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Here we go again.
Two TSA screeners at New York’s JFK Airport are charged with stealing cash from passengers’ bags. According to msnbc, “Comar Persad, 36, and Davon Webb, 30, are expected to each face three felony charges—grand larceny, conspiracy and possession of stolen property—and one misdemeanor charge of official misconduct, authorities said.” Police recovered over $36,000 in connection with the bust, and the two men admitted to stealing up to $160,000 in other thefts.
The TSA, predictably, condemned the thievery and pledged to terminate both men and … oh, let’s just go to the TSA statement itself: “The agency is working closely with law enforcement authorities to ensure the individuals responsible are prosecuted and we will move swiftly and decisively to end the federal careers of any employee who engages in illegal activity on the job.” Well! Thank goodness the TSA is on top of things, what with its blustery statement promising to cooperate with authorities (as if it had any choice) and then get tough with these two thieves it hired.
Fact is, this incident comes mere months after another high-profile case of a TSA screener getting sticky fingers with passengers’ cash. In that case, a TSA supervisor in Newark was caught lifting cash from the bags of people flying to India. He and his buddy would target non-English speaking women, usually Indian women traveling home, for secondary screening, and then rifle through their bags looking for money and valuables.
“The disgraceful actions of a few should not reflect negatively on the approximately 50,000 TSA officers across the country who work each day to keep the traveling public safe,” the TSA statement said. True enough—it would be completely unfair to project onto the 50,000 individuals a presumption of guilt. But it does reflect poorly on the agency itself. After all, TSA employees go through background checks and a thorough interview process before they’re hired, and yet, here are two cases of screeners robbing the very people they’re supposed to be protecting. How can you be focused on security when you’re running a purse-robbing scheme?
TSA defenders may say, “But with 50,000 employees, there’s bound to one or two bad apples.” Well, then, maybe 50,000 is too much. If the TSA is as indispensable as it claims to be, then one or two bad apples is one or two too many. If the agency is too big to be staffed by responsible individuals with intact moral compasses, perhaps it’s time to start thinking about paring back. Because if a screener has his eye on your wallet, chances are he won’t see your knife, bomb, gun … you get the picture.
Readers, how should the TSA deal with bad apples, and what can it do to prevent more incidents like this?
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