The Los Angeles International Airport Area Advisory Committee has joined opposition to the proposed merger of the Los Angeles World Airports Police Division and the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). Los Angeles World Airports is the City of Los Angeles entity that operates Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and other city airports.

The advisory committee was formed in 1975 and includes representatives from Westchester, Playa del Rey, Marina del Rey, Culver City, Inglewood, Lennox, Hawthorne and El Segundo.

The committee, which advises LAX officials on various airport issues, expressed its opposition to merging the two police forces in a letter dated Monday, January 24th, addressed to Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn.

The letter was in response to a proposed May ballot measure that calls for the removal of a Los Angeles city charter section that requires the airport police to remain an autonomous police force under the direction of Los Angeles World Airports.

In the letter, written by advisory committee chair Nancy Wernick, the committee states that it is “concerned that merging the two police departments will create more problems than will be solved.”

“The airport police do a better job of policing the airport itself than the LAPD would ever do,” said Roy Hefner, advisory committee member.

The LAX police are effective because of their special training and strong record, Hefner said.

The advisory committee expresses its support for the LAX police in the letter by saying that “the airport police were instituted to provide the special security skills of an airport.”

The airport police led all of the security problems that arose at LAX after the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks, the letter claims.

The committee had expressed previous opposition when the possibility of uniting airport police and the LAPD was discussed in the past, Hefner said.

LAX officials reported a drop in serious crime at the airport for the fourth consecutive year in 2004, which is a result of the strong performance and improvement of the LAX police, he said.

“We think there will always be minor problems that come up, but we feel very much that the LAX police are an efficient and effective organization,” he said.

The Neighborhood Council of Westchester-Playa del Rey and the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association — the LAX police union — are other local groups that oppose the proposed merger of the two police forces.

The Neighborhood Council voted to oppose the proposed ballot measure at its meeting Tuesday, February 1st.

“The Westchester-Playa del Rey Neighborhood Council understands firsthand the importance and necessity of an independent police force at our airports to ensure its safety,” said George Jarvis, peace officers association president. “The proposed ballot measure marks the first step in the dangerous dismantling of one of the nation’s most effective airport security coalitions.

“The security of Los Angeles is best served by allowing LAPD to focus on patrolling our city streets, and the specially aviation-trained Los Angeles Airport Police to continue guarding our airports and runways.”

Scott Mann, a spokesman for the peace officers association, said the group is happy to have the LAX advisory committee join in the merger opposition.

“We’re pleased to have their support,” Mann said. “There are many other organizations coming out to support the LAX police.”

The LAX police are the first officers to arrive at the scene when certain situations arise at the airport, and they are among the best-trained police in the state, Mann said.

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