Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Homeland Security On The Cheap

Question: What should you do when your employer says something like this: "The safety of our officers/employees is of utmost importance"

Answer: Run

It seems that the brave officers guarding our homeland security aren't receiving the personal security from their employer -- the US Department of Homeland Security -- to which they are entitled. We're talking Customs and Border Protection employees working at ports of entry as inspectors, wearing uniforms and side-arms.

According to Charles Showalter, president of the National Homeland Security Council of the American Federation of Government Employees:

Thousands of immigration and customs officers at the nation's air and sea ports do not have body armor, or are using defective or out-dated sets, placing their lives at risk, according to an official complaint to the federal labor safetywatchdog.

The management of the Department of Homeland Security "is exposing employees to an extremely hazardous situation that can result in serious injury or even death by not providing and/or replacing personal protective equipment in the form of body armor," reads the complaint to the Occupational Safety andHealth Administration of the U.S. Department of Labor.

Seems the Department is violating government regulations:
Showalter said the main problem was with Customs and Border Protection employees working at ports of entry as inspectors, wearing uniforms and side-arms. He said federal regulations and departmental policy required that any officer issued a firearm should also be issued body armor.

"This is ... doing homeland security on the cheap," he said, "and the guys on the front lines are being forgotten and put in danger."

The complaint says the union has tried several times to raise the issue with management, but had recieved "no appropriate response."
Homeland Security says they're taking care of the problem, but the officers on the ground don't believe it:
"We were required to turn in our (old) body armor because it was supposed to be 'deficient,'" wrote one. "I have not yet received replacement armor and go on duty everyday on the northern border with no body armor."

In 2003, armor made by Michigan, Ill.-based Second Chance Body Armor, Inc. had to be recalled after it was found that the artificial fiber from which it was made was degrading much faster than expected.


"This is my third year and nothing," wrote another officer. "I have been in two separate incidents where if things had gone wrong I wouldn't be here today because I didn't have body armor."

"God forbid someone should be hurt or killed" because they didn't have the proper equipment, said Showalter. "How would the (officer's) family feel about that?" he asked.
Never fear:
Lynn Hollinger, a spokeswoman for Customs and Border Protection said "The safety of our officers is of utmost importance," adding that the agency was "working to ensure that all officers have effective body armor