When you make an emergency 911 call at Los Angeles International Airport, do you know who it goes to?
It may surprise you to learn that instead of calls going directly to the Los Angeles Airport Police, they are instead sent to either the Los Angeles Police Department or California Highway Patrol and must then be relayed to the Airport Police. In an emergency situation the seconds and minutes it takes to transmit information from one department dispatch to the other matters.
The Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers’ Association (LAAPOA) first brought this issue to the attention of then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the Los Angeles City Council in 2010 after an incident where more than twelve LAPD officers and an airship were dispatched to LAX Terminal 4 regarding a fake 911 call of an active shooter without any notification to Airport Police.
The seriousness of this issue was again exposed during the November 1, 2013 shooting at LAX. The lack of a direct connection to Airport Police led to delays in identifying the shooter’s location who killed and injured TSA agents and other.
As the Los Angeles World Airports commissioned After Action Report of the shooting notes, this system, “can cause delay and introduce the opportunity for error.” The report recommended that a, “regional 911 system serving the airport needs to be rationalized and….[a] modification in the routing of 911 calls made from mobile phones on and in the vicinity of the airport should also be considered.” City Councilman Mike Bonin demanded improvements warning, “There will be a next time…[t]here will be another breach of security, a terrorist act or a natural disaster.” To date, nothing has been done to improve this situation and should another emergency event similar to the November 1 shooting take place, the airport would be in the exact same situation it was nearly two and a half years ago.
“The lack of an airport 911 system is yet another issue LAAPOA has highlighted and did so well before the November 1 shooting but airport management has continually chosen to not take action,” said Marshall McClain, President of the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association. “In an airport that handled nearly 75 million passengers last year, emergencies, whether small or on a mass scale, require the immediate attention of Airport Police officers. With more than ten different police agencies in LA County that have less than 50 officers and have their own 911 system, there is no excuse for Airport Police to not have our own 911 system. It is unthinkable that there could be a lag in response time due to calls being routed to outside police agencies which puts the safety of the traveling public at risk. In most cases LAPD isn’t even dispatching their officers from the substation at LAX—officers are coming from anywhere in the division or the city. On top of that, LAPD is allowed to bill for the service of dispatching officers to the airport which could in fact be the reason there isn’t any urgency to change this dangerous practice. 911 calls that originate at LAX must be routed to Airport Police dispatch.”