When a traveler passed through a security checkpoint at Palm Beach International Airport last month, officials made a surprise discovery in her carry-on bag: a Glock 42 semi-automatic handgun.
"TSA Agents collected her information and permitted her to proceed with her travels," a report said. "The handgun was secured in PBSO's safe until her return."
The traveler likely knew all about that safe at the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office substation at PBIA. For 21 years, she’s been a deputy.
She wasn’t the only law-enforcement officer this year to end up in such a predicament. In January, security officials found a Glock 43 in the bag of an off-duty Palm Beach Gardens police officer.
Neither officer was criminally charged, but both were disciplined following internal-affairs investigations.
The federal Transportation Security Administration said that through mid-August, it already had encountered 22 guns during 2018 at the airport. It says it found 32 last year.
PBSO reports 23 cases of people found with guns at the airport so far this year. (One person was caught with a weapon away from the TSA checkpoint.)
In 18 of those cases, the person was charged with misdemeanor violation of a concealed weapons permit, the gun was confiscated for retrieval later and, except for one person who was from out of town, travelers were given a notice to appear later in court and allowed to proceed.
In most cases, people said they simply had forgotten their gun was there.
And all but one person, whose case is pending, either had charges dropped or received no penalty.
The TSA says the officers did not get preferential treatment. An airplane-passenger group says that, even if they did, that might be OK. And the local police union said that while law enforcement officers must be held to a higher standard, mistakes happen.
‘Followed our protocols’
Deputy Gwendolyn Davis, 43, who joined PBSO in 1997 and is based in Wellington, was off duty when she went through security at about 8 a.m. July 6, a PBSO internal-affairs report says. It neither reports where she was headed nor which airline she was flying. It also does not say if the gun was loaded. The report does not give Davis’ hometown.
"TSA staff followed our protocols. We froze the bag with the gun (and) alerted our law-enforcement partner, PBSO," Sari Koshetz, TSA's South Florida spokeswoman, said this month.
In such cases, Koshetz said, TSA and the local agency run checks on the person and the gun, and unless there's a complication, such as outstanding criminal warrants or the gun was stolen, the passenger will be permitted to take the weapon back to his or her car. Or, as happened with Davis, PBSO will lock the gun in a safe.
The sheriff's office said it did not write a report on the incident and that the deputy did not want to comment for this story.
Sherif’s spokesman Eric Davis said describing the deputy’s Glock as "off duty" means only that the gun wasn't the deputy's assigned service weapon. The sheriff's office said policies require deputies to carry guns while off duty.
The TSA's Koshetz would not confirm Davis as the person in the incident, citing privacy laws. She also said TSA incident reports can be obtained only through a federal Freedom of Information Act request. Obtaining reports through FOIA requests usually takes months.
Also, on Jan. 12, TSA found a 9-millimeter Glock 43 automatic handgun, loaded with six rounds. in the bag of off-duty Palm Beach Gardens police officer Kristal Cabrera, 27.
The PBSO report said she was allowed to take the gun back to her vehicle and continue her travels. It does not say where she was headed.
The police department said Cabrera, a patrol officer who joined the department in November 2017, received verbal counseling.
Police did not provide Cabrera’s hometown, which was blacked out in the incident report.
The gun was Cabrera’s off-duty weapon, which officers are authorized to carry off the clock, department spokesman Maj. Paul Rogers said. He said the incident was “addressed administratively” and there’s no internal-affairs report. He said both the department and Cabrera declined to comment for this story.
The TSA’s Koshetz didn’t comment specifically on Cabrera’s case.
‘A higher standard’
"If anything, we believe that law-enforcement personnel should be held to a higher standard,” Douglas Kidd, executive director of the National Association of Airline Passengers, said this month.
But, he said, "I can agree that law-enforcement officers carry around a weapon as part of their clothing" and perhaps should be forgiven a moment of forgetfulness.
“I would like to see the similar courtesy extended to people that it's clear it's an oversight, not due to malice and ill intent," he said.
Kidd wondered how someone could forget a gun in a carry-on bag. But the models in the officers’ bags are less than 6 inches long and, even with a full magazine, weigh less than a pound and a half, according to Glock's web page.
“If I’m on a flight, I double-check, triple-check. You can check the bag, but the gun can still can be in a corner," said John Kazanjian, president of the Palm Beach County Police Benevolent Association, which represents PBSO and several other local law-enforcement agencies.
"Actually, our member probably had something more severe than the average civilian, because she got a written reprimand and that's in her file," Kazanian said this month.
"We're human," he said. 'We make mistakes."
Guns found at security checkpoints at PBIA
2018 (through Aug. 13): 22
Cases resulting in charges:
Jan. 9: TSA found an unloaded SIg Sauer .45-caliber automatic handgun in the carry-on bag of a 44-year-old Lake Park man heading to Atlanta.
Jan. 9: TSA found a loaded 9-millimeter semi-automatic pistol in the backpack of a 60-year-old Delray Beach man heading to Chicago.
Jan. 12: TSA found a loaded .380-caliber semi-automatic handgun in the bag of a 46-year-old man from suburban Boynton Beach who was heading to Pittsburgh.
Jan. 14: TSA found an unloaded .380-caliber Taurus handgun and a magazine containing eight rounds in the bag of a 64-year-old Atlantis woman heading to Atlanta.
Jan. 19: TSA found a loaded 9-millimeter Glock in the bag of a 60-year-old Lake Worth-area man.
Feb. 9: TSA found a unloaded Smith & Wesson 9-millimeter handgun in the bag of a 56-year-old Delray Beach man.
Feb. 12: TSA found a loaded Keltec .32-caliber handgun in a bag belonging to a 55-year-old man from Lehigh Acres, near Naples. Because he was from outside the county, he was booked into the Palm Beach County Jail.
Feb. 18: TSA found a loaded Ruger .380 semi-automatic handgun in the backpack of a 45-year-old Palm Beach Gardens man.
Feb. 20: the TSA found a loaded .380-caliber Sig Sauer semi-automatic handgun in a bag belonging to a 60-year-old Palm Beach Gardens woman.
March 16: TSA found a loaded .380-caliber Ruger, and a small knife, in the bag of a 29-year-old North Palm Beach woman. She said she’d been carrying it ever since the February high school shooting in Parkland.
March 18: TSA found a loaded .380-caiber Ruger in a purse belonging to a 45-year-old Wellington woman heading to Houston.
March 25: TSA found a loaded 9-millimeter Glock in the bag of a 55-year-old Boynton Beach man heading to Tampa. The man pleaded no contest and adjudication was withheld.
April 25: TSA found a .45-caliber automatic handgun in a bag belonging to a 59-year-old West Palm Beach man heading to Birmingham, Ala.
June 19: TSA found a loaded .380-caliber semi-automatic pistol in the pocket of a coat run through the machine by a 71-year-old Palm Beach Gardens man. He pleaded not guilty and was sentenced to pre-trial diversion.
June 23: TSA found a loaded .380-caliber Sig Sauer in the bag of a 54-year-old Jupiter woman.
July 11: TSA found a loaded 9-millimeter Smith and Wesson handgun in the bag of a 69-year-old Highland Beach man heading to Montreal.
Aug. 12: TSA found a loaded .380-caliber Taurus handgun in the possession of a 35-year-old Riviera Beach woman who worked for a private aviation firm at the airport. That case is pending.