LOS ANGELES — This week, work began on a new $1.6 billion 12-gate concourse at LAX, which is part of the airport’s more than $14 billion Capital Improvement Program. The concourse, set to be completed in 2019, will include 12 new gates in a five-story, 750,000-square-foot building attached to the Tom Bradley International Terminal via a 1,000-foot tunnel. Over the last several years, the airport has expanded massively, both in physical space and passenger loads, and it is continuing to grow. However, the number of rank-and-file officers has declined since its peak in 2010.
While LAWA tries to play a shell game with numbers and use alternative facts to claim that officer levels have increased, the truth is plain and simple — more airport means more areas for police to patrol, and more officers are needed to do so. Rank-and-file officer levels are not robust enough to handle the mounting needs of our ever-expanding airport and rising traveler levels, and we do not have enough officers in place for the anticipated retirements and resignations that are expected over the next several years.
This fact is clear: LAWA’s hiring practices have been insufficient to keep up with the physical development of the airport and attrition. Since it typically takes around three years from recruitment to become a solo officer off probation, it is baffling why LAWA has not implemented a more aggressive hiring process. LAWA’s lack of commitment to ensuring there are enough police officers to protect our airport puts the public’s safety at risk.
Deepening our concerns is the fact that airports continue to be a target for terrorists. Attacks at airports are happening on a regular basis, both here at home and abroad. Reaching an airplane is a priority objective for those looking to disrupt our way of life. We must be vigilant in protecting our airports and aircraft, and to do so, we must have enough officers. LAWA’s pattern of practice of allowing the number of LAXPD officers on the force and on patrol during key shifts to languish makes our airports more vulnerable to criminal and terrorist attack and jeopardizes safety.
“LAWA leadership has allowed airport police officer levels to decline for far too long, and this is not something LAAPOA is willing to acquiesce to — for the safety of the public, our airports and our officers,” said Marshall McClain, president of the Los Angeles Airport Police Officers’ Association. “Strengthening force levels and putting more rank-and-file officers out on patrol must be a priority for LAWA and the Board of Airport Commissioners, and we call upon the mayor to engage LAWA to ensure that this issue is brought to the forefront. With so many large projects and events looming on the horizon, including the expansion of the International Terminal, the Landside Access Modernization Program, and the potential for the 2024 Olympics to be held in Los Angeles, now is the time to address officer staffing levels so that we are well prepared for the challenges and opportunities of the future.”