Santa Monica Police Chief James T. Butts Jr. will step down from the position after 15 years to oversee the nation’s largest airport law enforcement and security organization.

Los Angeles World Airports, (LAWA) the City of Los Angeles agency that operates Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and three other Southern California airports, has appointed Butts as deputy executive director of airport law enforcement and protection services.

Butts said he expects to begin his new position in the late summer, following the completion of his responsibilities to ensure an orderly and effective transition of command at the Santa Monica Police Department.

With the new position, Butts will be responsible for leading the more than 1,200 sworn and civilian personnel assigned to protect and serve at the city’s four airports — LAX, Ontario International, Palmdale Regional and Van Nuys.

“After a six-month nationwide search, we found the most qualified law enforcement professional for this important position right in our backyard in the neighboring community of Santa Monica,” Los Angeles World Airports executive director Lydia Kennard said. “We believe Chief Butts’ commitment to the concept of community-based policing combined with his outstanding record in public safety, re- cruiting, training and harnessing technology makes him the ideal choice for this position.”

Butts, 52, will lead the police and security forces assigned to the four airports, as well as assume a pivotal role in collaborating and coordinating law enforcement and security duties performed by more than 4,000 federal and local officers, airport officials said.

The largest of the outside agencies include the Transportation Security Administration and Customs and Border Protection.

Among the other agencies with a law enforcement presence at LAX are the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Secret Service.

The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) also maintains a substation at LAX.

“The City of Los Angeles and Los Angeles World Airports are indeed fortunate to have recruited Chief Butts to lead the collaborative effort to secure one of the most important airport systems in the world,” Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners president Alan Rothenberg said. “We believe Chief Butts is ideally suited and qualified to bring together the score of local and federal agencies working at our airports in a unified command approach.”

Butts was selected after a nationwide search conducted by Bob Murray & Associates of Roseville, California, a leading search firm for high-profile law enforcement positions.

Forty-eight applicants representing a wide range of law enforcement, security and aviation backgrounds were considered for the position, according to Murray & Associates.

“The more than 85 airlines serving LAX and Ontario are very pleased with the selection of Chief Butts,” said Dennis Olson, managing director of the Airport Airline Affairs Committee. “He brings proven leadership to the airports’ and the airlines’ most important mission — the safety and security of passengers and employees.”

As Santa Monica police chief, Butts was also responsible for the airport security detail at Santa Monica Airport.

He has worked with the California State Department of Homeland Security and has experience in counter-terrorism planning related to the City of Santa Monica and Santa Monica Airport.

Before moving to his current position at Santa Monica in 1991, Butts served nearly 20 years at the City of Inglewood Police Department as a police officer, sergeant, lieutenant, captain and deputy chief.

He has 12 years experience in Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) as an operator, team leader and commander.

A Los Angeles resident, Butts holds a bachelor’s degree in business administration from California State University at Los Angeles and a master’s in business administration from California Polytechnic University-Pomona.

He also holds a number of command and management certificates from the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST). He is a graduate of the POST Command College and a past president of the Peace Officers Association of Los Angeles County.