The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has opened an investigation into claims that racial profiling by security staff is a widespread and often encouraged practice at Boston's Logan airport, according to a new report by the New York Times. The agency came under fire this month after 32 officers filed written complaints at a Logan TSA meeting -- some of them anonymous.
According to the complaints, the officers said their co-workers increasingly target minorities in a "behavior detection program" instituted in Logan after 9/11. The behavior detection program in place in Boston uses specially trained behavioral “assessors” to scan the lines of passengers and interact with them to assess unusual activity; however, according to the complaints, the operation has become a magnet for racial profiling, targeting not only Middle Easterners but also blacks, Hispanics and other minorities, the Times reports.
In response to pressure from managers who push for high numbers of stops, searches and criminal referrals, "passengers who fit certain profiles — Hispanics traveling to Miami, for instance, or blacks wearing baseball caps backward — are much more likely to be stopped, searched and questioned for 'suspicious' behavior," reports the Times.
“They just pull aside anyone who they don’t like the way they look — if they are black and have expensive clothes or jewelry, or if they are Hispanic,” said one of four officers who spoke with the Times on a condition of anonymity.
The TSA said on Friday that it had opened an investigation into the claims.
“The behavior detection program is no longer a behavior-based program, but it is a racial profiling program,” one officer wrote in an anonymous complaint obtained by the Times.
The officers identified nearly two dozen co-workers who they said consistently focused on stopping minority members due to pressure from managers to meet arrest and detention threshold numbers.
The program has been billed as a model for roughly 161 airports across the country.