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TSA screener arrested for beating co-worker

By Ed O'Keefe

Updated 4:51 p.m. ET
A Transportation Security Administration screener at Miami International Airport was arrested this week for allegedly beating up a co-worker after months of jokes about the size of the screener's genitalia that colleagues observed during training with full-body scanning machines.

The agency has suspended Rolando Negrin, 44, after his arrest Tuesday night after beating a co-worker who had made the jokes. The AP reported that Negrin reportedly told police he "could not take the jokes any more and lost his mind."

TSA spokesman Greg Soule said the agency "has a zero tolerance policy for workplace violence." The agency is moving quickly to investigate the incident and determine whether officers violated agency policy, Soule said in an e-mail.

"The training was internal and at no time was anyone from the traveling public involved," he said. "Inappropriate comments in the work place are not acceptable and will be dealt with swiftly. This is an isolated incident that we take very seriously."

The Miami incident follows several embarrassing, yet unrelated episodes for TSA that occurred earlier this year. Let's review:

Jan. 3, 2010: A TSA agent was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport for behaving erratically. The guard had just gotten off duty and was heard saying, "I am god, I’m in charge."

Jan. 6, 2010: An internal investigation discovered that four LAX TSA agents used drugs at an after-hours party. All four were tested for drugs and one came back positive. That employee was fired.

Jan. 7, 2010: Video showed that a Newark Liberty International Airport screener allowed a man to bypass a security checkpoint and enter a terminal to see his girlfriend. The move forced passengers to clear the terminal and reenter the screening process. The guard was disciplined and back on the job by March.

Jan. 22, 2010: A screener lost his job after pretending to plant a plastic bag of white powder in the carry-on luggage of a passenger at the Philadelphia International Airport. A spokeswoman called the behavior "highly inappropriate and unprofessional."

Jan. 28, 2010: The screener was put on desk duty after she was photographed sleeping in plain sight at LaGuardia Airport.

Know of others? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

By Ed O'Keefe  | May 7, 2010; 12:29 PM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments, Workplace Issues  
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As I work in the building near LAX where the TSA offices are, I frequently overhear or observe a large number of TSA employees. For the most part they're young and untrained. When flying out of LAX I see them "doing their jobs" poorly and standing around in groups doing nothing I can see to earn the low pay they recieve. TSA is a stupid and unnecessary part of a horrible "Patriot Act" that none of our politician read but voted for anyway. But then you get what the Corporations pay for.

Posted by: dweav1 | May 7, 2010 1:05 PM | Report abuse

Here's a dandy -- screeners playing Joe Friday:

"TSA detains official from Ron Paul group"

"The Transportation Security Administration is investigating the detention and harassment of a Ron Paul organization official by airport screeners, an incident that was caught on tape at a St. Louis airport."

Posted by: rjmaclean | May 7, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

What co-worker? The wire reports you link to say that he was harassed by his *supervisor*, who ought to be subject to agency discipline as well.

Posted by: KSVA | May 7, 2010 1:27 PM | Report abuse

These are low-paying, low-skill jobs that are routine and boring in the extreme. People take them because it's all they can find or that is the best they can do. Some are folks who lost other, better-paying jobs and are just trying to keep their lives together. Others recognize that this is all they want out of a job, or all they can handle. So why, Mr. O'Keefe, are you surprised that some of these folks engage in stupid or ill-advised activities out of ignorance or perhaps frustration? The answer to the question, "What were you thinking?" is most often, "I wasn't."

Posted by: sheehanjc | May 7, 2010 2:21 PM | Report abuse

The incident involving harassment of a Ron Paul fundraiser who was carrying cash (that didn't endanger anyone) reported in one of the above comments was an awful example of the Federal government abusing a Fourth Amendment search-warrant waiver for safety enhancement purposes by expanding into fishing-expedition searches for other illegal activity, even with absolutely no evidence that any crime was committed.

It is these types of abuses that really threaten our individual liberty as Americans -- liberty that the Constitution is supposed to protect. TSA didn't apologize or acknowledge serious error (apart from some inappropriate language caught on tape) for many months, before entering a consent agreement with the ACLU, if I recall subsequent events and the final outcome correctly. Outrageous.

Let's recall that TSA was created in the wake of 9/11 to vastly upgrade the existing airport security service provided by private security contractors. I would like to see the evidence that this change has resulted in any meaningful improvement in our safety. I believe I've seen news reports of media or GSA audits that show that suspicious mock components are routinely permitted past TSA check points.

My own preference would be turn over responsibility to the companies that insure airports and airlines -- their potential liability ought to be structured in such as a way as to give them the greatest incentive to make real safety as airtight as humanely possible. With the right incentives, they'll figure out how to do it right.

Posted by: rboltuck | May 7, 2010 3:58 PM | Report abuse

This is now news to me: the TSA screeining people is a real Job! I thought this was a pasttime, where people got paid and and had a good time harassing others.

When will the Public be handled with correctess and friendlines (this does not mean to be sloppy in the job) but respecting each others?

Posted by: roby3926 | May 7, 2010 4:23 PM | Report abuse

I would like to see the picture of the id10t that continued this BS for months before getting his @zz whipped. Fire that guy and rehire Negrin

Posted by: askgees | May 7, 2010 4:35 PM | Report abuse

The people at the Border Patrol are no better. Five years ago my wife, a Federal Employee, was returning from a day trip to Mexico on government business in an official US government car with an official driver. She was detained for 30 minutes because the border agent had never seen an Official US passport before. These are issued to Federal employees on government business who do not have diplomatic immunity and are between Diplomatic and Tourist passports. The guy's boss straightened him out and my wife was allowed to reenter the US. What kind of Border Patrol do we have if they don't even know all government-issued passports?

Posted by: MrBethesda | May 7, 2010 4:54 PM | Report abuse

The bigger issue here (no pun intended) is that this incident in Miami demonstrates that the images from these Whole Body Imagers are MUCH more graphic than the TSA has admitted. If the screeners are making these kinds of jokes about each other, what do you think they are saying about us?? This then begs the question-what else has the TSA been less than truthful w/the flying public about?? And why hasn't Congress put a leash on them (for a myriad of reasons besides this)? The Germans knew what they were doing when they banned these machines.

Posted by: txrus | May 7, 2010 4:58 PM | Report abuse

Those full body scanning machines will cause even more problems when screeners start saving images of people and they eventually make their way to the web. Will Scarlett Johansson be flying anytime soon?

Posted by: mr_bill_10 | May 7, 2010 4:58 PM | Report abuse

I was in the pool! I was in the pool!

Posted by: mr_bill_10 | May 7, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

I've had good experiences with the TSA and have been very happy with all the personnel I've had to deal with. This is a glass more full than empty by far.

Posted by: Nymous | May 7, 2010 5:03 PM | Report abuse

TSA jobs may not pay well, but they will take you with just a GED or HS degree and they offer federal benefits: health insurance, sick leave, paid vacation, retiree health benefits, a 401K, recruitment bonuses, incentive bonuses, relocation bonuses, interagency transfers, employee development programs and more.

One of the last jobs in America where someone without a college degree can get this kind of benefit package.

Posted by: pmendez | May 7, 2010 5:11 PM | Report abuse

Full body scanners are possibly the stupidest "security" tech development ever.

Just call them the Michael Cherkoff Retirement Fund Devices.

But since nobody is actually running a cost benefit analyses of aquistions purchased from friends of the last administration, I guess we'll be destroying constitutional rights with them until the false sense of security they engender causes the next air travel tragedy.

Posted by: grjee | May 7, 2010 5:29 PM | Report abuse

I feel his pain, but imagine if it were someone like ME. It's never any fun to endure INTENSE JEALOUSY from your co-workers. And who wants all the attention from the women? Trust me, the GRAPEVINE is bad enough!

Posted by: TOMHERE | May 7, 2010 5:36 PM | Report abuse

My good friend is a TSA officer at MIA. Here's information you should know. Supervisors and managers are having sex with lower level employees on the job, and then promote them. Everyone knows and nothing is done. The screeners are supposed to select a specific type of passenger for the body scanner, however, in reality, the male screeners choose attractive young women they can look at naked. There are "codes" for example "Code Tango" lets the officer inside the scanner know a female with large breasts is coming in. "Code Bravo" means a large posterior. Screeners are not supposed to see the faces of the passengers being scanned but if one catches the attention of the screener he will come out of the booth and request to be relieved so that he can see the face of the person he just saw naked. Overall the morale is extremely low because of favoritism, racism and segregation. For example black supervisors will blatantly favor black staff, whereas white supervisors do the same for white staff. If you are white working for a black supervisor, the black staff working with you will be excused if they are back late from break, or goofing off on the job. Same with white supervisors and black staff. One middle manager has a mistress on the staff that he promoted to "tester". If she doesn't like you when you go for your test, she flunks you at the risk of your job. Again, he knows, management knows, everyone looks the other way. What can I say, there are many hard working TSA officers who take their job seriously and work hard, but they are not considered for promotion or special assignments. If you are young, attractive, or having sex with the right person, you WILL get promoted and everyone knows why and no one does anything about it, including the high level officials in MIA who look the other way. Morale is dangerously low but who can afford to lose their job in this economy?

Posted by: miamichick62 | May 7, 2010 5:57 PM | Report abuse

This is a clear case of chronic sexual harassment, plain and simple. I'm not condoning the assault, but those who participated in the sexual harassment should also be held accountable for their egregious violation of workplace rules.

Posted by: wearyargonaut | May 7, 2010 5:59 PM | Report abuse

Memo from Mall Cop, "TSA has low standards and is not respected, happy that I evolved from that stupid TSA job!"

Posted by: madstamina | May 7, 2010 6:19 PM | Report abuse

is this "lost my mind" defense a good one...
will it work for any situation?
would love to know...

Posted by: DwightCollins | May 7, 2010 6:28 PM | Report abuse

So much for the idea that screeners are "professional." The screeners betray their obsession with genitalia. Which raises the question: why should being stripped naked be acceptable?

The TSA beater was forced to submit to electronic stripping in front of fellow employees. How many of us would submit to something like that at the office? What's the difference between that and posting such candid body scans in the breakroom? Who wouldn't sue?

I think we maybe be treading a bit of course here. Is it really necessary to examine publicly every inch of our bodies just to board a plane? How has security improved since we adopted these scanners? Weren't we safe enough boarding planes without guns, knives, and bombs?

Posted by: Reesh | May 7, 2010 7:18 PM | Report abuse

These fine folks exemplify the kind of service and professionalism that we have come to expect from government employees!!! And, of course, they always treat us, the flying public with respect ... after all, they recognize that they work for us, and they let us know that they are privileged to serve us!

Posted by: Marks1153 | May 7, 2010 8:29 PM | Report abuse

Pay scale, TSA Screener: $26,000.00 - $40,000.00 a year.

Requirements for TSA Screener:
1) Possess a high school diploma, a General Equivalency Diploma, or a combination of education and experience which the certificate holder has determined to have equipped the person to perform the duties of the position. This implies that the airline can decide that a screener does not have to successfully complete high school.

2) Does not require criminal records checks for every screener applicant, only for those applicants who have specific deficiencies in their employment history, if there are other deficiencies in the application, or if the air carrier finds out that the applicant may have been convicted of certain kinds of crimes. The required criminal records check is with the FBI, but the regulations do not say anything about records checks from other countries.

3) A conviction for a crime, even a violent felony, does not disqualify someone from working as a screener. FAR 108.33(2) states that a criminal records check must not disclose that the applicant had been convicted or found not guilty by reason of insanity, in any jurisdiction, during the previous 10 years of a number of crimes such as aircraft piracy, interference with a flight crew or cabin crew member, assault with intent to murder, rape or aggravated sexual abuse, or armed robbery. This list of crimes include sedition, treason, extortion, or distribution of a controlled substance. This regulation implies that so long as the conviction were at least 10 years old, almost any convicted criminal could become a security screener.

Posted by: swatkins1 | May 7, 2010 8:38 PM | Report abuse

TSA = Too Small Appendage

Let's save $10 billion and get rid of the TSA.

Posted by: win_harrington | May 7, 2010 10:55 PM | Report abuse

This incident illustrates the commonly held fear among men that their penis is too short.

This is especially true in the"white" community among southern racists. We now know that on the average the negro penis is somewhat longer than the white counterpart.

The evolutionary explanation
for this fear is that white men think their reproductive
capacity is reduced because
women prefer a large penis.

This is simply not true. A
recent national survey of
white females between the
ages of 18 and 45 revealed
that a man with a penis
length as short as 9 inches,
in the flaccid state, with
the help of readily obtain-
able artificial devices and
an understanding mate, can
have a completely satisfactory sex life.

Dr. Knowinso Jones, PhD.
Emeritus Professor,
Evolutionary Biology

Sam Houston Institute of

Posted by: flyersout | May 8, 2010 4:38 AM | Report abuse

Privacy has gone the way of the horse and buggy. Does anyone actually believe that it still exists in this day and age?

Posted by: Baxter24 | May 8, 2010 5:59 AM | Report abuse

In the same week that the Pakistani-American bomber got on board a flight to Dubai, I had to go through security twice in Manchester NH because the cranberry relish I bought for my mom was larger than three ounces. I was singled out for extra screening, and scolded for using a clear Kate Spade toiletries bag rather than a Ziploc. They gave me a choice of discarding the cranberry relish, or going back downstairs to check the bag (paying $20 for the honor).

Goodbye Common Sense. We miss you.

Posted by: chunche | May 8, 2010 10:09 AM | Report abuse

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