WASHINGTON (AP) ? National Guard troops patrolling airports will be replaced by uniformed police officers, the new Transportation Security Administration government said Monday.
In a security directive to airports, the agency said the police officers would be stationed at airport screening stations in place of the Guard. Local police will be at the checkpoints until the security agency hires its own law enforcement officers.
The federal government will reimburse the airports for the officers' salaries.
Spokesman Paul Turk said there was no timetable for replacing all the local police with federal law enforcement officers. He said the security agency would bring in its own officers on an airport by airport basis.
The security agency gave airports until April 30 to arrange for law enforcement officers, such as local police, state troopers or sheriff's deputies, to stand guard at passenger screening stations. In some cases, the officers will come from the airport authorities' own police forces.
The security agency said airports must have one officer for every six open lanes at a checkpoint, where passengers and carryon luggage are screened.
"They do need some sort of police force to arrest people who are found violating security rules at the security lanes. These are people bolting through or carrying weapons," said David Stempler, president of the Air Travelers Association, an advocacy group.
The National Guard has been a fixture at airports since shortly after Sept. 11, but troops are being withdrawn and should be out by the end of May. The troops were supposed to be withdrawn last month, but the transportation security agency successfully sought a two-month extension.
After President Bush called out the Guard, governors stationed about 6,000 troops at airports. The number rose to around 9,000 during the busy Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. The federal government covered the $270 million cost.