Skip to comments.Air Marshals Say Dress Code Makes Them Stick Out
Posted on 07/15/2004 1:34:41 PM PDT by Archangelsk
WASHINGTON, July 15 Beards are out. So are jeans and athletic shoes. Suit coats are in, even on the steamiest summer days.
That dress code, imposed by the Department of Homeland Security, makes federal air marshals uneasy and not just because casual clothes are more comfortable in cramped airline seats. The marshals fear that their appearance makes it easier for terrorists to identify them, according to a professional group representing more than 1,300 air marshals.
"If a 12-year-old can pick them out, a trained terrorist has no problem picking them out," said John D. Amat, a spokesman for the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association.
Documents and memos issued by the Department of Homeland Security and field offices of the Federal Air Marshal Service say marshals must "present a professional image" and "blend unnoticed into their environment." Some air marshals have argued that the two requirements are contradictory.
Federal air marshals must have neatly trimmed hair, and men must be clean-shaven, the documents say. Some of the service's 21 field offices have mandated that male officers wear suits, ties and dress shoes while on duty, even in summer heat. Women are required to wear blouses and skirts or dress slacks. Jeans, athletic shoes and non-collared shirts are prohibited.
In April, the officers' group sent a letter to members of Congress saying that the "military-style grooming standards and a blanket `sports coat' dress policy," along with conspicuous boarding procedures, jeopardize the safety of federal air marshals.
At least two airline industry unions, the Allied Pilots Association and the Association of Flight Attendants, have publicly backed the assertions of the officers' group.
Lynn Becker, a spokeswoman for Senator Herb Kohl, Democrat of Wisconsin, said the senator was made aware of the issue after a reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel contacted his office after spotting several air marshals in the Milwaukee airport. The spokeswoman said the senator was working with the director of the Federal Air Marshal Service, Thomas D. Quinn, to address the boarding procedures and dress code issues.
Since May, the Federal Air Marshal Service has changed the check-in procedure for its air marshals, no longer requiring them to sign a logbook when they board. According to Senator Kohl's office, the air marshals' service is also considering a waiver that would allows its officers to request a relaxation of the dress code for certain flights.
The Federal Air Marshal Service acknowledges that a dress code for its marshals does exist, but it will not elaborate, saying that the specifics are "security sensitive information."
Dave Adams, a spokesman for the service, said that groups who have publicized the dress code are "endangering the lives of our general workforce." Mr. Adams said a dress code was put in place in April 2002, after the airline industry complained that air marshals' attire was too casual. He said some marshals had worn shorts, blue jeans, sandals and T-shirts while on duty.
"In order to gain respect in a situation, you must be attired to gain respect," Mr. Adams said in an interview. If air marshals were allowed to be too casual in their dress, he added, "they probably would not gain the respect of passengers if a situation were to occur."
One air marshal, who said he is frequently spotted by passengers, and who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, "Professionalism isn't deemed by your dress; it's by your attitude and demeanor.
"We just want the opportunity to dress different every day," he added.
He said the current dress policy allows potential terrorists to identify federal air marshals on flights. "They'll just pick out what flights we're on and what flights we're not on," he said.
Andrea Houck, 52, who was traveling through New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport to visit her son in San Diego this week, said that she thought federal air marshals should be "totally undercover."
Ms. Houck, pointing to other passengers waiting in the terminal's food court, said: "Look around you. Most people are traveling in T-shirts, sweatshirts and khakis.
"If I was a terrorist and I spotted someone dressed like an air marshal in a suit, I wouldn't get on that flight. I would get on another one."
Jason Pesick contributed reporting from Washington, and Eddy Ramírez from New York.
If the TSA grunts want to be slobs let them go play with dope dealers and see how much they like that action. As for the occasional fat, drunk, slob passengers who may show up, tough teet, our national airspace, our rules. Hit the pavement if you don't like it.
Nothing like uniformed undercover cops.
ALL YOUR AIR MARSHALLS ARE BELONG TO US!!!
You must blend in and you should note SFers, facial growth/hair in abundance and blending into the local populace to not stand out. The Air Marshals should be allowed the same right as we are at War with Terrorism right this hour.
If I ever travel by air again I am wearing a suit. Might keep the muslims under control.
Bwahahaha. Criminal, you want to 'splain what happened in the Stans.
Tank tops for all males. Then you can see who shaved their body the night before.
If you're an airline employee flying on a pass, you're required to abide by the dress code, but I see them breaking it all the time.
Blend in, why stick out and become a target? The bad guy has you zeroed and you are good as dead if they are easily identifiable. Besides, I do not care for "Stans".
Ya... everyone knows that being well dressed is more important than doing a good job.
great idea! Me too!
That'd keep Gary Condit off most planes.
go ahead and end up being the nearly the first one to be murdered, hero.
No, that is an idiotic solution.
Hardly anyone dresses up to fly, except businesspeople who are en route to a meeting.
Why shouldn't they blend in and where the typical air traveller clothing, which is casual? Of course, a government agency doing anything remotely intelligent is asking a bit much.
Don't most marshals sit up front, ie, in business class? And people are wearing sweatsuits and tanktops in business class? Yikes.
"Beards are out. So are jeans and athletic shoes.... "
But WHY ?? Isn't it basically an undercover operation ?
Aren't they suppose to blend in ?
Who sets these silly rules ?
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