LAX: Proposed Assembly bill calls for expanding authority of Airport Police
By Vince Echavaria
Assemblyman Steven Bradford (D-Westchester) is reinitiating a proposal that seeks to give Los Angeles Airport Police the same authority as other local police agencies.
Bradford has reintroduced Assembly Bill (AB) 2137, which would expand the law enforcement powers of the police agency that patrols four Southern California airports, including Los Angeles International Airport. A prior version most recently failed at the Assembly Appropriations Committee last year.
Under the bill, Airport Police would be reclassified from California Penal Code 830.22(d) to 830.1 status, a recommendation by the state Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST). The Los Angeles Police Department, which operates out of a substation at LAX, is currently classified as an 830.1 agency,
identifying them as peace officers.
With the current classification airport police officers lack the legal authority to perform rather routine duties such as seizing firearms at the scene of a domestic violence case, making arrests in some incidents, as well as other actions that could impact airport security, Bradford said. In some emergencies, airport police may have to call LAPD for assistance with such functions, Bradford notes.
The assemblyman, who represents the 62nd District, which includes LAX, said he reintroduced his bill as a measure to enhance security at the airports.
“We have a responsibility to protect our infrastructure as well as the millions of visitors who come to Southern California from all over the world,” Bradford said.
“If we are serious about LAX being a world-class airport, we need a world-class police force to protect it. By giving our airport police the authority to fulfill the duty they have been trained for, we can ensure the fastest possible response times to any emergency that may happen.”
Marshall McClain, president of the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association, said the union is excited that Bradford is still committed to getting the proposal approved, noting that it primarily seeks to fulfill a recommendation by the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training.
“All this is doing is actually fulfilling those recommendations by POST as a governing body. It’s beyond past time (for approval),” McClain said of the bill.
The reclassification would enable Airport Police to be a “full-fledged police agency,” he said. Although airport police officers have similar training and background as LAPD, they currently lack authority to handle “simple things,” including removing an unsafe vehicle from the street or seizing a weapon by statute at the scene of a domestic violence incident, McClain explained.
“All of our training and hiring practices are exactly the same as LAPD, or any other police agency. We go to the same academy, have the same background, same everything,” McClain said.
He stressed that the only other police agencies that have received a recommendation for 830.1 status from the state POST board are Los Angeles Port Police and San Diego Harbor Police.
Airport Police Chief Patrick Gannon, who took over late last year, acknowledged that the new classification would not dramatically change his department’s role but he believes it would grant officers authority they now lack.
“It’s really a matter of respect for the type of work that they do,” Gannon said. “This is a full-fledged law enforcement agency that should be recognized as such and by a quirk of the law, as it stands right now, they don’t have that.
“It puts you on par with everybody else in the region and with their counterparts at the port who also have it. I think it enhances the partnerships that are there.”
Opponents of Bradford’s bill have argued that there is no need for such a reclassification measure. McClain said he has not heard of any opposition from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa or LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, but claimed that concerns have been primarily expressed from the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the union representing LAPD officers.
Police Protective League President Tyler Izen denied that the organization has taken a position on the measure, saying that the group has not evaluated any bill on the issue that was introduced by Bradford. In regards to airport police claims that they lack authority to perform rather routine duties, Izen said he’s not familiar with those complaints.
Any suggestion of airport police receiving 830.1 status would have to be reviewed before the league takes a position, he said.
“I would want to do a full evaluation and have a discussion with the mayor’s office and chief of police before I weigh in on that, and also have a discussion with my board,” Izen said.
One opposing argument to Airport Police having the same authority as LAPD, McClain said, has been that it could create confusion as to who’s in charge during a response. The airport is federally funded, making the federal government in charge and not LAPD, the union president argued. He rejected the claim that confusion would arise as to the police agencies’ roles.
“Working with other agencies and working with them well – that’s what we do on a regular basis,” he said.
Gannon added, “I’m hoping there’s more confidence in the leadership of Airport Police and our ability to develop relationships and to work through those relationships.”
McClain said he is hopeful that with Gannon’s support and some political demographic changes, the bill will have more success as it goes through the legislative process. Gannon noted that he is actively working on building support for the measure at the city level.