Should TSA officers have arrest powers, allowed to be armed? - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Should TSA officers have arrest powers, allowed to be armed?

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WASHINGTON -

Should TSA officers have the power to make arrests or even carry firearms as they screen passengers at airports nationwide? It is a question now being raised in the wake of Friday’s deadly shooting at Los Angeles International Airport.

The union representing employees of the Transportation Security Administration says officers are assaulted at airports every day and they should have the power to make arrests.

"We would like for these officers to have arrest authority.” said AFGE Union President David Cox at a news conference Friday. “Now, if they are assaulted, they have to call for the local police, things of that nature. They cannot leave their work area so that does create problems.”

At airport screening zones nationwide, TSA officers wear badges and police-style uniforms, but they are not trained as sworn law enforcement officers and have no authority to take anyone into custody.

At Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport, sworn officers with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority patrol the terminals and step in when ever police action is needed.

At BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, the airport is patrolled by the Maryland Transportation Authority Police.

No one in the screening area is armed.

"We have never advocated for the TSA agents to be armed,” said Cox. “They are there to screen the American public to keep them safe on the airlines."

In fact, some people who closely follow the industry are against seeing the TSA gain any more authority than it already has.

"To my mind, they've abused the powers that they already have,” said Douglas Kidd with the National Association of Airline Passengers. “Their job is simple and very limited; to screen passengers and passenger bags and that's all.”

Kidd says he receives constant complaints about TSA officers and to give them further powers would be a threat to public safety.

"The TSA already has all the power that they need and they've abused their power countless times to strip search old ladies, to disrobe passengers, to use the body scanners for peep show purposes and to pilfer passenger luggage," said Kidd.

At Reagan National Airport Monday, passengers saw the pros and cons.

"I think it would be useful and helpful if they were sworn police officers," said one flyer.

Another saw it differently.

"I feel like the situation should be done by the regular police that we already have at the airport,” said another flyer. “I don't think having more guns in the airport would necessarily mean more security.”

In fact, as recently as last year, a member of Congress wanted to take away the officers’ uniforms and badges. It died on the House floor.

TSA screeners must undergo background checks before they are hired. To train them as sworn law enforcement officers would take them off the job for months at a time and likely cost millions of additional dollars.

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