Question of the day: Should armed officers return to LAX security checkpoints?

Not long before the Nov. 1 shooting at Los Angeles International Airport, officials removed the armed Los Angeles World Airports police officer at every security checkpoint.

Patrick Gannon, the police chief, said this was not a budget decision but was instead a decision about how best to allocate resources. He said, as a police matter, it makes little sense to have officers seated all day at a fixed post. He said makes more sense for them to roam terminals so they can respond to an incident anywhere, like the ticketing lobby, where the last major LAX shooting occurred. 

But many folks I have spoken with, including TSA agents, want the officers to return.

What do you think? Should officers be stationed at every security checkpoint?

Please leave your views in the comments section.

 

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LAX police chief says officers were not out of position on Nov. 1

Police stand outside Terminal 3 at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday, Nov. 1, 2013.  (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

Police stand outside Terminal 3 at Los Angeles International Airport on Friday, Nov. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

The Nov. 1 shooting at Los Angeles International Airport is back in the news, as the Associated Press reported that two officers assigned to Terminal 3 were either on break or about go on break, but had not told dispatchers of their intentions.

One officer was likely in the bathroom while the other was on the ramp preparing to take a meal break, according to AP. The story seems to suggest — though it does not outright say — that police response was screwed up because of the discrepancy.

I spoke Wednesday with airport police Patrick Gannon, who pushed back against the story, saying both officers responded almost immediately to reports of gunfire. He stressed that officers have no fixed positions — only assigned terminals — so it’s a little hard to say officers were in the wrong place when they were both still around Terminal 3. He said they were on duty and responded appropriately. (The police union president told me that both of the officers implicated by the story arrived at the scene within about 90 seconds after getting the call.)

“The reason that this shooting occurred was because Paul Ciancia decided to come intoCHIEF GANNON our airport and to take out his anger and wrath on the TSA,” Gannon told me. “The officers that were working that particular day were doing what I wanted them to do and were working in a manner with which I am comfortable.  Do I wish that someone had seen him and figured out what he was trying to do before he actually commited murder? Yes. But he didn’t present himself in that way. I don’t know a way I could have prevented this murder.”

Gannon has been criticized for removing armed airport police officers from every security checkpoint. But he continues to call that a poor use of resources. He said it makes more sense to have officers roam the terminals.

Of course, if they’re roaming, they might be in the wrong place when disaster strikes. Maybe they’ll be in the ticket counter when something happens at baggage claim. Or maybe they’ll be at the gates when something happens in the lobby.

But Gannon, who had a long career with the LAPD, says good policing requires the force to change up its security profile. Having an officer seated behind a desk all day makes little sense to him, he has said.

“We are trying reach day to raise our profile throughout the airport,” Gannon said. “But I can’t guarantee, nor can anyone be under the illusion, that 24 hours a day, seven days a week, i’ll have an officer everywhere in the airport that I have people. That’s not reasonable. It isn’t a matter of manpower. It’s a question of using resources.”
Want to read more of Gannon’s comments? Read my story in Thursday’s newspaper.
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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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LAX Security: Interview with airport police chief Patrick Gannon (Part 1)

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Police gather outside of Terminal 3 at LAX on Nov. 1, 2013. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

Patrick Gannon is chief of the Los Angeles World Airports police, which puts him in charge of security at Los Angeles International Airport, Van Nuys Airport and L.A./Ontario International Airport. We met Monday for an interview.

Part 1 of the interview here focuses on the Nov. 1 incident at LAX, in which a gunman attacked Transportation Security Administration officers at Terminal 3, killing Gerardo Hernandez  and injuring several others. Part 2 — available on Wednesday — deals with the overall challenges of policing at LAX.

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