Air Marshals Can (Finally) Be More Frank Serpico and Less Joe Friday

Two years ago in this space, I wrote about how the Federal Air Marshal Service’s ridiculous dress code was hampering marshals’ ability to protect passengers:

In other words, the Air Marshal Service has decided that, when their dress code comes into conflict with their requirement to blend in with the other passengers, the dress code comes first. Never mind that this could result in Marshals sticking out like a sore thumb — which would make them pretty easy to identify and eliminate in the opening stage of any halfway-competent hijacking operation. That’s not important. What’s important, apparently, is that the dress code be preserved.

Well, it took two years and the appointment of a new director to the Air Marshals Service, but they finally announced last week that the dress code is being relaxed:

In a memo to the air marshals, [FAMS Director Dana] Brown said the dress code was changed to "allow you to blend in and not direct attention to yourself, as well as be sufficiently functional to enable you to conduct your law enforcement responsibilities."
Air marshals had complained that Brown’s predecessor, Thomas Quinn, insisted on a too-formal dress code that allowed people to pick them out. The marshals said, for example, that being forced to wear a jacket and collared shirt made them stand out on flights to Hawaii.

You can read Brown’s complete memo to the marshals at While you’re there, you can see all the stories ABC’s investigative reporters have filed about the sorry state of the Air Marshals Service over the years since 9/11. It’s a depressing read, but hopefully this nice little sign of sanity is an indicator of better things to come.