Photographers: Know Who Your Blaming…especially when falsely blaming the TSA

The other day as I checked the comments section for Flying With Fish I was met with a link back to a blog post by Chuck “Caveman” Coker entitled “I Hate the TSA” … naturally my interest was piqued.

As I checked the “I Hate the TSA” link the first thing that caught my eye was the familiar uniform of the Los Angeles Airport Police’s Parking Enforcement unit … followed by this caption

I had to go to the Ontario International (ONT) in Ontario, California to drop someone off this morning. This extremely rude Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Officer told me I’m not allowed to take photos at the airport. He didn’t speak very clearly either so I had to ask him to repeat himself several times. I wish now that I would have snapped off about a dozen more of him. This isn’t even a very good photo—I’m just posting it on the Internet because I can. TSA employees like him make me angry.”

I know people love to bash the TSA … and I have taken the TSA to task on many topics … but I never do so incorrectly.  As a photographer, and as a traveller in general, it is important to know who you are having a problem with and if a problem truly exists.  To incorrectly blame an organization, especially with photographic evidence that you yourself have provided, wrongly accusing an organization not only weakens your own argument, but the efforts others have put forth to relieve the pressure photographers sometimes face when shooting in areas to be  ‘high risk targets.’

When you are stopped at an airport for photography, more often than not law enforcement, the airport authority, or other airline & airport personnel rather than the TSA is stopping you.   At times the TSA may stop a photographer from shooting photos at their check points … however shooting photos of TSA checkpoints is not only allowed, it has been publicly announced by the TSA.

If you believe you’re being stopped by the TSA, remember this … TSA uniforms consist of a royal blue shirt, dark pants with a royal blue stripe and black epaulettes with “TSA” embroidered on them.  TSA uniforms also have a circular patch on each shoulder with a black eagle laid over the Stars-and-Stripes.  Those not in a standard TSA TSO uniform may be wearing dark coveralls with “TSA” clearly on the front and the back.

So … just keep this in mind next time you may be stopped at the airport. If you have a problem with the TSA and believe you’ve been wrongly stopped, ask for a supervisor.   If you’re a member of the media and encounter a problem with the TSA, contact their public affairs office directly at +1(571)227-2829

…but should you find yourself at one of the airports controlled by the Los Angeles World Airports and confronted by a person wearing a tan shirt and Yellow/Green safety vest, such as Mr.  Coker did … please take it up with the Los Angeles World Airports Public Relations Division at +1(424)646-5260 or their 24 hour duty officer at +1(310)523-8994.

Below is the photo Mr. Coker has posted as the reason he hates the TSA … clearly showing a man wearing a Los Angeles World Airport Police Parking Unit uniform.

Happy Flying!

(Click Image To Enlarge)

a man in a reflective vest


  1. I’ve seen this (mistaking a member of another agency for the TSA) often enough. I’ve done it a few times myself despite actively going to the TSA site a over the years for bits of travel info.

    I can’t help but wonder if the general public is still unclear as to who and what the TSA really is and how far their mandate and jurisdiction reaches. Definitely not an excuse for ignorance but I think there’s genuine confusion as to where the TSA ends and begins. Like some confusion over it being an overarching administrative agency that oversees other security agencies, so all are the “TSA.”

    Thanks for the uniform details.

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