Officers of the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) Police Division said the airport police department is ready to move forward after receiving approval from voters for the department to remain independent of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).
City of Los Angeles voters soundly rejected Measure A at the polls Tuesday, May 17th.
Measure A would have changed the city charter to allow the Los Angeles City Council to merge the LAX Police Division into the LAPD.
The ballot proposal won the support of only 35 percent of those who voted on the measure.
“We’re thrilled,” airport police officer George Holt said. “The voters and the people we serve understood that we are a separate entity from the LAPD and there’s no need to merge us.”
While Holt said he had been confident that the measure would be rejected by voters, he was surprised at the significant margin of defeat.
LAX police viewed the election results as a decisive victory for the department, which showed that the residents of the city approve of the job done by the 325-officer airport police force, LAX police Capt. LaPonda Fitchpatrick said.
“It says that the citizens have confidence in us and they know that we know our job,” said Fitchpatrick, a 23-year veteran of the airport police. “We successfully got through to voters that we do a good job and will continue to do a good job.”
Los Angeles City Councilman Jack Weiss was a main supporter of Measure A, along with LAPD Chief William Bratton.
After Measure A was defeated at the polls, Weiss would only say that he is focused on working to make necessary security improvements at the airport, according to a Weiss spokeswoman.
“Councilman Weiss looks forward to working with Chief Bratton and the new mayor (Antonio Villaraigosa) to evaluate all options for improving security at LAX,” said Lisa Hansen, deputy chief of staff for Weiss.
Among opponents of Measure A were the Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa del Rey and the LAX Area Advisory Committee. Representatives of the opponents said they were not surprised at the measure’s sound defeat.
“I’m pleased to see that sanity prevailed,” said Denny Schneider, a member of the Neighborhood Council of Westchester/Playa del Rey.
“The LAWA (Los Angeles World Airports, the city department that operates city airports) police do a good job and people don’t want to dilute the special training that they have.”
Roy Hefner, a member of the LAX Area Advisory Committee, also said that the strong performance and “merit” of the airport police were factors that influenced voters to reject the measure.
Holt said another factor that may have contributed to the voting results was that Measure A opponents were “able to get the facts out to people.”
Fitchpatrick said that voters might also have been influenced by a recent study which concluded that the airport police department is one of the top models for airport security in the country.
The LAX police are supported by 56 LAPD officers who serve from a substation at the airport. Although the Airport Police Division has received public support for remaining independent, airport police will continue to work with other organizations, including LAPD, to help secure the airport, Fitchpatrick said.
With the defeat of Measure A, airport police are hopeful that the issue of merging the two police forces will be dropped. But while officers acknowledge that the issue may come up again, it is time for LAX police to move on, Holt said.
“It worked out well for us,” he said. “Now we can move forward.”