LOS ANGELES, CA – Amid the ongoing safety concerns following the Brussels attacks, Wednesday at approximately 4:30am, another security scare took place at LAX. A male suspect breached the restricted access control and alarm monitoring system (ACAMS) doors in Terminal 1 and gained access to the airfield, which put him within reach of active airplanes. While the suspect was taken down swiftly by airport police officers, this incident again reinforces that airports continue to be a top objective for those seeking to do harm and highlights the need for properly staffing patrol officer positions, particularly during the overnight shift which remains a vulnerable time for the airport.
Similarly, last week’s breach of the perimeter at Van Nuys Airport in which a driver rammed through the fence, drove across the airfield and two active runways and crashed into a plane, is yet another reminder that airports are a prime target for criminal activity. At the time of the incident, only two patrol officers and one supervisor were on duty at Van Nuys, which is one of the world’s busiest general aviation airports. In fact, the two officers were forced to contact LAPD to transport the suspect to jail due to the understaffing at the airport.
While it is glaringly clear that security must be enhanced at our airports, former LAXPD Chief Patrick Gannon instituted efforts that diminished the number of LAXPD officers on the force and on patrol during key shifts, making our airports more vulnerable to criminal and terrorist attack.
Despite the fact that the LAX has expanded massively, both in physical space and passenger loads, over the last several years Chief Gannon and Command Staff drastically decreased staffing levels since 2013 by nearly 35% during the overnight shift, all while there has been a heightened threat environment. For example, as recently as last week-the same week the Brussels attack happened-only 7 police officers patrolled LAX during the overnight shift.
Instead of bringing aboard additional LAXPD officers to accommodate the growth, expansion and continued threats, Chief Gannon allowed LAXPD officer levels to languish while contracting LAPD officers to work at the airport at exorbitant rates. This has resulted in the airport paying more money for services that can, and should, be done by LAXPD officers.
“Patrol is the life line to the success of a police department and Chief Gannon’s depletion of patrol officer levels directly affects the safety of travelers, airport employees, and our own officers,” said Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association (LAAPOA) Vice-President Julius Levy. “LAAPOA is concerned that Chief Gannon is intentionally sabotaging the airport police department by keeping LAXPD officer numbers down in order to justify contracting LAPD officers to work at the airport and paying them outrageously high rates. The Chief has publicly admitted that LAPD only performs 1% of the work at the airport, so why not take the exorbitant amounts of money wasted on the minimal work LAPD performs and invest it in more LAXPD officers so that we are properly staffed to protect our travelers and airports? We are hopeful that our next chief will see the shortsightedness of these actions by strengthening force levels and putting more rank-and-file officers out on patrol.”