, who arrested the woman.
The incident happened at the Terminal 3 checkpoint. As the passenger made her way through the checkpoint, lead officer Jennifer Panerio responded to an alarm on the traveler’s upper torso. Panerio explained the situation to the woman and offered a private screening.
Following TSA training protocols, Panerio discovered an anomaly that appeared on one side of the passenger’s upper body but not the other. Meanwhile, the woman, who had become belligerent, tried to argue her way out of the situation.
While Panerio performed the pat-down, the woman repeatedly interrupted her, stating that the item in question was just her bra. When the passenger made allegations that she was being screened inappropriately, Panerio radioed for a supervisor.
When supervisory officer Tom Hughes got to the checkpoint, he explained to the passenger that the situation would need to be resolved. The woman began to argue vociferously. Hughes reiterated the policy.
The passenger agreed to allow Panerio to pat down the area but continued to talk loudly and insisted she was not going to stand for being improperly checked. Hughes in turn contacted another supervisory officer, Jasmine.
After Jasmine arrived, she saw that the passenger set off an alarm in her upper left chest area and her headwear. Jasmine gave the passenger standard advisements once again, and the woman agreed to a private screening.
Jasmine proceeded with the pat-down, noticed an object bulging in the bra area, and asked the traveler to remove the item. The passenger reached into her bra, threw a knife on the table and stated that she always brings the knife through security without a problem.
The woman accused the Phoenix TSA officers of singling her out. However, witnesses said there was never any indication that the officers acted inappropriately in any way, and in fact, they followed standard screening protocol.
“The passenger attempted to use social engineering, but we stuck to our training and followed procedures to detect the threat,” Jasmine said.
Once Phoenix police arrived on the scene, the passenger said she forgot the knife was in her bra. Police arrested the woman.
The TSA officers, who followed agency regulations, policies, and procedures, focused on ensuring security even in the face of adversity. “When you are following procedures, TSA leadership will always stand behind you,” said Assistant Federal Security Director Lisa Christenson.
TSA Phoenix worked as a team and kept their cool under pressure to accomplish the TSA mission.