TSA Myth Busters: Do TSA Officers Arrest Passengers?

Sunday, July 3, 2016
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From time to time, we see headlines, blogs, and comments from people who believe that TSA officers have the authority to arrest passengers. Well, they do not, so let us set the record straight.

  • TSA officers at airport checkpoints do not have the authority to arrest any passenger, regardless of the situation.
  • TSA officers do not carry firearms, billy clubs, mace, stun guns or any other type of weapon. Nor do TSA officers carry handcuffs. They are not authorized to use force in the performance of their duties.

TSA does call for law enforcement assistance when deemed necessary. So under what circumstance would a TSA officer need to call law enforcement? Here are just a few (not all) of the more common situations:

  • When a traveler attempts to evade/avoid screening.
  • When a traveler interferes with the screening process and will not cease the interference.
  • When certain prohibited items, such as firearms and larger knives are discovered.
  • When potential explosive devices are discovered.
  • When illegal narcotics or any other illegal items are discovered.
  • When an officer recognizes a person from a “Be on the Lookout” (BOLO) notification.
  • When an officer believes a child or any other traveler might be traveling against his or her will or if the individual is believed to be in danger.
  • If there is a dispute or conflict between travelers that results in a physical altercation that can’t be resolved.

The goal of a TSA officer is to ensure that no explosive or harmful device passes through the security checkpoint. In doing that, TSA officers are expected to treat all travelers with dignity and respect.

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Bob Burns
TSA Social Media Team

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