The Washington Times - June 18, 2008, 12:51AM



By P. Jeffrey Black

In the 1974 movie Blazing Saddles, the dastardly character Hedley Lamarr, who was played by the late Harvey Kormon, lined up a bunch of miscreants and hoodlums for interviews to become new “deputies” assigned the task of raping and pillaging the nearby town of Rock Ridge.

After interviewing and hiring a group of Mexican banditos dressed in their bandoliers and sombreros, the conversation went something like this:

Lamarr:    Be ready to attack Rock Ridge at noon tomorrow.  Here’s your badges.

Bandito:   Badges?  We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!

Even the banditos understood, that if you knew how to do your job, and you were proficient at doing it, you certainly didn’t need any badges to get the job done competently and expediently.  Well, its safe to say those banditos would not have enjoyed working for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

According to a recent article this week in USA Today, the TSA has begun handing out brand new police-type uniforms and badges to its screeners.  Apparently the screeners are not getting the respect they think they deserve.  “Some of our officers aren’t respected,” said Ellen Howe, a spokesperson for TSA. 

To solve this problem, TSA in their infinite wisdom, believes that issuing screeners new badges and uniforms, thus making them look just like police officers, will miraculously garner passenger respect.

If screeners need a badge to command respect from passengers, then already there is a serious problem with personnel and training.  A police-type uniform and badge is a law enforcement tool used to emanate authority and command presence.  They should not be used as hypnotic gadgets designed to instill submissive behavior in the passengers –– as the TSA is openly trying to do.

The issuance of badges to screeners is currently a hot topic on FlyerTalk.  Here is just one example of the thoughts of many passengers that are obviously not thrilled of the new TSA badge policy:

“This is strange. Suddenly I feel different about the TSA. I no longer hate them for trampling my dignity and freedoms. I no longer care that they represent all that is wrong with our country. I no longer care about removing my shoes, putting my “freedom baggie” in a “victory bin” and sending them through the “protection machine.”  I now enjoy being groped by a wannabe sex offender with yesterday’s gloves. I look forward to being told that the Big Book O-Rules doesn’t apply to me, because of whatever insane reason the screener just thought up, I cannot wait to be told that my passport is not valid ID because “it isn’t a state-issued ID,” or that my driver’s license isn’t valid because it’s expired on the front and has a renewal sticker on the back, or that my State of Alaska Employee ID Card isn’t valid because it isn’t government-issued. Something is definitely different. I can’t quite put my finger on it. Wait, is that it? It must be! Yes! It is! It’s the badges!”

What’s so disturbing is that is exactly what the TSA is predicting how passengers are going to react to the new badges being worn by the screeners.  What’s even more frightening, is that these same managers are the “experts” that are now training “hand-picked” screeners to become Behavioral Detection Officers –– those trained to detect passengers exhibiting unusual and abnormal behavior.

If the Transportation Security Administration really believes that having a badge commands respect, then maybe we should be issuing badges to all of the passengers instead.

Unfortunately, there seems to be one important lesson TSA has never learned since 9/11. Its that respect is earned –– not given.