LAX is back. Passengers and flights are surpassing pre-pandemic levels. After briefly dipping to the rank of fifth-busiest airport in the U.S. in 2021, this year LAX has commandingly regained its longstanding position as the second-busiest airport in the country.
Federal government funds from COVID relief bills and additional monies from the U.S. departments of Transportation and Homeland Security, combined with rising user fees, recently led to an updated AA “outstanding” credit rating by a renowned financial credit rating agency, Fitch Ratings.
In turn, LAX is hiring more highly paid chief-level personnel and deputy executive directors (DEDs) to newly created positions, nearly doubling the number of airport executive positions — and further tipping the scales toward a top-heavy management structure.
Management is feeling so emboldened that LAX Chief of Police Cecil Rhambo, after taking a leave of absence physically for the better part of this year (and mentally for much longer) to run for L.A. County Sheriff, felt it necessary upon his return to remind a high-ranking officer that he is “management.” His job is not to advocate for improvements for rank-and-file police at LAX; that’s the union’s job.
It was quite a message from a “leader” who, after a year on the job, temporarily left his position in the middle of an international crisis that brought the airline industry to its knees — as well as the most demoralizing time for law enforcement that officers have experienced in decades or perhaps ever — to engage in a political campaign. That campaign echoed the anti-police rhetoric used by some activist groups, while simultaneously denouncing his law enforcement past. It was an odd strategy that did not resonate with the overwhelming majority of the Airport Police force. It also clearly didn’t resonate with voters, as Rhambo embarrassingly finished fourth in the primary election for Sheriff despite serving in senior “management” at the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department and retiring after 33 years.
Now, as the airport goes full speed ahead on its massive expansion efforts, preparing for the 2028 Olympics, Los Angeles World Airports CEO Justin Erbacci has made his investment strategy clear by further developing and expanding a fiefdom of highly compensated DEDs and giving his Chief of Police a leave of absence to run a political campaign. This while allowing LAXPD sworn and civilian staffing to diminish to levels we haven’t witnessed in nearly 15 years.
While LAX may be “back” in some ways, it is seriously lacking and behind in maintaining and sustaining the backbone of the airport — the employees who make it safe and secure.
“CEO Erbacci has lost focus at LAX, and while it may not be apparent to casual observers of airports and their business models right now, it will inevitably catch up to him,” said Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association (LAAPOA) President Marshall McClain. “You cannot build an army of highly paid ‘managers’ in nonsensical increasing numbers while decreasing and downsizing the rank-and-file workers. It’s a Ponzi scheme, and we know how those always end. Real leadership matters, and sadly we are not seeing that at LAX. The lack of support from management for the sworn and civilian workers is shameful and dishonorable. The critical employees who worked throughout the pandemic without the option to telework are now being treated as an afterthought.”
Airport leadership should know the jeopardy they are placing the airport and traveling public in by not prioritizing staffing. Our officers have seen firsthand the traffic congestion, delays, and officer safety risk and stress this failure to keep up with attrition causes.
After repeated discussions expressing our staffing concerns to CEO Erbacci and Chief Rhambo, LAAPOA has made the decision to raise our voice louder and take our concerns beyond airport management to ensure the safety and viability of our officers, the traveling public, and both LAX and Van Nuys Airports.