In a move to settle disputes over law enforcement jurisdiction at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and Los Angeles World Airports Police Division have reached an agreement that specifically outlines each of their responsibilities in securing the airport.
Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) is the city agency that operates the city’s airports.
The two agencies have previously debated over who has authority in policing LAX — the nation’s third-busiest airport — but some officials believe the new agreement will help solve chain-of-command issues in the event of an emergency at the airport.
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa announced the settlement Tuesday, June 27th, when a memorandum of agreement was signed by LAPD Police Chief William Bratton, Los Angeles World Airports executive director Lydia Kennard, Los Angeles Police Commission president John Mack and city Board of Airport Commissioners president Alan Rothenberg.
Officials said the agreement, which is intended to ensure that effective and efficient public safety services are provided at the city’s airports, replaces a 1988 agreement between the two law enforcement agencies.
The Airport Police force has more than 300 officers, while the LAPD has nearly 60 officers who operate from a substation at LAX.
Airport Police have said they are effective as a police agency independent of the LAPD, but Bratton has recently said that the LAPD should be in control in policing the airport.
The new agreement puts the safety and security of the traveling public first and puts to rest concerns about the roles and responsibilities of the two police agencies, according to a statement by Villaraigosa.
“It’s good to have some finality on this issue, so now we can focus on what the mission is,” said LAPD spokesman Lt. Paul Vernon of the agreement. “It’s very clear. The Airport Police have a very specific mission there, as do we, and [the agreement] shows where the differences are.”
Vernon said the agreement will help ensure that the two police agencies work together in securing the airport, considered one of the state’s top terrorist targets.
Under the new agreement, the LAPD will be the primary agency responsible for reporting and investigating crimes, while the Airport Police will be responsible for making arrests, conducting preliminary investigations and doing crime reports.
The memorandum of agreement “clearly reaffirms the Los Angeles Airport Police’s role as first responders at Los Angeles World Airports,” Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association president George Jarvis said.
When reporting and investigating a crime, the Airport Police will submit all crime reports to the LAPD.
According to the agreement, when Airport Police become aware of any specific crimes, such as violent and sex crimes, occurring at LAX and elsewhere in the city, they will immediately notify LAPD to investigate.
LAPD officers will also be responsible for conducting all follow-up investigations of crimes committed at LAX and Airport Police may assist in certain cases.
The two agencies have agreed to share intelligence information with each other.
Another major term of the agreement is that the two police agencies will participate in joint training at the Los Angeles Police Academy.
Airport Police will be trained and hired with the same standards as LAPD recruits, which law enforcement officials said will help build relationships among the officers.
“Any time you have separate agencies together in joint training it has always been efficient because it helps you understand what to expect from the other person,” Vernon said.
To allow officials to work out the details of the agreement, the Airport Police union has requested State Assemblyman Dario Frommer to temporarily withdraw his bill that would change the designation for peace officers employed by LAWA.
Kennard said the bill would have given the Airport Police the additional authority needed to fulfill the “full spectrum” of duties, responsibilities and demands of protecting the airports.
The bill may still be reintroduced as early as August, Jarvis said.