Although the article states that airport police are a “patchwork” that doesn’t report to the TSA, lets remember a few things. TSA does not report to the Department of Justice and although the air marshals and a few other TSA employees do have police powers they are inherently a security agency not a law enforcement agency. It would cost billions to certify hundreds of agents to become armed and to maintain such a program. Plus, there’s no evidence that “reporting to the TSA” will improve law enforcement response or deterrence to a threat.
There was talk after 9/11 of creating a national police force to patrol airports, but then someone realized that local police already patrol airports, and are by regulation, required to. Why create another massive government agency or grow a bureaucracy even larger than it already is?
I’m reminded of a legal concept that’s popular here in Colorado in the ski industry. Many ski resorts are granted some legal protections because when a person buys a lift ticket, they agree that there are “risks inherent in skiing,” that the are accepting. So, when they fall down and break their leg, they have a lesser chance of winning a lawsuit against the ski area because they knew the risks and elected to ski anyway.
As a former security officer myself (unarmed and unsworn), I understood that there were certain risks to my job. While my instructions were to not engage a violent person, security officers routinely deal with suspicious persons, which includes criminals, and the mentally disturbed. There is an inherent risk in security work.
Also, I personally know that in a close engagement, such as at a checkpoint, I’m not likely going to have time to step back, draw my weapon and accurately fire while ducking and dodging a maniac swinging a machete, or a gunman firing an automatic weapon. Every cop knows the Tueller Drill (it’s on YouTube, look it up), where a man with a knife can cover a distance of 20-feet before an officer can recognize the threat and engage with a firearm. One will likely have to engage in other defensive tactics to avoid a knife, machete or bullets, like taking cover before returning fire, or taking offensive action.
I’ll also note that police officers are typically more experienced in handling a situation that quickly goes bad. When a cop gets called out they are expecting the unexpected and operate with a higher level of proficiency. TSA personnel largely work with normal folks who are not going to attack them on a daily, weekly or even monthly basis. There is a skill to recognizing a threat, and engaging that threat, that unless frequently practiced, gets rusty with time. Having a gun can be a liability in a close-in fight unless you’re well trained and practiced at weapon retention and implementation.
That said, TSA officers do engage in a high level of public contact, similar to Customs agents. So, maybe additional police at the checkpoint is warranted, and I’m always for self-defense training (for everyone in fact), but security officers in particular.
Inaccuracy: The article cites 480 airports. There are only 450 commercial service airports in the U.S.