TSA and public relations
Recently the TSA once again blundered their way through a china shop. Not literally a china shop but close.. They held a family at bay with a four year old girl returning from a family event. I think it was a wedding.
The little girl made the mistake of crossing the line to hug her grandmother. Of course the paranoid in charge thought she was passing a gun to the child. That is their job.
Now if we were in an international situation in a primitive backwoods country that could have actually been the case. We are not. We are in the United States of America. And I am pretty sure these were decent above board American family members returning from a wedding. They threatened and bullied their way through what should have been a breech of rules by an irresponsible parent and her child. The child should have been kept under supervision. Should, Would, Could. Any jail is full of those words.
If I were in charge, here is what would have happened. “Pardon me, please, I have a problem and I need your help to resolve it.” This very nice little girl has breeched our security by crossing the line to hug her grandmother. She has no understanding of these rules I am sure. Could you and your daughter possibly help us make sure things are really as they seem. Thank-you. Please allow this nice lady(and I would make sure the lady looks like someone’s grandmother) just run her through the scanner again. Why don’t you run through with her so she doesn’t get frightened? Can she have candy? Here is a nice lollipop for her for being nice. What flavor would you like?
She is so cute! How old is she? You just came from a wedding? How nice for you! I bet everyone is exhausted. Let’s see if we can get you to your plane on time.
“Unfortunately, there are some nasty people out in the world that would use this situation, however innocent, to further threats of terrorist behavior. They might even have a bomb or gun hidden somewhere. I know that isn’t the case here, but we don’t really know that, so we are in the bad situation of having to check everyone no matter how innocent it seems. We are here to protect your lives nothing more. Please, thank you again for helping us.
The idea is to put the people on your side. You cannot do that with military police and bullying and threats. Our merchants learned a long time ago that security needs to be disguised as greeters. TSA needs to learn the value of public relations in dealing with an enormous variety of people. They need up front people that appear innocent and polite. They need people with a programmed sales pitch that puts people on their side. You want those people to come back. Even doctors use candy as bribes to children for behaving themselves while they get a checkup! It costs a little money. Balloons are another favorite with children. A cheap toy car works too. You need people with the appearance of someone’s favorite relative up front. You need diplomacy in dealing with the public just as much as you need that security to save their lives.
If you manage to offend people, eventually it will come back to haunt the TSA in a bad way. The airports will simply fire you and get someone that will do the job without offending massive amounts of people. It is time to get a little common sense behavior in our security at the airports and elsewhere. Technically, those security people were right. Dead right. Because they managed to do a lot of public relations harm in following strictly by the book. The book needs to change if the TSA expects to survive.