There is clearly no good security purpose served in traumatizing a 3-year-old girl in a wheelchair and upsetting her parents at an airport security checkpoint. Having a security agent take away the crying child’s beloved stuffed doll while the mother records it all on her smartphone can lead to what the Transportation Security Administration, in an apology to the family, gingerly referred to as an unfortunate “incident.”
The encounter at the St. Louis airport on Feb. 9 — propelled into wide media coverage by the 5½2-minute video taken by the girl’s mother — is exactly the sort of public embarrassment that the security agency says it hopes to avoid in the future. As such, the agency says it will begin aggressively promoting a new program of using specially trained officers to head off unnecessary difficulties involving security screening of travelers with disabilities.
The program has 3,000 so-called passenger support specialists who volunteer from among the agency’s workforce of about 45,000 screeners. Their job is to help ensure that disabled passengers receive “the level of screening needed to make us comfortable that there is no threat or risk to aviation, but allows us to do it in a way where we can explain our processes to customers and use whatever discretions that are in our authority to make the screening experience as easy as possible for them,” said Chris McLaughlin, the agency’s assistant administrator for security operations.