American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox, Sr. today testified before the House Committee on Homeland Security’s Subcommittee on Transportation Security field hearing at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) about airport screening area security. The hearing comes in the wake of last year’s tragic shooting that took the life of one officer and wounded two others. AFGE represents 45,000 TSA officers nationwide.
Cox renewed the union’s call for the creation of a new armed law enforcement unit within TSA to ensure immediate and consistent protection of screening areas at airports nationwide.
“As we have learned since November 1st, current airport law enforcement operations have gaps and inconsistencies that leave TSOs and passengers vulnerable. Many airports have no armed law enforcement officers stationed at or in the airport,” testified Cox.
AFGE strongly believes TSA should create an armed Transportation Security Law Enforcement Officer (TS-LEO) position that is assigned to protect TSOs and passengers at airport checkpoints and other key locations within airports.
“Deployment of duly trained and certified TS-LEOs would establish a consistent standard of protection. This is not a call for the arming of TSA officers. Rather, our proposal would establish a new law enforcement unit within TSA,” said Cox.
Cox also noted that as a result of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the Social Security Administration now provides its employees and visitors with law enforcement support at its offices nationwide.
“SSA employees deserve this protection, and so do TSOs and air passengers.”
The union recommended further security improvements, including the installation of raised platforms to increase officer visibility and provide a deterrent to potential wrongdoers.
“TSA should establish raised, protective installations at each checkpoint with bulletproof glass to allow armed officers to better observe the area, detect a problem before it escalates and create a visible deterrent for those who might be planning an attack,” he continued.
Cox also outlined several other key recommendations to improve airport security, including expansion and improvement of the Behavior Detection Officer program, active shooter training for TSOs, and upgraded coordination between airport and local first responders.
“The bottom line is that no TSO should have to fear for their life when they show up to work in the morning,” Cox added. “They do their job and protect the flying public every day. Now we need to hold up our end of the bargain and protect them.”