Airport Security: It’s A Pat Down, Not A Beat Down

Caroline Cook

“Spread your arms out…Oh oops, I meant spread upwards,” faltered the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) officer at the security checkpoint. After a long lacrosse trip on the east coast, my parents and I were merely trying to depart the Baltimore/Washington International Airport, without incident. My agenda did not include an inexperienced, badge-clad TSA official thwarting my departure. The officer ordered me to submit to a pat-down inspection.

Yeah right, I thought, he’ll just let me walk back through the metal detector and everything will be fine. However, the officer quickly proved me wrong by calling over a female officer on his walkie-talkie, saying that he had a “situation at the metal detector.”  Before I knew it, the iron-like grasp of the U.S. government dragged me by the wrist towards a mysterious room.

“Wait!” I called out to the officer. “Can’t I just go back through the machine?” My protests were silenced by the locking of the door. The female officer who brought me into the room was about to begin the inspection, when a knock on the door interrupted her. “Who are you?” asked the officer. “I’m the mother, and you don’t pat my daughter down without notifying me,” said my mom defiantly.

Pat-down inspections, along with hand-wand inspections make up the TSA’s additional screening protocol when an individual sets off the metal detector. Hand-wand inspections consist of a security officer passing a wand over the body without actually touching it. In contrast, the pat-down inspection, conducted in private by a same-gender screener, requires all parts of the body to be patted, to ensure enhanced screening. If any passenger refuses screening at any point in the process, a security officer will prohibit them from flying. The TSA has been conducting pat down inspections since 2002, when they began federalizing checkpoints, to keep dangerous weapons and explosives off of planes. In addition, the

TSA states that their security officers are “rigorously trained to maintain the highest level of professionalism, and wish only to keep skies safe for the flying public.”

However, the organization should not be allowed to whisk minors into the pat down chamber without parental notification because parents must be sure of their child’s safety, and notification does not obstruct TSA’s security concerns.

First of all, parents need to know that their child is not in danger of being violated. Many express a common belief that TSA security screening positions are a gateway for pedophilia and child violation. Because TSA officers drag people to pat down inspections in such a short period of time, parents often don’t see their child disappear while they’re putting on their shoes after they’ve walked through the metal-detector. Once her beloved child is missing, it only takes seconds for a mother to draw a frightening conclusion as to what has happened.

Second, parental notification does not obstruct TSA’s security concerns.  Due to the absence of notable cases in the news where minors have attempted to smuggle weapons/explosives through security checkpoints, there is no justification for a failure to notify a child’s parent  or guardian of a pat down inspection. If TSA officers err in providing passengers with the proper security instructions, they do not have the privilege of ordering them to submit to a pat down inspection due to their own incompetency.

Therefore, if a person flinches as they walk through the metal detector due to false instructions, they should be allowed to walk back through the metal detector. However, if a minor pulls out a Swiss-Army knife out of their pocket, he might provide decent support for the rapid, enhanced protection procedure.

Readers, look at it this way: Until TSA comes forth with sufficient explanations for whisking away minors for pat downs without parental notification, neither children nor parents should be subjected to forceful seizure or to the frightening prospect of a missing, or violated child.