LAX Police Chief Patrick Gannon speaks about challenges of airport security

The key is policing

The key to policing at LAX is to vary how officers are deployed on a regular basis, airport police chief Patrick Gannon said. (Associated Press photo.)

Here’s the second part of my Nov. 11 interview with Patrick Gannon, who for the past year has been the chief of Los Angeles World Airports police. After discussing the shooting incident at LAX in part one of the interview, we moved on to talk about the overall challenges of airport policing.

This interview has been condensed and edited lightly for clarity.

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Airport security: What, if anything, should now be done?

TSA agents help passengers with baggage the day after a gunman entered Terminal 3 at Los Angeles International Airport. (John McCoy/Los Angeles Daily News)

What should be done about protecting lobbies, security checkpoints and roadways at airports? Is a change needed? Or are those areas as safe as they can be?

According to an NBC News story, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told reporters Monday that something might need to be done. He noted that protecting those areas falls outside of the Transportation Security Administration’s mission.

“The function of TSA is to ensure that people can board planes safely, take flights safely,” Holder said, according to NBC. “The responsibility for protecting airports’ security is not a TSA function, but it’s something that we need to examine given what happened in Los Angeles,”

I spent Saturday speaking with security experts about what could be changed to make airports more secure. All of them agreed that the non-secure areas are difficult to keep safe. It could be done, of course, but it would require Americans to present themselves for far more thorough examinations than now. Also, they said, it would probably require America to change its attitude toward gun control, which seems entirely unlikely. (Appearing on television Sunday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein called this a gun control issue, according to Politico.)

Most other measures, the experts told me, would probably be more window dressing than anything else.

“When you have so many people concentrated in one place, you are going to have a high probability of an unlikely event,” said Harvey Molotch, a professor at New York University and author of “Against Security — How We Go Wrong at Airports, Subways and Other Sites of Ambiguous Danger.” “This was very mild compared to what happened in the past and what could happen. Anyone could mow people down in a shopping mall with a car, or put a bomb in a department store. There are so many ways of creating mayhem. It’s all a testimony to how routinely safe and secure we are in the United States.”

Of course, there’s another approach. The union representing TSA workers wants the government to arm some of them, according to this story in USA Today. 

What do you think should be changed?

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Airport security checkpoints at CLT and DFW now resemble hotel lobbies

Do you want your airport security checkpoint to look more like a hotel lobby? Perhaps not. But if you are leaving from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport or Charlotte in the next couple of months, you may have no choice.

As something of a pilot program, SpringHill Suites by Marriott is overhauling one checkpoint at each airport. Not pictured here are a bunch of advertisements for — you guessed it — SpringHill Suites.

Here’s a before picture of DFW’s Terminal 3’s E18  checkpoint …


And here’s an after picture. Groovy.

DFW E18 After-6 (2)

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