TSA Management’s Blanket Waiver of the Requirement that a Law Enforcement Officer Be Stationed Near Screening Checkpoint Jeopardizes the Safety of TSA Employees
LOS ANGELES – The American Alliance of Airport Police Officers (AAAPO) hails the 16 Members of Congress who have signed on to cosponsor HR 5720, The Checkpoint Safety Act of 2016, which was introduced by Congressman Eliot Engel and will ensure large airports have a dedicated, armed local law enforcement officer near the screening area to reinforce Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and fortify the most crucial traveler chokepoint. Airports continue to be a prime target for terrorists and those looking to cause harm so it is essential that we enact policies that will protect travelers and TSA employees from these threats. As we saw over the weekend with the triple suicide attacks in Iraq, as well as the recent bombings in New York and New Jersey, global and national tensions continue to escalate so we must be prepared for these types of incidents at our nation’s major airports.
For four years, the AAAPO has repeatedly called for having an armed local law enforcement officer within 300 feet of TSA checkpoints at large airports, which will definitively help prevent threats from reaching the sterile area of the airport and awaiting airplanes, as well as protect TSA personnel and travelers. However, TSA and airport management have strongly pushed back against and refused to support this effort despite the fact that it is the single most important action that can be taken to protect their own employees.
The need for the 300 foot rule was highlighted during the November 2013 shooting at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) in which a gunman killed one TSA agent and injured six others in the screening area. The shooter was able to breach the security screening area and pass through the entire terminal because there was no armed local police officer stationed near screening. Simply put, had an airport police officer been at screening, many lives would not be altered.
Many have called into question the response time protocols to incidents like this, including House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX), who stated, “While the response from local authorities undoubtedly saved lives, the gunman had 4 unobstructed minutes–4 minutes. Four minutes in a time like this is a long time; with 150 rounds, is a very long time. It is extraordinary that more lives were not taken. It is a miracle that that didn’t happen, and we thank God that didn’t happen that day. But 4 unobstructed minutes to wreak havoc in one of the largest, busiest airports in the country. If his goal was to produce mass casualties rather than target TSA personnel, the outcome would have been more severe.” AAAPO agrees with Chairman McCaul and the 300 foot rule would ensure an immediate response by airport law enforcement.
AAAPO applauds Congressmen Eliot Engel, Dan Donovan, Peter King, Leonard Lance, Hakeem Jeffries, Frank Pallone, Bill Pascrell, David Scott, Ted Lieu, Albio Sires, Alan Lowenthal, Paul Cook, Lee Zeldin and Eric Swalwell, and Congresswomen Maxine Water, Grace Meng and Kyrsten Sinema, and encourages others to support HR 5720 and pass this bill.
“We were extremely fortunate on November 1, 2013 that more lives were not impacted,” said Marshall McClain, President of the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association, and co-founder of the AAAPO. “Had an airport police officer been near the screening area, it is very likely a TSA agent may not have been murdered, those injured may not have been hurt and the shooter would not have breached the checkpoint and walked his way through the sterile area where he had access to planes. What more is it going to take for TSA and airport management to wake up and see how the 300 foot rule will better protect their own employees and the traveling public? A TSA employee has been unnecessarily killed and people have been shot already because of TSA’s dereliction and attempt to cut costs. Change needs to happen and it needs to happen now.”
“We can’t keep putting TSA agents and passengers in danger like this—not having an armed law enforcement officer near the screening checkpoint is risking the safety of these lives,” said Paul Nunziato, President of the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association, and co-founder of the AAAPO. “You have to ask yourself, why doesn’t TSA want to better protect their employees and travelers? What do they have to lose by putting an officer near the checkpoint and why are they pushing back so hard against this? We are here promoting something that will bolster security at the airport so what is the real reason for resistance to this policy?”