ADVOCATING FOR PUBLIC SAFETY
In 2016, a year of unprecedented ambushes on police and horrific terrorist attacks abroad and at home, LAAPOA carefully analyzed and directly identified airport security weaknesses exposed by those occurrences. Press releases focused on specific recommendations on how to create a safer environment for law enforcement and travelers alike, and were frequently sent out as collaborative statements with the American Alliance of Airport Police Officers (AAAPO), co-founded by members of LAAPOA.
Starting in February, LAAPOA questioned why LAX airport management had not made substantive progress on addressing security gaps highlighted by the after-action report of the November 1, 2013, shooting.
After an FAA announcement that there are now more registered drones than registered airplanes, LAAPOA again called for immediate congressional action to address the growing number of drone–airplane encounters at airports.
Taking issue with then-Chief Patrick Gannon’s claims that it’s impossible to screen every single person who comes to work in the airport, LAAPOA pointed out that it is realistic and achievable, and has already been done at Miami International Airport and Orlando International Airport. (Miami has screened approximately 38,000 employees since 1999.)
LAAPOA questioned why, despite being the second-busiest airport in the country, serving a record-breaking 74.9 million passengers in 2015 and being the No. 1 terrorist target on the West Coast, LAX has fewer officers patrolling the airport than in 2010.
In March, LAAPOA reiterated its calls for the implementation of a 300-foot rule at screening checkpoints, which was prior practice at the airport and a security gap highlighted during the 2013 LAX shooting.
Two-and-a-half years after the event, LAAPOA questioned why airport 9-1-1 calls still aren’t sent directly to airport police and highlighted that nothing has been done to improve this situation since the November 1 shooting.
Calling attention to airport perimeter breaches at LAX and Van Nuys airports, LAAPOA asked airport management to address this vulnerability.
LAAPOA renewed its call for 100% employee screening after a flight attendant was caught smuggling cocaine at LAX. A follow-up joint statement with AAAPO re-emphasized calls for improved security, including officers assigned to checkpoints, real-time police access to airport security cameras and screening of all airport employees.
After terrorist attacks in Brussels, Belgium, AAAPO stated its position that all American airports and overseas facilities needed to bolster security and policing efforts to protect the public and ensure that commercial aviation, one of America’s most important economies, operates in a safe and secure manner.
After another drone scare at LAX, when a drone came within 200 feet of a plane that was preparing to land, LAAPOA called for airports and the FAA to roll out drone detection and mitigation systems that would give airports and airport police control to detect a drone, identify the operator and mitigate the threat.
In May, AAAPO made recommendations to secure TSA screening areas, including having an officer stationed within 300 feet of a checkpoint rather than at a fixed position, providing the flexibility to roam and monitor the checkpoint while staying close enough to respond to any issues. AAAPO also recommended having a law enforcement canine detection team at each terminal of major airports to provide a layer of protection and deterrence against those seeking to carry or bring explosive materials into airports.
In anticipation of the summer travel season and long wait times, LAAPOA advised that the TSA should remain focused on its primary function of baggage and passenger screening and leave law enforcement duties to airport police.
In a follow-up press release, LAAPOA suggested that to decrease TSA screening wait times, the agency should place more screeners, and open and staff all checkpoints at peak hours.
AAAPO warned against utilization of canines by the TSA, pointing out that their teams do not have a high degree of detection accuracy and have never identified explosives on a traveler, and also that TSA protocol is to take a person with a positive canine alert through the checkpoint for further screening, creating additional security risks.
After weeks of intense TSA scrutiny due to hours-long security lines at U.S. airports, LAAPOA pointed out that the agency’s struggles to efficiently operate checkpoints was due to how far it has strayed from what it was designed to do: screen passengers and cargo. To ease the gridlock and protect passengers, LAAPOA called on lawmakers to refocus the TSA’s attention and resources on its core mission.
In late June and July, after the attack at Istanbul Airport and with the Fourth of July travel rush in full swing, AAAPO repeated its calls for airport police to have access, in real time, to all closed-circuit security camera systems at airports.
In August, after false reports of gunfire created chaos at JFK Airport in New York, AAAPO reiterated its requests for camera system access; armed law enforcement officers stationed near TSA screening areas; and tougher perimeter security, including mobile airport police patrols to supplement technology solutions such as cameras and sensors.
Shortly after, LAX had its own scare of false reports of gunfire that sent panicked passengers running from terminals and onto the tarmac. AAAPO restated its requests.
In September, AAAPO asked lawmakers to support the Checkpoint Safety Act of 2016.
AAAPO asserted that TSA-led canine teams were jeopardizing passenger safety, as TSA did not nor should have power or authority to arrest, detain or mitigate threats.
To bolster airplane security and prevent cockpit breaches, AAAPO called for the installation of secondary barriers on cockpit doors and voiced its strong endorsement of the Saracini Aviation Safety Act.
In October, with a study showing that 10 U.S. passenger airlines collectively reported a pre-tax profit of approximately $12 billion in the first half of 2016 — up $700 million from the previous year — AAAPO questioned why airport security was still a low priority.
In response to a TSA request for information to civilian third parties regarding canine teams, LAAPOA and AAAPO maintained that police should be the only entity at airports to utilize explosive detection canines, based on their authority and training to immediately mitigate and take down any threat involving explosives.
ADVOCATING FOR LAAPOA MEMBERS
Early in the year, LAAPOA’s long-running campaign to secure new patrol cars and motorcycles for officers continued, with press releases decrying the unsafe state of the fleet and asking airport management to properly equip its force.
In February, a BOLO e-newsletter laid out how LAWA’s failure to holistically approach public safety funding resulted in lower compensation for its majority-minority department compared to other agencies in the region, and challenged LAWA to acknowledge and tackle these issues for the betterment of overall airport security and the personnel who provide it.
LAAPOA also created a series of “Help Wanted” ads for a chief of police who would advocate for security in the face of airport expansion, display true leadership (pointing out fiscal mismanagement and policy initiative failures of Chief Gannon), make smart policy and tactical decisions on behalf of officers in the field, properly staff airports, support employee screening and advocate for a new police station.
At the end of June, after Assistant Chief Brian Walker went on a leave of absence following a criminal investigation and plea deal, LAAPOA called on the inspector general to investigate corruption within the Department, pointing to a perception of double standards for upper management conduct and unfair targeting and punishment of lower-level officers for minor infractions. In subsequent months, a dozen police officers came forward with allegations of corruption and retaliation by the Department, and LAAPOA renewed its call for the inspector general to step in.
EDUCATING THE COMMUNITY
In its role as subject-matter expert on issues related to policing and providing security at LAX, LAAPOA made a concerted effort to help educate the community on the following matters in 2016 through press releases and its BOLO e-newsletter.
In January, the e-newsletter provided practical tips on how to handle an active-shooter situation, after a spate of violent events both close to home and abroad.
A February e-newsletter described the sad and disturbing reality of human trafficking as an everyday problem in communities across the nation, and airports’ unique role in recognizing and combating the problem.
Citing recent actual events at the airport, in March LAAPOA examined the homeless problem in L.A. County, demanding solutions and encouraging city leaders to commit resources to addressing the issue.
Also in March, LAAPOA reviewed the airport’s $5 billion Landside Access Modernization Program, pointing out that comparable attention needed be paid to safety and security resources at the airport, including upgrades to the decrepit police station, vehicle fleet and other substandard equipment.
A June article highlighted that the police continued to operate in an outdated, run-down facility that is inadequate to meet the growing public safety needs of an expanding aviation center.
After a tragic summer of highly publicized uses of force and subsequent murders of police officers, LAAPOA called on leaders in all organizations to remind the public that police officers are real people doing good, and encouraged young people wanting to change society to consider the field of criminal justice as a legitimate career choice.
In September, when LAPD Chief Charlie Beck honored 25 officers with the inaugural and controversial “Preservation of Life” medal (for not using deadly force during dangerous encounters), LAAPOA outlined how this award presents a perilous quandary for officers and jeopardizes their safety.
After tragic shootings of police officers in California in October, LAAPOA pointed out that daily dangers and criticism do not deter police from protecting the public and called on leaders at the local, state and federal level to help put an end to the narratives manufacturing hatred toward police.
VOTER OUTREACH EFFORTS
Throughout the year, as a chaotic and unprecedented presidential race played out in a charged environment of racial and class issues, LAAPOA made a concerted effort to inform voters about law-enforcement-related legislation and how it would affect peace officers, as well as those that they serve and protect.
A May e-newsletter article examined death penalty initiatives working their way toward the November election ballot, with LAAPOA urging voters to reform the death penalty system, not repeal it.
After the Democratic and Republican national conventions, an August e-newsletter weighed the parties’ and presidential candidates’ different views on policing issues and explored their platforms.
In October, LAAPOA encouraged members and citizens alike to exercise their right to vote, and printed its election guide with recommendations on public-safety related legislation. Following are the initiatives with LAAPOA’s recommendation and election results.
- Prop 51: Yes: Authorizes new school bonds. Passed.
- Prop 53: No: Requires voter approval for revenue bonds over $2 billion. Did not pass.
- Prop 56: Yes: Increases cigarette tax. Passed.
- Prop 57: No: Increases parole chances for felons convicted of nonviolent crimes and gives them more opportunities to earn credits for good behavior. Before the election, LAAPOA published an article urging Californians to vote no on Prop 57, describing it as a flawed, misleadingly titled measure that would allow tens of thousands of violent criminals to be released from state jails and back onto the streets. Unfortunately, voters overwhelmingly passed the measure.
- Prop 59: Yes: Asks whether California’s elected officials should propose and ratify a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. Passed.
- Prop 61: No: Caps amount state agencies are allowed to pay for prescription drugs. Did not pass.
- Prop 62: No: Repeals death penalty. Did not pass.
- Prop 63: No: Prohibits possession of large-capacity magazines; requires background checks for ammunition purchases. Passed.
- Prop 64: No: Legalizes marijuana and hemp. Passed.
- Prop 66: Yes: Reforms death penalty procedures. Passed.
LEGISLATIVE AND POLITICAL ACTIVITY
For nearly three decades, LAAPOA has been politically engaged, seeking to advance the interests of its members while also protecting the community. Through supporting proposed legislation that would benefit public safety and opposing bills that threatened it, LAAPOA continued that important work in 2016.
LAAPOA’s lobbying firm locally and in Sacramento is Aaron Read & Associates (ARA). LAAPOA also is part of the Peace Officers Research Association of California (PORAC), which represents its police association members with lawmakers. For lobbying on national and global transportation issues and public safety matters, LAAPOA utilizes the services of Iseman & Szeliga in Washington, D.C.
From January 1, 2016, until the end of the state congressional session in August, ARA and PORAC kept close tabs on over 356 bills. Some were newly introduced bills, and some were two-year bills carried over from 2015. PORAC supported a total of 109 bills, opposed 20 bills, co-sponsored three bills and sponsored five bills.
Of the 2,331 bills introduced in 2016, 1,059 were sent to the governor (689 Assembly bills and 370 Senate bills). He vetoed 159 bills (111 Assembly bills and 48 Senate bills), for a total of 15% — his highest veto rate yet. On average, Governor Brown vetoed 8% of all the bills sent to him throughout his entire 14 years as governor. Of the remaining 900 bills that came across his desk in 2016, two of them became law without his signature.
The intensity of the attention being placed on every police stop meant developing a strategy that protected both private citizens and law enforcement, and focusing on preventing bad bills from passing the legislature.
PORAC successfully opposed the following bills in 2016, and they will not become law.
SB 1286 by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) was actively opposed and decried by PORAC as unreasonable. Although the bill died in Assembly Appropriations, it does not mean the end of discussion. It is expected instead to engender discourse between all the stakeholders. This bill would have granted greater public access to peace officer and custodial officer personnel records, and other records maintained by a state or local agency related to complaints against those officers.
AB 1812 by Assembly Member Donald Wagner (R-Irvine) would have capped the retirement benefit paid to new members of any public retirement system first hired on or after January 1, 2017.
AB 2753 by Assembly Member Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) would have required public employee labor organizations to post an itemized version of its budget on its website that by January 1, 2017, along with other transparency requirements.
AB 2754 by Assembly Member Shannon Grove proposed that a public employee labor organization would hold an election every two years to determine if the current organization would continue to represent its members as specified.
AB 1820 by Assembly Member Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) sought to prohibit a law enforcement agency from using, obtaining or using information obtained from an unmanned aircraft system, except as specifically authorized.
SB 608 by Senator Carol Liu (D-La Cañada Flintridge) would have allowed persons experiencing homelessness the right to use public space without taking into consideration the interest of private businesses, and a civil remedy in the form of lawsuits if their rights pursuant to the Act were violated.
SB 966 by Senator Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) would have limited the current three-year enhancement for prior conviction of specified controlled substance offenses as well as for using or employing a minor in the commission of specified controlled substance offenses.
PORAC sponsored two body-camera bills this session, but unfortunately they both failed passage.
AB 2611 by Assembly Member Evan Low (D-Campbell) would have prohibited a public agency from disclosing a visual or audio recording of the death of a police officer killed in the line of duty.
AB 1940 by Assembly Member Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) would have required a law enforcement agency, department or entity that employs peace officers who use body-worn cameras to develop a collectively bargained policy relating to the use of body-worn cameras.
Legislators honored National Police Week with some good news for law enforcement: the passage of two federal bills that were subsequently signed into law by President Trump. Both the American Law Enforcement Heroes Act and the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Improvement Act of 2017 demonstrate bipartisan support for our nation’s peace officers and military veterans, and represent major victories for public safety.