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TSA Myth Busters: Do TSA Officers Arrest Passengers?

Sunday, July 03, 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.

Follow @TSA on Twitter and Instagram!

Bob Burns
TSA Social Media Team

Comments

Submitted by RevZafod on

Dignity and respect. Yeah, right. Not on my latest trip. The TSA officer yelled at me when I said I'd been so busy removing my laptop and belt and emptying my pockets of everything that I'd forgotten and left my boarding pass in one of the trays. She yelled something like "Don't you listen?"

This was my first trip since turning 75, and they're mostly as rude as ever in my experience since the agency was created, including many international trips since then.

Submitted by RevZafod on

Dignity and respect? Not in my latest experience coming home thru BWI. In the rush to remove my laptop, liquid medications in the ziploc,. empty my pockets, remove my belt while holding my pants up with one hand and not hold up the line, I inadvertently left my boarding pass in one of three trays needed.

The female TSA agent yelled at me "Don't you listen? There were announcements to keep your boarding pass!"

This was my first trip since turning 75, and I've flown about a million miles since the creation of the agency, most of it internationally.

In my experience, TSA agents are ruder with each passing year.

At least I got to keep my shoes on this trip. But dignity and respect? TSA has a long way to go on that.

Submitted by Anonymous on

If TSA is needed then it is unsafe to travel by air. I refuse to fly as long as there is a TSA.

Submitted by Fix The TSA on

Odd that you completely avoid mentioning the case and lawsuit that triggered this "It's not our fault!" post, Bob.

Sure, it was probably cops who last year threw down a disabled teenage cancer survivor who got a bruised and bloody face and was arrested during the ordeal.

But who mishandled the situation leading up to the throwdown and arrest?

TSA screeners.

Who didn't listen to the girl's mother who said the teen was partially blind, deaf, and easily confused in unfamiliar situations due to her illness?

TSA screeners.

Who called the cops in the first place?

TSA screeners.

Who love to dress like real law enforcement to "get respect" from the traveling public?

TSA screeners.

Don't want to be mistaken for real law enforcement officers? Don't bully passengers. Don't abuse passengers. Listen to the citizens you are dealing with. Don't dress like officers you are not.

The TSA shares the blame for the needless abuse of this young lady.

Shame on everyone involved!

Submitted by Fix The TSA on

Bob, do you or West do anything with the @TSA Twitter or Instagram accounts?

Submitted by Wintermute on

Of course TSOs don't arrest people; they aren't actually officers. This also makes their "private screenings" where the traveller is not allowed to leave "illegal detainment."

Submitted by Anonymous on

They're overworked and underpaid (due to the right side of Congress cutting their appropriation), and you were making their job harder.
Cut them some slack.

Submitted by Susan Richart on

"Treat all passengers with dignity and respect." Then how come it's not done, Bob?

It's quite apparent that TSA was totally incompetent in handling this situation and let it get so far out of hand that they had to call the police, who bungled it further.

This is the same TSA that wanted to open all sterile food used for tube feeding for a baby that was also leaving Memphis after treatment at St. Jude's and the same TSA that wouldn't allow the same baby to have her pacifier.

The fact that charges were dropped says it all: both the incompetent TSA and the incompetent PD were responsible for this extremely disturbing incident.

screen shot/DHS OIG statement

Submitted by Anonymous on

Yeah, all the tSA does is beat them up first.

Submitted by Anonymous on

It looks like the tSA is going to say that all they did was call the police and the police are the one who assaulted Hannah Cohen. Well, blogger bob, you better tell your overlords that's a bad idea. It makes it conspiracy.

Submitted by FK on

AH yes, a Bob Burns special- a post that ALMOST, but not quite, talks about a recent incident. Throw in enough irrelevant 'facts' to blur the case, imply lots of things, and don't quite address the real issue.

"The goal of a TSA officer is to ensure that no explosive or harmful device passes through the security checkpoint." - how did tackling a disabled cancer patient further this goal???

Submitted by Anonymous on

Thanks for setting the record straight! It's crazy how the media and the flying public use the TSA as a scapegoat for everything, including most recently the actions of airport PD in Tennessee.

Submitted by Holly on

I have treated with dignity and respect by the TSA officers. I have witnessed times that I didn't know how they maintained it with the treatment I've seen them be subjected to. My hat's off to them!!!

Submitted by MJ Belmarez on

TSA security screeners are an elite force of anti-terrorist commandos, with their blue knit slacks and black sneakers.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Hannah Cohen. Not that you care, blogger bob.

Submitted by RB on

Was this post in response to the news report of how a young lady was treated at a Memphis checkpoint? For any disabled person to end up bloodied and beaten due to TSA's inability to handle special need travelers dismisses any claim of TSA professionalism. TSA suggests to call ahead, apparently only certain screeners have the capacity to screener special need travelers.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Hannah Cohen will not be forgotten.

Submitted by Ken Prescott on

"Dignity and respect."

"You keep using that word. I do not believe it means what you believe it means." -- Inigo Montoya

Submitted by Anonymous on

It's not going to work, blogger bob. It's obvious the tSA is going to say that the police were the ones who assaulted Hannah Cohen after you called them to arrest her. But the mother was there, she saw what happened, she has pictures, and she's suing YOU, not the Memphis police department. Tell your overlords we peasants aren't that stupid.

Submitted by Anonymous on

>TSA officers do not carry firearms, billy clubs, mace, stun guns or any other type of weapon.

No, but you have a floor and hands to throw innocent teenage girls with brain cancer down onto it. And another thing, blogger bob, if Hannah Cohen had been taken down to the floor and bloodied by the police while they were arresting her, they would have charged her with resisting arrest. But they didn't. They let her go with no charges at all.

Submitted by Anonymous on

>When an officer believes a child ... to be in danger.

But not from you, right, blogger bob?

Submitted by Anonymous on

>The goal of a TSA officer is to ensure that no...harmful device passes through the security checkpoint.

You mean like an innocent teenage girl with brain cancer and related mental and physical disabilities? Like that kind of harmful device, blogger bob?

Submitted by RB on

Anonymous Anonymous said...
They're overworked and underpaid (due to the right side of Congress cutting their appropriation), and you were making their job harder.
Cut them some slack.

July 4, 2016 at 11:08 AM
..................
TSA employees are hardly underpaid or overworked. A person doesn't even require a high school level education to qualify to be a TSA screener. If they are hired they receive a salary that is fully in line with the job skills required for that work. And claiming that TSA screeners are overworked is laughable. Government employees have more workplace protections than most private sector workers have. If they work more than 8 hours daily they get overtime, holiday pay, shift differential, and other considerations.

Finally, no one is forced to work for TSA.

If the salaries aren't adequate then go to the private sector and get a job there. It is not the responsibility of taxpayers to give excessive salaries to government employees.

Submitted by Douglas Kidd on

Sorry Bob, you are not telling the truth, again. The moment a passenger enters the check point he/she is submitting to arrest by the TSA officers present and placing himself in their custody. He/she may not proceed to their gate or leave without permission, on pain of civil penalty if not criminal charges. When TSA tells the passenger to stay where he is calls for assistance from law enforcement, that person is under arrest.

That is why the first thing law enforcement does is to slap on the cuffs, and why he does not say "You are under arrest" or read you your Miranda rights. They are not the arresting officers! It is simply a transfer an individual who is already under arrest and in custody from one custodian (the arresting TSA officer) to another custodian (the law enforcement officer).

Submitted by Anonymous on

When TSA calls for assistance of law enforcement, it is asking for the LEO to take custody of someone who is already in under arrest and in TSA's custody.
That is why the LEO immediately places the individual in handcuffs and does not read the individual his Miranda rights. The LEO is not the arresting officer!
He is simply accepting into his custody an individual who was already under arrest.

Passengers submit to arrest and place themselves and their property in the custody of TSA officers when they enter the checkpoint. They may not leave the checkpoint without TSA permission. If they do, they face civil and/or criminal penalties.

TSA claims it does not arrest passengers in order to protect themselves from claims under the law enforcement provisions of the Tort Claims Act 28 U.S. Code § 2680 (h).
It claims its "officers" are mere "employees" even thought the employee in the case they refer to would today be considered an "independent contractor" under IRS rules.

Submitted by GSOLTSO on

Douglas Kidd sez - "That is why the first thing law enforcement does is to slap on the cuffs, and why he does not say "You are under arrest" or read you your Miranda rights. They are not the arresting officers! It is simply a transfer an individual who is already under arrest and in custody from one custodian (the arresting TSA officer) to another custodian (the law enforcement officer)."

TSA does not arrest passengers. TSA merely controls access to the sterile areas, and if there is a situation that requires LEO intervention, LEOs are contacted and respond.

Anon sez - "When TSA calls for assistance of law enforcement, it is asking for the LEO to take custody of someone who is already in under arrest and in TSA's custody.
That is why the LEO immediately places the individual in handcuffs and does not read the individual his Miranda rights. The LEO is not the arresting officer!
He is simply accepting into his custody an individual who was already under arrest.

This is also incorrect. TSA does not arrest anyone, local LEOs are the ones that determine the need and actually perform an arrest.

West
TSA Blog Team

Submitted by Fix The TSA on

West, thank you for correcting the (plant?) Anonymous of July 7,2016 at 3:21pm.

TSA screeners are not law enforcement.

West, there are several questions from commenters that you have so far refused to answer or even acknowledge. Will you address any of the questions or other comments here?

Submitted by Anonymous on

TSA employees are hardly underpaid or overworked. A person doesn't even require a high school level education to qualify to be a TSA screener. If they are hired they receive a salary that is fully in line with the job skills required for that work. And claiming that TSA screeners are overworked is laughable. Government employees have more workplace protections than most private sector workers have. If they work more than 8 hours daily they get overtime, holiday pay, shift differential, and other considerations.

Finally, no one is forced to work for TSA.

If the salaries aren't adequate then go to the private sector and get a job there. It is not the responsibility of taxpayers to give excessive salaries to government employees.

starting pay for a TSA officer is about $15.00 depending where they work. They are hired as part employees. In many states, TSA pays less than welfare.
Officers do not get overtime until they work 40 hrs a week, not 8 hrs a day. Shift differential only applies to night shift and sundays. Only full time employees get holiday pay. Part timers only get it if they work the holiday.

Your right, nobody forces the officers to work their. Just as nobody forces the naysayers to fly..

Submitted by Anonymous on

Blogger Douglas Kidd said...
Sorry Bob, you are not telling the truth, again. The moment a passenger enters the check point he/she is submitting to arrest by the TSA officers present and placing himself in their custody. absolutely not He/she may not proceed to their gate or leave without permission, on pain of civil penalty if not criminal charges. When TSA tells the passenger to stay where he is calls for assistance from law enforcement, that person is under arrest. TSA has absolutely no power what so ever to detain anyone.

That is why the first thing law enforcement does is to slap on the cuffs, and why he does not say "You are under arrest" or read you your Miranda rights. They are not the arresting officers! It is simply a transfer an individual who is already under arrest and in custody from one custodian (the arresting TSA officer) to another custodian (the law enforcement officer). absolutely false. TSA officers have no more authority to arrest than any civilian on the street.

Submitted by Mcmadnes on

I fly a lot, logged over 55K points on just Jet Blue and I never, I mean never saw, heard or experienced a TSA agent that was anything but courteous and professional. I am appalled at how many stupid people still try to board a plane with loaded guns! We should give the TSA the same respect we expect from them. I have to appreciate that I am not getting on a flight with a fool with a loaded gun and if it takes the TSA going through my bags, so be it. They may not be police, but they have to consider everyone suspect until checked and scanned because of the fools that do attempt to bring guns, knives, etc. on board.

Maybe I have flown out of many exceptional airports because I smile at the TSA agents and they smile back.

Submitted by Anonymous on

Do you think dressing TSAs like police officers might contribute to the confusion?

Submitted by Fix The TSA on

Boldy, how do you have so much information about the pay scale, schedules, policies, etc for TSA screeners when you have repeatedly insisted you do not work for the TSA? What government agency do you work for?

Did you know $15.00 is higher than minimum wage?

Submitted by Anonymous on

I fly a lot, logged over 55K points on just Jet Blue and I never, I mean never saw, heard or experienced a TSA agent that was anything but courteous and professional. I am appalled at how many stupid people still try to board a plane with loaded guns! We should give the TSA the same respect we expect from them. I have to appreciate that I am not getting on a flight with a fool with a loaded gun and if it takes the TSA going through my bags, so be it. They may not be police, but they have to consider everyone suspect until checked and scanned because of the fools that do attempt to bring guns, knives, etc. on board.

Maybe I have flown out of many exceptional airports because I smile at the TSA agents and they smile back.

My experiences are just like your. I spend a lot of time in airports and I have never seen our heard anything but professionalism from TSA officers. I have seen TSA officers buy lunch for passengers who are stranded at airports, coffee for military folks traveling through and in one case, bough a pair of pants for a passenger who was denied boarding because her shorts were to short. One thing I have realized is those who post here for the most part are just unhappy people. They demonize TSA without all the facts such as the Tennessee case. Not one person here was there when it happened yet they are all convicting TSA.
They simply have an agenda. They cant ask a real question and wonder why they don't get answers. Its very childish, yet entertaining to read.

Continued safe travels

Submitted by RB on

Anonymous said...
They're overworked and underpaid (due to the right side of Congress cutting their appropriation), and you were making their job harder.
Cut them some slack.

July 4, 2016 at 11:08 AM
..................
For this current budget year Congress funded TSA with more money than TSA asked for.

TSA gets no slack cut. TSA is just incompetent.

Submitted by RB on

Anonymous Anonymous said...
TSA employees are hardly underpaid or overworked. A person doesn't even require a high school level education to qualify to be a TSA screener. If they are hired they receive a salary that is fully in line with the job skills required for that work. And claiming that TSA screeners are overworked is laughable. Government employees have more workplace protections than most private sector workers have. If they work more than 8 hours daily they get overtime, holiday pay, shift differential, and other considerations.

Finally, no one is forced to work for TSA.
.......................

If the salaries aren't adequate then go to the private sector and get a job there. It is not the responsibility of taxpayers to give excessive salaries to government employees.

starting pay for a TSA officer is about $15.00 depending where they work. They are hired as part employees. In many states, TSA pays less than welfare.
Officers do not get overtime until they work 40 hrs a week, not 8 hrs a day. Shift differential only applies to night shift and sundays. Only full time employees get holiday pay. Part timers only get it if they work the holiday.

Your right, nobody forces the officers to work their. Just as nobody forces the naysayers to fly..

July 10, 2016 at 7:42 AM

...............

So we all agree that TSA screeners are paid at a level in line with their job skill requirements.

TSA Screener

https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/436011200/

$15.15 to $21.61 hourly for part time work.

Nothing wrong with that as a starting wage.

New TSA screeners have few required skills, don't supervise anything, and really have a pretty easy job. Indoors, air conditioned, very light physical effort required.

I don't need TSA in order to travel by air. TSA can be disbanded today as far as I care. Besides, it is the property and customers of the airlines. The airlines should be providing any needed security for their business, not the federal government.




Submitted by Fix The TSA on

Isn't it strange how Boldy "convicts" critics of the TSA every single week, yet she is absolutely willing to believe total strangers who work for a government department she claims to have no affiliation?

Submitted by Susan Richart on

Fix the TSA, here's the answer to your question:

"Boldy, how do you have so much information about the pay scale, schedules, policies, etc for TSA screeners when you have repeatedly insisted you do not work for the TSA?"

He either works for TSA or is perhaps a cop assigned to an airport or works closely with the TSA in some capacity:

"My experiences are just like your. I spend a lot of time in airports and I have never seen our heard anything but professionalism from TSA officers. I have seen TSA officers buy lunch for passengers who are stranded at airports, coffee for military folks traveling through and in one case, bough a pair of pants for a passenger who was denied boarding because her shorts were to short."

A passenger would not have that kind of interaction with the TSA.

Boldy has "outed" himself.

screen shot/DHS OIG statement

Submitted by Susan Richart on

Boldy wrote:

"TSA has absolutely no power what so ever to detain anyone."

Tell that to Stacey Armarto & hundreds of others passengers who have been detained by TSA. Remember the plexiglass pens passengers used to be put into? That was detention.

"TSA officers have no more authority to arrest than any civilian on the street."

Ever hear of citizen's arrest?

screen shot/DHS OIG statement

Submitted by SSSS For Some Reason on

"..Just as nobody forces the naysayers to fly.."

Please tell me what alternate mode of transportation will get me to Hawaii in a day or less?

Please tell me what TSA-Free method of transportation will get me to South America in a day or less?

And then if you would please tell me why the Federal Government is providing airport security for private airlines? They aren't providing security for any other private industries so what makes the airlines so special?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Then please explain to me why your clerks form a circle around a person so he cannot leave the area?

Submitted by Anonymous on

Boldy, how do you have so much information about the pay scale, schedules, policies, etc for TSA screeners when you have repeatedly insisted you do not work for the TSA? What government agency do you work for?

Did you know $15.00 is higher than minimum wage?


Its online. This is easy information to get.
Did someone suggest they get less than minimum wage?

Submitted by Anonymous on

A passenger would not have that kind of interaction with the TSA.

Boldy has "outed" himself.

perhaps you wouldn't. But I have seen this first hand.

Submitted by Anonymous on

TSA has absolutely no power what so ever to detain anyone."

Tell that to Stacey Armarto & hundreds of others passengers who have been detained by TSA. Remember the plexiglass pens passengers used to be put into? That was detention. do they still use those? I haven't seen them in years.

"TSA officers have no more authority to arrest than any civilian on the street."

Ever hear of citizen's arrest? huh... That's what I just said...

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