Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Federal Air Marshal Program Is A Mess

To become a law enforcement officer you need two things, academy training and experience with handling criminals. State and local police departments include several weeks of field training in busy areas before academy graduation. Then you are only a green recruit for a year or two until you become the real police.

The most difficult part of police work is dealing with violators. Police work is the art of not turning littering into armed robbery and not missing dangerous tricks pulled by career criminals.

Unless air marshals have prior police experience their effectiveness will be limited significantly. The air marshal candidates and applicants lack the basic tools to handle the job even after training.

Do you really want to see a green air marshal engaged in close quarter combat with a trained and experienced terrorist? Of course the rub here is that this may well be the first time the air marshal ever had a real fight. Cops on the other hand deal with the best of street fighters and barroom brawlers.

The job of air marshal is boring, and swallowed in lots of government bureaucracy.

Remember the air marshal is the man or woman that is not listening to IPOD, watching DVDs, chatting with other passengers, reading or sleeping. The air marshal is breathing bad air and eating too much expensive and really bad airport concession food. This has to be a lonely and miserable life.

Years can go by before an air marshal is called into enforcement action. An air marshals experience on the job is as worthless as being unemployed everywhere in the American job market.

The truth is they air marshals are quitting as fast as they’re being hired. It’s so difficult to find qualified candidates they lowered hiring and training standards and are giving the jobs to the screeners these days.

We have a much better force and that’s encouraging trained, certified and fit off duty cops to fly armed for free or at greatly reduced ticket prices.

I’d set up a one day training session and vetting process for the volunteer cops wanting to participate.

Armed pilots and off duty armed cops are the best prospect for keeping Americans safe where air travel is concerned. It’s not only cost effective but the only effective way to deal with these issues.

Here is more about the TSA and their problems from CNN investigative correspondent Drew Griffin.


Anonymous said...

A one day course for off duty cops? That's optimistic to say the least.

I've been doing tactical scenarios once a month in the simulator for six years now and I still get thrown a curveball every once and again. The aircraft is a unique tactical nightmare - it's one large fatal funnel. There is little concealment and no cover. There is no backup. There is only you and your training.

One day won't get it done.

Crimefile said...

Terrorist scenarios on airplanes are not the only places were really deadly or tricky things happen. The day’s training would require a practical air marshal range test.

Surely you’re not asking street cops to meet standards higher than the TSA’s flagship FAM defenders? Either the street cop passes or he does not.

Anonymous said...

Of course airplane scenarios aren't the only places where bad stuff goes down. I do say there are few environments as unforgiving as an airplane. There is only straight forward or straight back. There is no lateral movement. You are in a giant fatal funnel. You have no reinforcements. You have no cover and precious little concealment.

What are your tactical principles in a hijacking? What would you teach? What goals would you pursue?

Gun range training is 101. That's the first step only. You need to get into an aircraft simulator and run scenarios, like FAMs do every month or every other month. They also shoot every month, as well as CQB drill. Range work is tool development. It's like hitting a punching bag. It's great to teach fundamentals but the bag doesn't hit back. Neither does the target. Running Simunitions(tm) in the simulator, though, introduces stress, judgment, tactics, movement, etc. in a chaotic environment. The range is not chaotic in the least. When you go to the range you KNOW you will shoot, and when, and how. Not so in sims. You might shoot, you might not. You might have to fight out of your chair and fight to get to your gun. You may have to draw on the move. There are an infinite number of variables in the simulator, unlike the range. Like I said, range work is 101.

The range test is what the agency requires of legal mumbo-jumbo. For court in case of a shooting. What really means something is the simulator. Everyone wants to do well on the range and in PT and in CQB but ask any FAM and he or she will tell you that the simulator is where the rubber meets the road. It's the place where the pressure is really put on.

And most of us have been doing this for over six years now.

One day? You won't even scratch the surface.

Incidentally, local cops can carry on a plane if they have a letter signed by their department. Feds can carry on the plane off duty whenever they want.