Proposed law prohibits TSA employees from dressing like cops

The STRIP Act, proposed in the US House of Reps, would require TSA employees to stop dressing like police officers, because they aren't cops, and when they give orders to travellers, travellers assume that these are the orders of real law enforcement officers, rather than minor bureaucrats:

The bill, which has drawn 29 co-sponsors in the few weeks since it was introduced, would prohibit any TSA employee "who has not received federal law enforcement training or is not eligible for federal law enforcement benefits from using the official job title of officer, or wearing a metal badge resembling a police badge or a uniform resembling the uniform of a federal law enforcement officer."

A TSA official said the badge and uniform represent "the professionalism of our employees and the seriousness of our work."

STRIP Act targets TSA uniform: End 'impersonation' of 'real cops' (Thanks, Marilyn!)


  1. Why don’t we just prohibit the TSA? Remove the funding for this Lieberman backed boondoggle of buffons.

  2. Better law, assigning TSA agents to protect a highly visible target… Congress.
    Make each and every page, intern, lobbyist, Congresscritter have to put up with pornoscans, ball cupping, boob adjusting, and every other indignity us “regular” folks (you remember us, the morons who elected you think you would put our interest first) have to put up with.
    All this law is going to do is make some little people already drunk on power angrier that we respect their authoriti! even less.  We have flight attendants arbitrating who gets thrown off planes and threatened with the no fly list, and some will do it if they think your request for OJ was “rude” (Google peace activist airline orange juice).  If they think your to fat they will get all high school on you and toss you off the plane of the “cool kids” (Google Kevin Smith Southwest).

    I think it is high time those wonderful members of Congress get to be treated like everyone else is treated.  They need a reminder that the law applies to them to, and making it otherwise is not something we do in Amerika!

    We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal.
    This is not Animal Farm, no one is to be more equal than others you stinking pigs.

    1. Ball cupping pornoscans for ALL international borders too, even the ones that only marginally exist because of treaties. Like the entrances to the UN? Or at every single foreign embassy? It’s not practical, but we have to get the State Department in on this somehow.

  3. Yeah, that’s great and all, but it’s a tiny band-aid on the zit that is the TSA.   It addresses nothing other than bringing down the front line staff who are just enforcing the crap Washington requires them to do to receive their paycheck.  

    Oh, and good job the regulation to allow service-members (and family) expedited screening.  I can’t wait for the next  loony like Maj. Hassan to decide taking out an airport is more fun than just attacking his own base.

    This is the least-productive congress in 130+ years, and they have the gall to throw populist-appeasing crap at us?  Unless they’re going to strip the uniforms for mall cops too and designate that NOBODY can impersonate an officer, this is pretty petty.

  4. Real cops have to go through some intense screening and have specific training and skills to even apply for the job. Letting these grade B security guards pose as cops is an insult.

    1. Just to be fair, I doubt they chose the “look” of their uniform.

      I do agree that there should be a wider ban on impersonating the look of an officer. California made Best Buy change the Geek Squad car so it wouldn’t look like a police beetle lol.

  5. While they’re at it they should outlaw all private security guards looking like police officers.  Gun+badge+pepper spray+uniform does not make a law enforcement officer, it creates confusion.

  6. I support the TSA and I think the STRIP act should have a special authorisation for TSA agents who want to dress up like cops. To avoid confusion, though, they would need to have a badge that explains the source of their authority. It would be pink and it would say “I’m not a cop, I’m a STRIP-per!”

    Also: soft handcuffs and novelty truncheons.

  7. the badge and uniform represent “the professionalism of our employees and the seriousness of our work.” No it represents a police state, the majority of TSA screeners I see at the airport I wouldn’t trust with a potato gun so why give them a badge

      1. Even better: when the porno scanner finds something suspicious, the airport PA system automatically plays Yakety Sax.

  8. It’s a good first step the right direction. Ultimatly, what you americans need is a upgrade of the “Miranda laws”. 
    Make every mall cop and the like legally responsible  for reciting, upon request, exactly where his formal authority begins and ends. As I understand it, a big part of the problem now is that not even the TSA agents themselves are aware of exactly what the boundary of their jurisdiction is.

    1. TSA (Theatre Sucks Ass) agents HAVE no jurisdictional boundaries..

      None that that they acknowledge anyway.

  9. The American Federation of Government Employees said the bill was insulting to the 44,000 TSA workers it represented and did “nothing to add to our national security.’’

    TSA apprehension of terriorists = 0.0

        1. freedom of choice 

          is what you got

          naked scan-ner
          or testicular cupping

          you’re too dangerous to fly
          we won’t say you why

          freedom from choice 
          is what you want

          Meeting your parents?
          not at the gate!

          Why are boarding passes
          … so easy to fake?

          i’ll say it again in the land of the free 
          use your freedom of choice 
          freedom of choiceyou got a snow globe?we’ll make you drink it!drink it!drink it good!

      1. Try the UPS guy next time.

        If I want my package mishandled, I’ll head down to the local leather bar.

  10. Maybe we can have them wear something that really represents “the professionalism of our employees and the seriousness of our work.”

  11. I have no problem as long as the TSA uniform falls within 1st Amendment limits, i.e. impersonating a LEO is bad, whereas wearing a badge that says “TSA” or “mall security” or whatever is kosher. Cops don’t have a monopoly on shiny badges, as long as said badge doesn’t imply that the wearer is actually a cop.

    That said, the TSA still sucks.

    1. A greater issue is that many foreign visitors might not know the difference, and who reads the text on a badge anyway?

      I think the point is that the TSA aren’t in any way enforcing law, they’re basically just door-men, or bouncers; checking your bag as you enter a venue.  Even ‘mall cops’ are closer to law enforcement than the TSA.

      They should be wearing black bomber jackets and holding a laminated name badge.

  12. Let’s not forget those who made TSA possible — the fuckers behind the curtain giving our elected officials their orders!  And the news media who serve them!

  13. Golly, they’re not real cops?

    Wonder if they’ll mind fixing me a nice latte with no foam while they do my cavity search…

  14. I see them standing outside smoking cigarettes pretty often when I take people to the airport and I never thought they looked like cops. Their shirts are a pretty bright shade of blue. And I’ve never seen an actual cop just hanging out smoking a wheezer. I don’t give a flying, um, darn, what they wear as long as they are polite to the people they are working for- you know, the public!

  15. I would like to applaud this law for the outstanding precedent it sets for DC.

    Sure, it doesn’t actually fix any problems or matter much. But in a first for this congress, it doesn’t actively make the problem worse. And that’s worth something right there…

    1. Depressing, when “it doesn’t actively make the problem worse” seems like a good thing.

      I have often, when people complain “oh, [blah] will make it harder for the government to pass legislation”, found myself thinking “and that’s a bad thing?” Methinks a more ponderous approach to law-making would be a good thing.

      1. pssssh. There’s something evil hidden under all this massive progress, like putting Reagan on the dime or something.

    2. Voting year this year, so you’ll see lots of bones getting thrown to try making the public less pissed at how dysfunctional Congress has been.

  16. UK Border Agency airport staff (our TSA)  have a uniform that looks like a cross between a bank teller and a prison officer – blue office-style shirt, tie or cravat, epaulettes. Different colours to police officers. 

    Impersonating a police officer is illegal in the UK, so the Community Support Officers have a different hat and big writing on the back of their vests.  

    Interesting page on the TSA’s website on what makes up the TSA uniform

    1. Interesting. The TSA uniform does not include the U.S. flag. It has a (stinking) badge, a TSA patch on the left shoulder, and a (Ministry of) Homeland Security patch on the right shoulder. Don’t most police uniforms have the flag of the jurisdiction on the right shoulder?

      So does this mean that uniformed DHS officers have a U.S. flag on their uniforms? ‘Cause TSA seems to be sub-jurisdictional to DHS if the DHS patch is on the right shoulder.

      Yeah… TSA probably shouldn’t be allowed to wear law enforcement-like uniforms.

  17. March 28 2012

    The DHS released this information today so that the traveling public may understand the new security changes better. Janet Napolitano Director of Homeland Security states that she understands the embarrassment and temporary discomfort that some passengers may experience with the new PPE’s or passenger proctol inspections, but due to the discovery last month of passenger Alhahi Bumuphisassis and the malfunction of his colon hidden bomb which contained over 2 lbs. of C4 explosive they have no other option.

     The incident was discovered by children sitting in the next row, they asked their mother why the bearded man should be allowed to light what they thought was flagellant gas when they got in trouble for trying the same thing last week at a party.

    Napolitano stated the extremely small endoscopic inspections of the large bowel uses a micro camera, it takes only 5 seconds and it will be random, one out of every ten, but passengers do have the choice for an opt out “digital” inspection by proctologist trained TSA Officers, it will be done discreetly with dignity by the same sex. The Director stated that the procedure is quick, easy and it is the law, furthermore it will be done behind a curtained private corridor, she stated that she has already eagerly volunteered to be subjected to both the endoscopic inspection as well as the opt out “digital” procedure several times and reports that not only is it painless it is not as intrusive as one might imagine, it is just a mind over matter kind of thing she giggled.

    1. Good comment, but don’t tempt the gods — nor our leaders — hun. They have a habit of taking satire like this as a challenge and upping the absurdity level of reality to match. ;)

    1. Well okay, but they’ll never get me to squeeze into that tiny little car.

      “Get in, and no funny business!”

      1. That is funny. Next time the TSA Officer Thug has my balls cupped in his hand I’ll use this image to get through it.

  18. A TSA official said the badge and uniform represent “the professionalism of our employees and the seriousness of our work.”


  19. I’m not sure this will have the effect we and the legislators might want.

    If they are told “you can’t dress up like law enforcement”, they’ll just order a couple pallets of BDUs in Urban Digital pattern, and jack up the fear and intimidation level a bit more.

    1. That would be breaking the rules, people would see it as an inside joke of history repeating itself yet again.  They will use sepia shirts to avoid anyone who has studied history independently of the woefully lacking educational system getting worried.

      1. Well damn… I really thought sepia would have gotten more lulz…
        If your playing the home game sepia is a synonym for brown.

  20. In the UK there is an increasing “trend” to re-name Traffic Wardens “Civil Enforcement Officers” – which, apart from being either meaningless  or sinister, implies they may have some kind of brain. In light of the STRIP law maybe I’ll write to Cleggeron and try to get a similar law passed here before we drown in fake policemen.

    1. I don’t get on board this band wagon personally.  The title is silly, but I live on a road with a double yellow line that needs to be there; and people constantly park on it, get tickets, then get annoyed.  I don’t find that proper parking enforcement officers (which I thought was their title, not ‘civil’?) are a problem; the private parking enforcement companies are the real bad guys; because they generally stretch to issue tickets, rather than simply dolling them out where due.

      There’s absolutely nothing wrong with someone ticketing you for breaking the law; inspecting your ass because you fit a profile of a practically insignificant threat, is wrong.

      1. Civil Enforcement Officer is the correct term they are rebranding these council hired goons as. The councils are far worse than private parking enforcement. PPE tickets can effectively be ignored as they are unenforceable at law and statute (google it).

        Councils OTOH are the real bastards. They have lawful backing and create policies that cause more congestion and cost to their infrastructure and taxpayers. Policies such as only allowing apartments to be built that have no provision for parking; at the same time taking streets that for years were open, free with no problems and painting double yellow lines along them. Thus causing a flood of cars competing for smaller areas, less parking spots, causing more congestion and hurting the local economy such as high streets where drivers will no longer pull up to do a quick 5 minute shop. And if you think not owning a car you’re not affected – think about it next time you question why your groceries, plumber, painter, parcel delivery etc.. bill is so high – especially in central London.

  21. more uniforms means more uniformity means less diversity means less tolerance of difference means doing it wrong.

  22. Love seeing everybody descending straight to mockery and shaming tactics again. C’mon, guys, how many of you have actually been abused by a specific TSA worker? Do the rank and file — aka, part of the 99% — really deserve this abuse? Isn’t it the needlessly intrusive and authoritarian system they work for the real and rightful target of our anger? If anyone should be in clown suits here, shouldn’t it be the legislators and bureaucrats who put a bunch of undertrained schmoes like us into these suits in the first place?

    Listen, I have the utmost sympathies for anyone who feels they’ve been mistreated by the TSA. I have a lot of transgender friends, so this is a REAL hot-button issue in my circle, and I scarcely object to people being angry. But are we really so naive as to think the typical TSA employee isn’t as conscious and frustrated about the nature of their work as we are? Or to pat ourselves in the back as if we’re not tangled up in the exact same collusions with an oppressive society that they are? 

    What do YOU people make for a living, that puts you so far above them? I can tell you that, among other things, I’ve been a research assistant working for a Fidelity client. I don’t feel good about that. And if you want to spit on a TSA employee, spit on me too — and unless you’re working for Greenpeace or something, spit on yourself while you’re at it.

    Humph. Happy goddamn New Year, Boingboing, from one of your crustier loyal fans. :)

    1. Oh I’d add Greenpeace to the “spit on yourself” group. If you behave like a corporation but present yourself as a charity- which they do- and especially if you then lie your ass off about important issues… you should spit on yourself.

      Good point though- it’s reasonable to assume that on at least one occasion in their careers most TSA employees have seen new regulations and said, “WTF???”  and reasonable to suggest that quitting your job isn’t seen as much of an option in the US right now unless you have another one waiting for you. So they suck it up.
      I think they should wear featurless white jumpsuits. And sunglasses.

    2. Sorry. I have no sympathy for anyone working for the TSA, in any capacity. It’s not like they were forced to take the job. They chose to work for the TSA. I’m saying this as someone who is unemployed and on the verge of homelessness, I don’t care how much they pay, I have enough respect for fellow human beings that I’d live under an overpass before I’d work for the TSA. 

    3. So, asking someone to stop dressing so as to confuse the naïve into mistaking them for law enforcement officials is now equated with spitting on them? Remind me not to depend on you guys to stand up for my civil rights. Will it be ok to ask them to stop when a TSA agent overreacts to someone who fails to respect his counterfeit authority? Isn’t it better for TSA agents and the public to maintain clear distinctions about who has police authority and who doesn’t?

      Seems to me it’s far more cost effective and less tragic for some people to get upset about things before abuse of authority gets out of hand.

    4. I was a few years ago. She threw a personal item from my bag at me, striking me with it, cursed at me, cursed at the coworker who called her out for her behavior and then started at me and dared me to report her. 

  23. “A TSA official said the badge and uniform represent “the professionalism of our employees and the seriousness of our work.””

    And people say that Americans don’t get sarcasm?

    Seriously though, from what I read these mugs don’t even deserve a high-vis jacket.

  24. Imagine that. U.S. politicians doing something that might actually benefit the public. Seems like years since the last time that happened.

  25. Oh, settle.  Nobody’s impersonating anything.  Badge does not equal “law enforcement.”  Badges and uniforms have been used for decades for one reason: so the public can readily identify govt. employees at public locations.   I.e., so you can tell who is — and who isn’t — running the place.  US Postal Service, Lighthouse Service, and National Park Service are other agencies that have worn badges which did not signify police powers, just very limited authority.   Most postal employees don’t use badges now, but the uniformed park guide who led your tour wore one.   Park law enforcement rangers now use larger enameled badges, since about 2002 or so (to be identifiable as federal LEOs in emergencies).   There’s plenty wrong with airport security, but getting upset about uniforms is kinda silly.  Especially for a congresscritter who waltzes through the special handling line every time, if anything.  

    1. Badges and uniforms have been used for decades for one reason: so the public can readily identify govt. employees at public locations.

      There’s this thing called a “Name Tag” which actually works better for identification purposes than a badge. In fact, real cops generally wear a badge AND a name tag. (Until they tag the name tag off before pepper-spraying someone.)

    2. That’s true, but what about mall cops and the like that use badges also?

      Private security folks do consciously impersonate real LEOs as a matter of course, and it does create confusion constantly. I’d like to see some kind of crackdown there. I mean, these people have cars dressed up like police cars – with lights on the top and everything.

      So, that all said – where do the TSA screeners fit in? They do not have federal police authority even in the limited sense that NPS rangers and the like do. They are not – to use your words – running the place. They refer all actual security matters to the DHS personnel, who do have police powers and are running the place (in some sense anyway). Just like mall cops refer actual security issues to the real police.

      So why do they (and mall cops) dress as if they have police authority?

      They should have some sort of uniform – doesn’t really matter what it is, so long as it isn’t police-like. Because there should be DHS officers around – the only people who are in a position to actually provide security anyway – who can be easily identified as the people running the security of the airport, who shouldn’t be confusable with the TSA people. DHS has police-like uniforms, guns, and badges, because it’s appropriate for them – in as much as we believe this type of security is appropriate or meaningful in airports, anyway.

      BTW I do think this is a BS election-year bill that won’t pass, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a legitimate issue here.

  26. Or define a unique way of identifying genuine police. Perhaps design in an accreditation system and make it machine readable. Build in a unique identifier while you are at it. Perhaps just a set of color coded badges or patches, but with the use enforced by legislation so that the meaning can’t be diluted.

  27. I don’t understand why Congress is trying to enact this law – people aren’t following TSA agent orders because they think they’re police officers. They’re following the orders because they have to do what they say in order to get on an airplane.

    1. Actually, no.   TSO’s are notorious for issuing “orders” that are in fact completely baseless.  “You MUST go through the nude-o-scope” — no, you can opt-out.  “You MUST throw that away” — no, you can turn around and check it (or, as is very often the case, the TSO is flat-out wrong and the item is actually allowed; call a supervisor).  “You MAY NOT videotape the checkpoint” — no, no we can.  And so on.

      The more “authority” symbols — like uniforms and badges — we give the TSA, the more their actions start looking like a replay of the Stanford Prison Experiment.

  28. People need to get a life, maybe the US House of Rep can pass a bill to prohibit idiots in congress.

  29. I don’t see a problem with this bill, but it bothers me that my experience with airport security is the complete opposite of what most people say the TSA does. During the holiday, I chose the pat down over the body scan. My ass was not fondled, my balls were not cupped and my TSA agent clearly did not find any special joy in patting me down. In fact, when he touched around my crotch and rear, he did it with the back of his hands and with gloves on and it was just a quick run down the front/back.

    I don’t mind the TSA. I don’t mind this bill either, and I doubt TSA employees care what uniform they wear. What I do mind is the fact that I’m reading on the news/Internet one thing, and experiencing something completely different, and less sensational, in real life.

    People should definitely give TSA feedback and TSA should change based on that feedback, and based on my experience either people were overreacting in the first place or TSA did change in response to complaints.

  30. Seems fair enough. In the private sector making your employees dress up to confuse the public into trusting them because they think they work for another organisation is generally open and shut trademark infringement.

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