The recent attack in Brussels reinforces that airports continue to be a top objective for terrorists. Since it is the largest airport on the west coast and the second busiest in the country, LAX has long been a prime target for those seeking to do harm.
As part of the specialized security apparatus at our airports, qualified LAX police officers utilize rifles. Rifles are an important component of our policing arsenal. Since 2008, officers trained to carry a rifle were required to have a patrol vehicle, as rifles can only be stored/transported in police cars. This policy ensured officers had the necessary resources at their disposal in the event of a terrorist attack or major airport incident, such as an individual or individuals who are heavily armed or wearing ballistic protection.
The need for this proactive posture was proven on November 1, 2013 when a shooter terrorized the travelers and employees of LAX with a semiautomatic, .223-caliber Smith & Wesson M&P-15 rifle. Despite being out gunned that day, our officers responded heroically, closed the distance and took the shooter down utilizing their handguns.
Rather than improve, in March 2014, this longstanding police rifle policy was changed when former LAX Police Chief Patrick Gannon made the practice of deploying rifles to the field discretionary by allowing the on-duty Watch Commander the ability to decide whether rifle-qualified officers would be issued a vehicle. So, if an officer is qualified to use a rifle, but is not issued a patrol car, that rifle will not be deployed in the field. This undermines public safety and is not consistent with the longstanding position of having our officers remain in a state of readiness.
“Allowing rifles to be removed from the field, especially so soon after a serious shooting incident at the airport and given the current heightened threat environment after the Brussels attack, creates an unsafe setting for the traveling public and airport employees, and severely disadvantages our officers,” said Marshall McClain, President of the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association. “You would think a Chief would want to dictate policy that promotes security but our former Chief constantly diminished our ability to do our jobs. We are hopeful that the next leader of this police department will put in place strategies that protect the public and our officers.”