Let’s Cut the TSA Some Slack

Bashing them may be in vogue, but it is often uninformed.

A colleague just sent me the now infamous photo of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) personnel patting down a baby because their equipment indicated the presence of trace materials on the child’s stroller. As someone who has trained people on weapons screening for decades who also spends more time on commercial flights than some pilots each year, I felt compelled to voice an opinion. 

My two and a half year old has already been to about 20 states and seven foreign countries.  He has been searched on several occasions outside the United States, and I never gave it a second thought for a variety of reasons.  I hope he will not be emotionally scarred due to my lack of hysteria as a parent.  

When I was with the Mercer University Police Department many years ago, an alert university patrol officer spotted what he thought was a drug deal in an alley behind a convenience store adjacent to the campus late at night. His fellow officers moved in at his direction and interrupted pretty large crack cocaine transaction. One of the backup officers noted that an individual who was talking on a nearby payphone had a glove on his left hand but not on his right hand and correctly deduced that the individual might be covering the dope dealers and recovered a loaded handgun from him. 

To find the drugs, officers had to remove the diaper of a baby in one of the cars on the scene whereupon they recovered an astounding cache of crack cocaine.  The highly efficient takedown of a number of suspects without a shot being fired was truly remarkable when we looked at the entire chain of events, and I have never been prouder of colleagues.

Drug dealers have been utilizing babies for years to try to beat law enforcement and corrections officials. In the far higher stakes game of airport security, TSA officials must constantly look for gaps in their approach while attempting not to offend people in a free society where we enjoy civil rights not afforded to the majority of the world’s population.  Personally as well as professionally, as someone who has flown commercial air a great deal both before and after Sept. 11, 2001, I think they are achieving a pretty decent balance.  Overall, I have found their personnel and strategies to be far better than what we had before our nation was attacked while also being very polite and courteous as they conduct the unpleasant tasks associated with searching millions of people. 

Take CS’ 9/11 Anniversary Online Poll

I know it is in vogue to kick the TSA around. I know that like the FBI, BATFE, FEMA, U.S. Secret Service, CIA and other large federal agencies that try to protect us in a free society, they are not perfect and will make mistakes.  At the same time, I live in a communist country part time each year.  I have also travelled to places where terrorist attacks are far more common and airport security measures are much more intense. 

These experiences cause me to regularly think about the incredible freedoms we enjoy and the delicate balance we seek between our freedoms and the very survival of our great nation. I am extremely grateful for the political leaders who have shaped a great nation through our long and difficult history. I am even more grateful for the men and women who have sacrificed so much in so many wars over time to allow us to enjoy the freedoms that far too many Americans take for granted. 

One trip to a communist country or even other free countries like Canada or the U.K can reveal just how much freedom we enjoy.  I am very thankful for our wonderful constitution and the freedoms it establishes.  At the end of the day, when it is all said and done, I am grateful for the dedicated service of the men and women of TSA who I see working hard to try to keep me safe while respecting my rights as an American every time I fly.

Related Articles:



If you appreciated this article and want to receive more valuable industry content like this, click here to sign up for our FREE digital newsletters!

About the Author


Michael Dorn serves as the Executive Director of Safe Havens International, a global non profit campus safety center. During his 30 year campus safety career, Michael has served as a university police officer, corporal, sergeant and lieutenant. He served as a school system police chief for ten years before being appointed the lead expert for the nation's largest state government K-20 school safety center. The author of 25 books on school safety, his work has taken him to Central America, Mexico, Canada, Europe, Asia, South Africa and the Middle East. Michael welcomes comments, questions or requests for clarification at mike@weakfish.org. Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety magazine.

Leading in Turbulent Times: Effective Campus Public Safety Leadership for the 21st Century

This new webcast will discuss how campus public safety leaders can effectively incorporate Clery Act, Title IX, customer service, “helicopter” parents, emergency notification, town-gown relationships, brand management, Greek Life, student recruitment, faculty, and more into their roles and develop the necessary skills to successfully lead their departments. Register today to attend this free webcast!

Get Our Newsletters
Campus Safety Conference promo