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Hawaii News

TSA investigates officers’ neglect in checking bags

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At least 27 officers with the Transportation Security Administration here are being investigated because of reports that they were not screening checked-in baggage for explosives as their jobs require.

The officers worked at Lobby 4 at Honolulu Airport, which services 12 airlines. They face "appropriate disciplinary action" in an ongoing investigation of allegations of improper screening, said TSA spokesman Nico Melendez.

"We took immediate action, and none of the personnel accused have been conducting screening duties since the allegations were made," Melendez said. "TSA is proud to hold our work force to the highest ethical standards and will not tolerate a deviation from the commitment to carry out our mission to protect the traveling public."

Melendez said he could not confirm the number of officers being investigated. A source close to the investigation said at least 27 officers are involved. The TSA employs about 750 people in Hawaii.

The allegations surfaced in December when two TSA employees reported the problem to superiors, said the source, who asked to not be named because the person is not authorized to release the information. The harshest penalty the workers face is dismissal. An internal review board will decide disciplinary actions on a case-by-case basis.

The source said there is no indication that criminal charges will be filed against the officers.

Most of the flights where bags were not screened took off in the morning. Lobby 4 is used by Air Canada, Air New Zealand, Air Pacific, Alaska Air, All Nippon Airways, China Airlines, Delta Airlines, Jetstar Airways, Korean Air, Philippine Airlines, Qantas and WestJet.

According to the job description, transportation security officers are required to operate explosive detection and explosive-trace- detection systems. Melendez said the job requires operation of machines, as well as checking bags by hand.

Minivan-sized machines are installed at airports, and each piece of luggage must be manually placed into, and removed, from the machines.

Training for the job includes about 40 hours in the classroom and as much as 60 hours of on-the-job training, Melendez said. Officers also go through three hours of training each week.

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