STRIP Act would downgrade TSA agents’ apparel

by Lisa Simeone on December 9, 2011


Ah, the TSA uniform! Beloved of fashion-conscious authoritarians everywhere. That bright blue color, so fetching; the twinkling gold badge, so phony; the crisp velcro patches, so tidy; the patriotic patch, so inspiring; and the name tag, so visible, except when it’s not.

As you may know, TSA agents are not law enforcement officers. They never have been.

The introduction of the faux-police-looking uniform in 2008 (to the tune of $12 million) served several purposes, as you can read in this account from the TSA (which has the benefit of including nifty features like an interactive timeline and a fun 3-D view of the different costume elements).

One of those purposes was to confer more respect on TSA employees; another, to induce more obedience on the part of passengers.

As numerous studies have found, uniforms — of any kind — tend to make people more compliant, more unquestioning. Not surprisingly, the obverse is also true: people wearing uniforms tend to act in a more authoritarian manner.

Some TSA agents even take that authority outside the airport, where they find ready victims, as this screener in Virginia and this one in Connecticut demonstrated.

Well, Rep. Marsha Blackburn from Tennessee has had enough.

She has just introduced a new bill, called the “Stop TSA’s Reach-In Policy” — or STRIP — Act. The act would take away the sartorial veneer of authority from TSA agents, because Blackburn thinks they are abusing that authority.

“Congress has sat idly by as the TSA strip searches 85-year-old grandmothers in New York, pats down 3-year-olds in Chattanooga, and checks colostomy bags for explosives in Orlando,” said Blackburn in a statement.

The STRIP act would:

prohibit any TSA employee not trained as a federal law enforcement officer or eligible for federal law enforcement benefits from wearing law enforcement uniforms or wearing a police-like metal badge.

Blackburn also calls the uniforms “an impersonation, which is an insult to real cops.” Real cops agree.

You can see the full text of the STRIP Act, technically H.R. 3608, here.

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