Airport police union says LA airport vulnerable to terrorists because force spread thin

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Police union says LA airport vulnerable to attacks

LOS ANGELES — Security cutbacks have made Los Angeles International Airport vulnerable to a terrorist attack, its police union complained in a letter to airport officials who deny the allegation.

The Airport Police Officers Association told their police chief in a letter last month that the force was spread too thin in the central terminal area, and there have been fewer random checks of vehicles entering the airport.

Reductions in the deployment of personnel and cuts to the budget for training are making the airport “more vulnerable to a terrorist attack than at any time since 9/11,” wrote Marshall McClain, president of the police union.

The airport was the intended target of a bomb plot by an al-Qaida-trained terrorist who was arrested in December 1999 as he entered the U.S. from Canada in a car with explosives in its trunk. The ticket counter for the Israeli airline El Al was the site of a gunman’s fatal attack in 2002.

Gina Marie Lindsey, executive director of Los Angeles World Airports, disputed the union allegations. She said the airport police budget has increased annually since 9/11.

“There is no evidence to support allegations … of budget reductions or staff cutbacks,” Lindsey said in a statement.

She said the airport meets or exceeds the police deployment requirements of the federal Transportation Security Administration, which monitors the airport’s security program.

McClain accused airport administrators of playing a numbers game, claiming that while no layoffs have occurred, the airport has eliminated about 30 unfilled positions through attrition.

Airport officials contend the police force has increased from 263 officers in 2002 to 447 officers today.

McClain denied raising terrorism fears in the interest of creating more jobs.

“What we’re talking about is a potential terrorist event. We need to go beyond erring on the side of caution because no one wants that to happen,” he said. “We have to be right 100 percent of the time.”

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