Reader Mail : “TSA VIPR Teams, What Exactly Are They Doing?”

Today’s reader mail comes from Vincent R., from Springfield, Massachusetts. Vincent writes “I have noticed the TSA in my local Amtrak station during the past few months. Amtrak Police refer to these uniformed TSA officers as TSA VIPR Teams. What exactly are they doing?”


Well Vincent, over the past few years there has been a lot of discussion of the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) Teams operating in train stations, bus terminals, truck stops and elsewhere and a question of just what these TSA VIPR Teams are doing.


The effectiveness of VIPR Teams, their expansion, and legality of VIPR Teams is for another discussion, and a topic that has been covered previously and will be covered again in the future here on Flying With Fish, … but what exactly is the purpose of VIPR Teams in real world terms? Let’s find out …


While the TSA specifically states the Mission of VIPR teams is “VIPR operations promote confidence in and protect our nation’s transportation systems through targeted deployment of integrated TSA assets utilizing screening and law enforcement capabilities in coordinated activities to augment security of any mode of transportation,” There is a simpler answer.


VIPR Teams typically consist of Behavioral Detection Officers (BDO), Federal Air Marshals (FAM) and Canine Transportation Security (Explosives) Specialist (K9 TSSE), as well as Transportation Security Officers.   These teams can be seen with increasing frequency in train stations, bus terminals, cruise ship docks, ferry ports, mingling with passengers and even occasionally searching the bags of those in the stations, however they are not in these transportation stations in a law enforcement capacity, although a Federal Air Marshal is a Federal Law Enforcement Officer. VIPR Teams are deployed in a real world situation with the purpose of establishing a further visual deterrent to prevent terrorism.


The concept for VIPR teams is simple, by positioning these high profile teams in transportation hubs potential terrorists will see them and be deterred against carrying out their act of terrorism.  During the VIPR Team deployments the officers also sweep for general crime, but that is not their purpose. TSA VIPR Teams can stop and detain for local law enforcement, although the Federal Air Marshals have arresting powers, but in general this is not their mission.


For more info on TSA VIPR Teams, feel free to check the archives for


TSA VIPR Teams – Increase A Legally Questionable Failing Program?

DHS Lawyer : Travelers Need Not Submit To TSA VIPR Teams

Can The TSA Use Air Marshals In VIPR Teams? Not Really


Hope that answers your question.


Happy Flying!





  1. You wrote:

    “VIPR Teams are deployed in a real world situation with the purpose of establishing a further visual deterrent to prevent terrorism.”

    We in Arizona have an actual title for that job description. It’s called:
    “Security Guard”
    They generaly make about $10/hr. with no benifits. So be very careful around those V.I.P.E.R. guys. They have guns, but no training and no police powers. One wrong move and your next of kin will have a whopping big lawsuit to persue.

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