Los Angeles, CA – The American Alliance of Airport Police Officers (AAAPO) has long warned that the TSA screening checkpoint is the most sensitive and vulnerable area at an airport, as it is the main chokepoint in the airport and is designed to be the last barricade to detect and stop threats from reaching airplanes. This concern was reinforced during the recent “false alarms” at LAX and JFK airports.
In both cases, passengers ran through the security checkpoints and TSA had no one there to back them. Had an armed local airport police officer been within 300 feet of the screening checkpoint, as we have repeatedly advocated, TSA would have been fortified by an armed airport police officer who would have told them they have the needed support to man their posts (and other police officers would arrive shortly thereafter to reinforce the police officer originally assigned to be within 300 foot of the screening area). Both of these incidents identified serious security gaps, particularly, the current lax security at screening checkpoints because no armed local police officer is nearby.
Without an armed airport officer there, TSA did what they must do, but abandoning their posts exposes airports to untold vulnerabilities that could lead to repeats of horrific deeds that are very fresh in our minds after the 15th anniversary of 9/11 last weekend.
While we all agree security layers matter, having an armed local police officer within 300 feet of TSA checkpoints will serve as the most essential layer of security to back up rank-and-file TSA who are constantly let down by their massive management structure time and time again. Fortifying them and the TSA screening checkpoint, adds not only a deterrence and protective factor, but it adds increased security for TSA agents, travelers and the airport, and provides the capability for law enforcement to neutralize and terminate threats that we all know are out there watching (or creating) the turmoil that happens when common sense protocols are forgone.
In this regard, we encourage Members of Congress to support of HR 5720, The Checkpoint Safety Act of 2016, which will require large airports to ensure that a dedicated local airport police officer is at the screening area to reinforce TSA and fortify the most crucial traveler choked point at airports.
“While the incidents at LAX and JFK are still being investigated, and we have not yet determined whether these events were indeed “false alarms” or perhaps bad guys/terrorist seeking to “test” our response protocols, either way, they support the need for an armed local police officer to be near the screening area,” said Marshall McClain, co-founder of the AAAPO and President of the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association. “My officers saw a TSA agent lose his life and six others needlessly injured in 2013 because TSA screening wasn’t fortified. We also watched and cleaned up during the recent “false alarm” at LAX when TSA justifiably left their posts in what could have been another November 1, 2013 TSA hunting spree. We’re there to protect them and stand them up, but their own management waives the requirement that we do so. It’s shameful!”
Paul Nunziato, co-founder of the AAAPO and President of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Benevolent Association said, “Right now, at JFK, LaGuardia and Newark airports, there is a 5 minute response time for an airport police officer to get to the TSA screening area if there is a threat or breach. If someone really wants to do harm, they’ve done it in five minutes. It’s over. And, five minutes is a VERY long time to have unscreened passengers flooding through the screening area with unfettered access to airplanes, as was the case during the recent JFK incident. Simply put, HR 5720 allows local police to reinforce rank-and-file TSA to do their jobs and stop threats from reaching planes. The next time, the story may be different. It’s time our elected leaders pass this important bill which will actually do something to better secure our airports.”