Communion Of Dreams

Put yourself in his braces.
February 16, 2010, 12:46 pm
Filed under: BoingBoing, Civil Rights, Daily Kos, Government, Politics, Privacy, Society, Travel

Go ahead: what if this were you, or your four-year old kid?

Did you hear about the Camden cop whose disabled son wasn’t allowed to pass through airport security unless he took off his leg braces?

* * *

Mid-morning on March 19, his parents wheeled his stroller to the TSA security point, a couple of hours before their Southwest Airlines flight was to depart.

The boy’s father broke down the stroller and put it on the conveyor belt as Leona Thomas walked Ryan through the metal detector.

The alarm went off.

The screener told them to take off the boy’s braces.

The Thomases were dumbfounded. “I told them he can’t walk without them on his own,” Bob Thomas said.

“He said, ‘He’ll need to take them off.’ “

You know the rest of the story, no doubt. The screener insisted that the boy’s braces come off (in violation of the TSA’s own guidelines), and the kid walk through the metal detector. Debate ensues, and eventually the boy hobbles through the detector. Parents are ticked off, make a bit of a scene. A supervisor was called, who just walked away when told that the boy’s parents wanted to file a complaint. There’s a bit more of a scene. The local police (this was at the Philadelphia airport) show up, and here’s where things change from the usual story line in these cases. The local police find out the father was a cop, and things get smoothed over enough that the family was allowed to go on with their flight.

But put yourself in that picture, instead. What would have happened to you? What would have happened had things deteriorated to the point where the local cops were called?

Yeah, maybe you shouldn’t have gotten annoyed and insisted that the TSA screeners and then the supervisor treat your child with a little bit of consideration and in accord with their own regulations. And maybe you shouldn’t have threatened to file a complaint. But according to everything else that everyone saw, you did nothing more than this.

Again: what would have happened to you?

If you were *very* lucky, and if you were *very* chagrined when the local police showed up, you would only have been taken to a small room somewhere nearby and hassled, probably missing your flight. Unlucky, or stand your ground, and you likely would wind up being held in jail for at least a few hours to ‘teach you a lesson’, perhaps with some actual charges filed against you. It happens all the time.

Policeman Bob Thomas got cut a little slack. He’s a cop, and I don’t really begrudge him that. And he called a local columnist, who has done a couple of stories on the Philadelphia airport’s TSA nightmares. This prompted the local TSA spokesperson to confirm that the whole incident was poorly handled, TSA rules were not followed, and she said that Thomas had received an apology last week from TSA’s security director at the airport, Bob Ellis. She said that Ellis provided Thomas with the name of the agency’s customer service representative, should he have a problem in the future.

Good. I’m glad that this got the attention of the press.

But imagine if it were you.

Jim Downey

(Via BB. Cross posted to dKos.)

1 Comment so far
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I have been looking into this matter and have found numerous stories like this. I have put together a site for folks to share their stories in the hopes of bringing light to TSA transgressions. Please feel free to share this or any other TSA nighmare story at

Comment by Tsa Nightmare

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