In 1979, because of the then current fad of hijacking civilian planes to Cuba, Morocco, and other garden spots to make political statements, the FAA decided to do something. They wanted to start checking on passenger’s luggage and such.
Committees were started, industry hacks presented expensive looking devices, and a lot of “studies” were held. (I read where 16 Congress-People and about 75 staff minions went to Paris, France for 14 days to study how the Gendarmerie did this task. It was a coincidence of course that it was the wine tasting season in Burgundy Province.)
The feds seem to always move at a drunken snail’s pace, but when the enterprising Mr. D.B. Cooper took over a plane for monetary reasons, they got semi-serious quick.
Up went Generation One of the luggage scanners and metal detector devices.
We got the usual 15 minute “training class” and then we got to watch how a circus comes to town.
Because the screeners were unarmed civilians, we were tasked to have a uniformed (armed) presence behind each screening checkpoint.
At first, we stood there looking alert and menacing. This quickly led to guys leaning on the walls, sitting on the edges of the screening machines, and looking as bored as we actually were.
Then we got chairs, and soon after that some bright light got us sit-down bulletproof podiums with cool logos on the front. (Kudos and thanks to the SFPD POA Cops Union!)
We could now look alert, menacing and bored while playing solitaire on small Game Boy devices.
It wasn’t all for nothing. We got a few guns and knives off of people who were too stupid (or illiterate) to read the HUGE multilingual signs all up and down the waiting lines.
Really Lady? A Chrome-plated Colt Cobra with an 8-inch barrel and hollow points?
Some poor guy had his battery powered sex-toy start buzzing and pulsing at the exact wrong moment.
One day, I noticed a few of the local DEA guys hanging back behind my kiosk and got curious.
It seems that some enterprising local drug dealers had figured a fun way to game our system.
It went like this:
Drug courier Jose had 5 kilos of powder to trade off to a local drug mule (code named Luis) and was properly worried about being dismembered in the process.
A solution presented itself. Jose would buy a cheap ticket to Modesto and go through the checkpoint easily with his bag of drugs.
The mule Luis would do the same thing, only with a duffle bag full of US currency.
Because the screeners were only looking for bombs and weapons, nobody could hurt Jose. The exchange was made in the bathrooms because we weren’t allowed to have security cameras there.
Everybody would then smile and wave at the cops at the gate, while heading back to an airline desk to get their plane tickets refunded.
The feds eventually stumbled upon this process, and one morning after Jose had cleared the Mag Tunnel, they acted.
After Luis the mule passed his cargo of un-sequential cash into the magnetometer while following close behind courier Jose. Suddenly, a DEA guy (play acting) as a screener shouted, “That looks like a BOMB in that bag!”
Oh, heck and feathers!
One of the screener supervisors hit a LOUD panic alarm, and every cop within 100 feet drew their gun.
Jose turned pale and dropped his stash right by my feet.
My partner Mitch grabbed his arm and levered him to the carpet.
Luis said, “That’s not my bag, I have no idea what’s in there”
The cronk with the actual drugs saw a LOT of over-eager cops and feds pointing hard cold metal things at him, looked briefly around, and then dropped his bag and put himself in the position with a very sheepish look on his face.
The video footage of the narcs opening both bag$ was prime time viewing for quite some time.
Just another quiet morning at Checkpoint G.