Press Release

American Alliance of Airport Police Officers

Airport Police: The Checkpoint Safety Act of 2016 Will Save Lives

LOS ANGELES, CA – The American Alliance of Airport Police Officers (AAAPO) applauds Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY) for crafting and introducing The Checkpoint Safety Act of 2016, which will require that an armed law enforcement officer be stationed within 300 feet of the TSA screening area at major airports.  We also thank our stalwart supporters, Congressmen Peter King (R-NY), a longtime proponent for better airport security and a committed friend to airport (and all) police, and Dan Donovan (R-NY), who has immersed himself in transportation safety issues and the unique role New York has in this space since becoming a Member of Congress.

Having an armed officer within 300 feet of TSA checkpoints will serve as the most essential layer of security within airport systems.  By fortifying TSA screening checkpoint, which is the main chokepoint in the airport and designed to be the last barricade to detect and stop threats from reaching airplanes, Congress is reinforcing legislation it passed in this area in 2001 and eliminating TSA’s authority to waive having an armed law enforcement officer at every screening point at our nation’s largest airports.  The Checkpoint Safety Act of 2016 is the single most important piece of legislation that Congress can enact to protect passengers, airport employees (including TSA), airplanes and anyone who could be the victim of an attack like 9/11 or the LAX/TSA shootings or the Machete wielding airport attacker in New Orleans and many other public and non-public threats that take place daily at U.S. airports.

After-9/11, Congress passed legislation in the Aviation and Transportation Security Act that requires, “at minimum, one law enforcement officer is to be stationed at a podium at each TSA security screening location” but DHS has issued a blanket-waiver to this requirement resulting in no police officer being assigned to the TSA screening area in any Category X U.S. airport and placing at risk TSA’s own rank-and-file screeners.

In the recent aftermath of Istanbul and Brussels, we have been reminded of the horrors of attacks at airports.  The Paris and Orlando shootings remind us that the enemies of freedom are getting closer and bolder.  The civil unrest that exists among Americans in the examples of the TSA shooter and machete wielder remind us that airports are not just vulnerable to outsiders, but also to disturbed Americans seeking to make statements.  And, lastly, the shooting of police officers last week in Dallas reminds us that we all need to have each other’s backs and AAAPO members have all experienced firsthand the loss of fellow officers and those under their watch.

AAAPO supports a return to the post-9/11 requirement with the flexibility for our officers to be within 300 feet of the screening checkpoint at our country’s largest and most traveled airports.

“In the wake of the tragic attacks in Brussels and Istanbul it makes sense to increase the police presence in the public spaces at our airports,” said Congressman Eliot Engel, who authored and introduced The Checkpoint Safety Act.  “While the TSA provides the necessary screening at checkpoints before passengers are allowed access to the airplanes, they are not there as law enforcement officers.  My bill will add additional police to TSA screening checkpoints at places like JFK and LaGuardia, deterring terrorists and other bad actors while making sure that officers are always nearby and ready to respond to threats. Police have requested additional support to protect these areas, areas where TSA screeners—who are unarmed—need more protection. I’m grateful for the bipartisan support of the bill, and I’m hopeful that we can pass this measure quickly.”

“We could and should always be doing more. Given the large number of overseas travelers we receive, we can never stop all of the attacks that happen at the airport. The important thing is to not only have the intelligence but the resources to stop it before it gets there. This bill will go a long way to doing just that,” said Congressman Peter King.

“We can’t wait for the next tragedy before taking action. In the past four months, terrorists have attacked airports in Brussels and Istanbul with deadly success. In June, my subcommittee held a hearing to examine vulnerabilities in our own transit security. We must take steps now to protect travelers at American airports, and this bill is an essential step,” said Congressman Dan Donovan.

“We have seen firsthand here at LAX the deadly repercussions of not having a police officer within 300 feet of the screening checkpoint.  On November 1, 2013, a shooter injured 7 people—6 within the passenger screening area—as he walked through TSA screening, down a long hallway, passed an active gate and was finally taken down way back at a food court that buttresses up against numerous gates at the end of the terminal. Even while TSA panic buttons and caller ID on TSA “red” phones failed and 911 calls were rerouted off the airport, our officers did what they needed to do, even with all the impediments self-inflicted by TSA management.  TSA management must get their act together and stop these waivers—to protect their own, to protect our own and everyone else that interacts at airports,” said Marshall McClain, co-founder of the AAAPO and President of the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association.  “I can tell you outright that having an officer stationed within 300 feet of the TSA checkpoint area on November 1st would have stopped 6 people from being injured and that shooter would not have been able to reach a plane.”

Paul Nunziato, co-founder of the AAAPO and President of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Benevolent Association, said, “Congressman Engel gets it and we thank him for writing this bill.  He understands the real life consequences of what we are dealing with here, as do Congressmen King and Donovan who have long pushed for tighter security protocols at our airports.  Airports attract terrorists and “crazies”.  Their goal being to show that they can penetrate layers of security to reach an airplane that can be used as their own weapon of mass destruction to disrupt our economy, our mobility and our faith that our country can protect us as we move about our daily lives.  Their point is to instill fear in Americans and this legislation makes it clear that if terrorists come to one of our airports to get to an airplane, they will be greeted by an armed cop at TSA.  JFK, LaGuardia and Newark airports have a 5 minute response time for police to get to the TSA screening area if there is a threat—do you have any idea what can happen at airports like ours in 5 minutes??!!  This bill will allow our officers to better protect people and I hope others will follow suit and cosponsor this bill. ”