TSA agent theft and misconduct is on the rise, but where’s the punishment?

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Sleeping on the job gets you little more than a slap on the wrist.

That’s the finding from a government study into employee misconduct at the Transportation Security Administration.

Taking a nap at airport security check points were far also from the worst offenses that also include theft rings and bribery.

The TSA was created to make us feel safer at the airport after 9-11.  Some flyers say it’s bad enough they have to feel violated during airport scans and pat downs, now they find out that some of these security agents are going into their luggage and stealing their valuables.  That is, if they can muster up the energy to wake up from their nap to do so.

We all do it every time we go to the airport.  We wait in long security lines, ship our belongings through an x-ray machine, and then let airport security strip away what little privacy we have left with a full body scan.

We get treated like criminals just to prove that we’re not.

“The fact that none of these people have credentials or law enforcement backgrounds and they’re able to frisk you and go through your private property, do whatever they want with you, without you even having any kind of say, I think it’s absurd,” said traveler Daniel Lurch.

Now, as it turns out, the real criminals might be on the other side of the security counter.

According to a report from the Government Accountability Office, there were almost 10,000 cases of TSA employee misconduct over a three-year review that started in 2010.

The violations ranged from sleeping on the job, to sneaking family members through security with prohibited items.

And last year TSA employees were arrested for stealing $40K out of someone’s luggage at JFK International Airport.

“They’re have been problems both with people not doing their job, people stealing stuff, so it’s not that surprising unfortunately,” said security expert Bruce Schneier.

What may not have been as obvious were the punishments, or lack thereof, handed down.

According to the report:

– About half received a letter of reprimand

– 32% were suspended

– 17% removed from position

That’s why Schneier says he supports a zero tolerance policy for airport security.

And some travelers PIX11 spoke to agreed.

“If you keep these people in there, what says they’re not going to do it again?” asked Brandon Everwein.

For its part, the TSA says it’s taking the study seriously and will implement the advice from the study which includes developing clear guidelines for reporting and recording violations, as well a review process for all allegations of misconduct.

In a statement the TSA said:

“There is zero tolerance for misconduct in the workplace and TSA takes appropriate action when substantiated, including anything from a referral to law enforcement or termination of employment.”

But with TSA employees prohibited from forming a union while receiving low wages for high priority work, Schneier says the problems are likely to continue until employees have some incentives to change the behavior.

“If you pay people well and give them a good career path you’re going to get better quality employees.  And then if management is incentivized to report and to not tolerate this you’re going to have better compliance.  So it really is organizational.  It has nothing to do with the TSA or the security, this kind of thing could happen in any organization.”

While Schneier says the security breakdowns are a huge problem he says the biggest concern is for the passenger, who he encourages to keep a close watch on their luggage.