Los Angeles, CA – The American Alliance of Airport Police Officers (AAAPO) has long questioned the effectiveness of TSA canine teams at airports. While the general public and many public policy makers would not understand the difference between TSA managed canine teams and law enforcement canine teams, the distinction in training, function, productivity and ultimately effectiveness is stark.
As we saw with the Brussels and Istanbul airport bombings, explosives continue to be a real threat at airports. So, having properly trained canine teams with legitimate authorities is critical to ensuring the safety of our nation’s airports. TSA led canine teams are jeopardizing passenger safety, as TSA has (nor should they have) no power or authority to arrest, detain or mitigate threats. Law enforcement led canine teams undergo extensive training and have the underlying police education, expertise and the resulting authority to immediately identify the level of a threat and respond accordingly.
The AAAPO was not surprised by results of yesterday’s NBC News Investigation which reinforced our experiences illustrating that TSA management cannot provide canine teams with the type of training needed to address the threats they are seeking to alleviate. It’s not part of their core function of screening passengers and luggage and given the repeated failures by TSA management in those core areas such as failing to properly train their employees to detect banned objects at screening, for which employees missed objects 67 out of 70 times (a shocking 96% failure rate), and now this, TSA management cannot be trusted with such an important program like canine bomb detection.
“TSA management is out of its league and this is just the latest example of their attempts to expand beyond screening and into the law enforcement arena,” said Marshall McClain, a former canine police officer at LAX, President of the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association and a co-founder of AAAPO. “Law enforcement canine teams are held to a much higher training standard and if something like the Brussels or Istanbul attacks where to happen—and one of our dogs detected a suicide bomber who presented an immediate threat—we have the training to mitigate that threat. TSA management continues to divert resources and personnel to things like TSA canine teams which have again proven to be ineffective, waste taxpayer dollars and take away from the TSA’s core function of screening bags and passengers. Saturating airports with TSA canine teams is a MASSIVE waste of money, especially when law enforcement teams are better prepared and able to handle this work.”
“We cannot afford to keep trusting TSA management to continue trying to reinvent the wheel when it comes to utilizing TSA personnel,” said Paul Nunziato, President of the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association and co-founder of the AAAPO. “This time it’s with explosive detection canines to deter and/or stop a potential suicide bomber. For example, TSA policy allows their personnel to continue to keep screening lanes open when their dogs are indicating possible explosives, which endangers thousands of passengers and is in total disregard for police protocols. Law enforcement has a long established history in the canine arena and it is being undermined by TSA management’s attempt to again broaden their operation into other areas outside their core areas of responsibility. This is both dangerous and a waste of tax dollars.”