Mr. Michael Thorn
Fox Broadcasting Company
10201 West Pico Boulevard
Los Angeles, California 90064-2602
Dear Mr. Thorn:
I am contacting you on behalf of the Los Angeles Airport Police who are part of LAAPOA, of which I am president, on the portrayal of Los Angeles Airport Police on the fourth episode, titled “Worst Day Ever,” of your show 9-1-1, which aired on FOX on January 24, 2018. Frankly, I was appalled at how you represented our police officers and the 100% inaccurate depictions of how our officers conduct themselves and from whom we take orders.
To set the record straight, my officers receive extensive training on protocols to keep our airports safe. We do not take orders from CEOs of airlines, and I would challenge you to find one incident in the history of the LAXPD in which one of our officers behaved in the manner depicted in your show.
You should be aware that LAXPD is the largest proprietary police force at any of our nation’s airports. LAX is America’s second largest airport and is almost an international city unto itself, where travelers from every nation in the world converge on a daily basis. Airport police face a multitude of safety and security situations daily, many of which the public is never made aware of, so that Americans and anyone traveling through our airport can do so with confidence that our officers are focused on their safety, as well as supporting respectful interaction between police and travelers. Our extensive training includes joint training with numerous other federal, state and local first responder and law enforcement agencies — the very people on which your show is based.
So, instead of this letter devolving into an itemized list of the multiple places where your show went wrong in depicting LAXPD and police work in general, I would like to educate you on a true situation that took place at LAX and to which our officers responded, which is much more representative of LAXPD and the nature of first responders than the demeaning and damning portrayal from your show.
On November 1, 2013, a man was dropped off at LAX by his roommate and entered Terminal 3, the Virgin America terminal, with a roller bag and duffle bag on top. This man had cut a hole in the bottom of the duffle bag and the top of the roller bag so that he could fit a semiautomatic .223-caliber Smith & Wesson M&P-15 rifle. He walked to the initial ticket checkpoint, took out this gun and shot a TSA agent in the chest. The civilian ticket checker and others scattered. The shooter then walked a few more steps to the escalator, which he began riding, and then turned around to see that the TSA agent was still alive. He walked back down the escalator and shot the TSA agent again — killing him. He reentered the escalator, which leads to a truncated security clearance area in which the line forms back behind the top of the escalator and eventually snakes in front of TSA screening. Travelers in line heard shots and ran for cover. TSA agents pressed their panic buttons, which are designed specifically for situations like this. They did not work. A TSA agent picked up a hardline “Red Phone” to inform LAX airport police dispatch of the shooting, dropping the phone and leaving it hanging from the cord before he could identify the terminal location. There was no caller ID on the “Red Phone.” Airport Police dispatch did not know the location of the call in the massive maze of LAX. Simultaneously, passengers and airport employees dialed 9-1-1 from cellphones and hardline phones; these calls are routed off the airport to LAPD and CHP dispatch, not directly to LAXPD. In the meantime, the shooter continued deliberately walking (not running) up the escalator, through pre-screening, the security detectors, post-screening. Past benches, restrooms, a long hallway, Hudson News, active gates (thankfully, without planes at them) and through a round-about into the food court area — almost reaching the full back of this large terminal, where numerous planes were parked at their gates.
For context, you should be aware that just five months earlier, LAX terminated a post-9/11 policy of having a police officer presence at every TSA screening area. You should also be aware that beyond the immediate TSA screening area, there are no CCTVs throughout the airport. And that LAX and many other large airports generally only have one officer assigned to an entire terminal. So, while so many systems failed them, our officers ran toward where we thought the shooter was without regard for their own safety. With no eyes throughout the terminal, not knowing if the shooter lay in wait to ambush them, our active-shooter trained officers advanced, identified, confronted and took down the shooter.
The aftermath revealed that the deceased 39-year-old TSA agent was shot 12 times. Two other TSA agents and one passenger were wounded. Seven victims were treated at the scene. After LAXPD apprehended the shooter, we found five 30-round magazines and hundreds of rounds of ammunition in his luggage.
I cannot convey to you how seriously we take our jobs and roles as police officers at LAX and our other airports, the great pride we take in public service, even in a time when we are continually disrespected and painted as the bad guys. Beyond being police officers, we, too, are people who go to work every day trying to do the best we can. We, too, wear several hats. LAXPD is the largest majority-minority police force in the country, and we are policing at the front lines at the largest airport on the West Coast — an area that is ground zero for the national immigration and gang debates.
In the interest of your show truly depicting first responders, I would suggest that you come and visit with LAXPD personally to understand better what we do and how we respond to 9-1-1 calls and emergency situations. There are plenty of true stories about LAXPD on which to base your show, and these depictions are even more compelling for television viewers than the gross misrepresentations you made of our officers. Finally, I would suggest that you could use your show to purposefully help in highlighting public safety initiatives to better serve Americans — such as the need to have an airport police officer at every TSA screening area (as required by law, but waived by the TSA Administrator) and supporting full CCTV coverage at airports.
Here is a video, http://ow.ly/bsaX30iezsM, from a behind-the-scenes tour of policing at LAX led by LAXPD Chief Maggard, which provides additional information on the complicated and multifaceted nature of policing at LAX. Again, I extend an invitation for you to contact me to better understand what we do and why we do it.
I look forward to your response.
Marshall E. McClain
President, Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association (LAAPOA)
Note: The LAFD has also expressed concern about the portrayal of first responders, and particularly the realities of PTSD, on 9-1-1. Read their letter to Fox here.