Montana's Congressman, Denny Rehberg, today met with representatives of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in his Washington, D.C. office to discuss protocols that apparently justified a situation in which a 4-year-old air traveler was detained for a physical pat-down after hugging her grandmother. The situation gained national attention after the child's mom, Michelle Brademeyer from Missoula, posted a detailed description of the ordeal on Facebook.
"I know the TSA's job is to make sure everyone on that airplane, including 4-year-old Isabella, gets safely to their destination, but surely there's a way to handle young children in a way that doesn't scare them half to death and make them cry," said Rehberg, a father of three. "Since learning about this situation, several similar cases have come to light, which is why I called in the TSA to explain what appears to be a disturbing trend. I asked them to take a close look at the protocols and to see if there was a way to keep airline passengers safe without treating them like criminals. I also suggested they take a tip from Montana's playbook and establish a Citizen Advocate to help prevent these sorts of problems in the future."
Rehberg came to the table with solutions. Drawing on his experience as Montana's Lieutenant Governor, he suggested the TSA establish a "Citizen Advocate" position to serve as a liaison for the public. In Montana, giving people a clear pipeline to get their questions answered and address concerns and complaints prevented a lot of potential problems.
Rehberg pointed out that the TSA has an important role to play in national security and that they cannot do their job as effectively if they lose faith with the public they are charged to protect. To that end, Rehberg provided two similar situations with governmental organizations and the steps they took to resolve it.
The IRS -- The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) also has an important job to do, but after decades of demeaning and hostile public interactions, they were among the most disliked government agencies in the country. While a lot of that resentment remains, the IRS has taken steps to be more responsive to the needs of taxpayers by hiring agents to answer questions, posting information online and altering the way they interact with taxpayers.
The LAPD -- After the Watts riots in the 1960's the Los Angeles Police Department established the Community Relations Division (CRD) to maintain open avenues of discourse between the numerous and diversified communities and the Department in an ongoing effort to keep abreast of, and sensitive to, the contemporary issues facing law enforcement today. CRD helps the Department understand and react to the "pulse" of the city, not only with regard to crime but with its job of protecting citizens.
"The TSA has a tough job to do, and many Americans are rightly concerned about how they have gone about doing it," said Rehberg. "It seems pretty clear to just about everyone except the TSA that some pretty big changes to protocol need to be made. The sooner they acknowledge that they've got a public image problem that undermines their ability to fulfill their mandate, the sooner we can make the changes that will prevent this from happening again."