TSA wants cops at airport security checkpoints
Recommendation was one of 14 determined after a nationwide review of security at airports prompted by a fatal shooting at LAX
By Tami Abdollah
LOS ANGELES — The Transportation Security Administration recommended Wednesday that airports post armed law enforcement officers at security checkpoints and ticket counters during peak hours.
The recommendation was one of 14 determined after a nationwide review of security at airports prompted by a fatal shooting at Los Angeles International Airport last fall.
The 25-page report to Congress was obtained by The Associated Press. Congress will now review the recommendations.
The AP has reported that the two armed officers at the LAX terminal had left for breaks and were out of the terminal at the time of the shooting. Airport police decided months earlier to have officers roam terminals instead of staffing checkpoints such as the one approached by a gunman.
The Transportation Security Administration conducted its own review of security at nearly 450 airports nationwide after the Nov. 1 shooting at LAX that killed TSA Officer Gerardo Hernandez — the agency's first line of duty death. Two officers and a passenger were also wounded.
Paul Ciancia, 24, opened fire with an assault rifle in an attack targeting the TSA, authorities said. The Pennsville, N.J.-native has pleaded not guilty to 11 federal charges, including murder of a federal officer.
TSA has held over 100 town hall meetings with officers across the country since the shooting to field suggestions to improve airport security. Dozens of groups have provided input, including law enforcement, airlines, airport operators and the TSA union.
Report recommendations include requiring that TSA employees go through twice yearly active shooter training and participate in related training exercises. The TSA also recommends acquiring panic alarms for areas where gaps have been identified, having these alarms routinely tested and encouraging that these alarms be linked to security cameras.
The Associated Press has reported that though TSA officers told airport officials that an officer hit the panic button, there was no evidence it happened. An airport-wide audit of red phones and panic buttons found some of those devices weren't working properly, including in Terminal 3— where the shooting took place.
A TSA supervisor picked up an emergency phone but fled the gunman before being able to speak. The airport police dispatcher only heard shouts and gunshots because the phone system didn't provide a location.
Because officers weren't in the terminal, an airline contractor called police dispatch directly on his cellphone, alerting officers nearly a minute and a half after the shooting began.
Another recommendation would extend the temporary redeployment of special teams to conduct random security sweeps.
The review found that though most Federal Air Marshals were notified by phone that there was a shooting at LAX, they didn't receive automatic notification. The TSA has changed protocol to ensure marshals nationwide are now notified through its operations center and local field offices.
Los Angeles World Airports, which operates LAX, released its review last week that found the airport's emergency response was hindered by communication and coordination problems. The 83-page report spotlighted flaws in various airport divisions and systems that were in place, but didn't single out individuals responsible for problems.
It also made no mention of the two armed officers who were out of position without notifying dispatchers as required or the policy change to roaming patrols months earlier.
A congressional field hearing is scheduled Friday in Los Angeles to discuss the shooting review.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press