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Off-Duty Police to Take Over Security at Chicago Airports

CHICAGO (AP) - Off-duty Chicago police officers are expected to take over security at Chicago airports by Friday, according to a published report.

A spokesman for the Transportation Security Administration, the federal agency that oversees airport security, told the Chicago Tribune that the arrangement using local law enforcement is temporary. But he acknowledged it could go on for more than a year.

Many details remain unsettled, including how much the federal government will reimburse the city for taking over the security responsibilities, the Tribune reported Tuesday.

National Guard troops reinforced private security screeners at airports after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But the White House later mandated that all National Guard troops be returned no later than May 31, saying that airport security is a civilian and law enforcement function.

The security agency is rushing to train and deploy more than 30,000 federal screeners by mid-November to replace private security companies. The agency does not have its own law-enforcement officers to take over for the thousands of National Guardsmen at airports. In the interim, the agency has requested help from municipalities and state police departments.

Officials wouldn't say how many off-duty police officers will be stationed at the Chicago airports, the Tribune reported.

But Transportation Security Administration spokesman Paul Turk said at least one law enforcement officer is required at a security checkpoint containing six passenger lanes or fewer. Checkpoints with more lanes would require two officers, he said.

"The police won't be screening bags," he said. "They will be there to provide police services - to make arrests, collect evidence and do the other things police do."

The Chicago Police Department has command centers at O'Hare International Airport and Midway Airport where it already provides various services. Officials said the police presence at the airports would be broadened under the plan.

Off-duty officers who are assigned to the airport checkpoints will receive training before being deployed, Chicago Police spokesman Robert Cargie said.

The officers will wear their regular uniforms and report directly to Chicago police supervisors rather than to Isaac Richardson, the TSA federal security director at O'Hare, Cargie said.

"This is a program still in development," Cargie said.

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