LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The union representing Transportation Security Administration employees has called for some officers to be armed to improve airport security in the wake of the deadly shooting at Los Angeles International Airport last week.
J. David Cox, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, said in a statement, “We feel a larger and more consistent armed presence in screening areas would be a positive step in improving security for both TSOs and the flying public.”
Patrick Gannon, the chief of the Los Angeles Airport Police Department, said LAX could never be completely safe.
“As much as we try, and as much as we work each and every day to make this airport and others safe — it’s sad to say but nothing will ever be 100 percent,” he said.
He also added that it’s unknown if an armed officer at the airport’s entrance could have prevented the incident or identified Paul Ciancia, the 23-year-old accused of shooting and killing TSA officer Gerardo Hernandez and wounding several other people in LAX’s Terminal 3.
“He came in that door as a normal traveler, with a bag like he was normal traveler, dressed like he was a normal traveler,” Gannon said. “Nothing descriptive about him that would ring a bell. He did not raise a suspicion of any of the people that are down in that area of the airport. Would he have raised the suspicion of a police officer there? Probably not.”
Arif Alikhan, deputy executive director for Homeland Security for Los Angeles World Airports, said Hernandez was not even working in the main third-level screening area in Terminal 3 when he was shot, but was with another agent at the base of an escalator.
“They were not at the screening checkpoint,” Alikhan said. “That’s important. Because a lot of what’s been said about the police officer not being at the podium [and] could have somehow prevented this horrific act from being committed, and in this particular case that is simply not the case. This officer was not at the screening checkpoint, he was below it. And unfortunately he was killed because of the heinous acts of this individual who is now in custody.”
In Washington, D.C., U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder weighed in on the security debate.
“The investigation is obviously underway and part of that investigation will be a review of the security measures that were in place, not only at LAX, but I think a review of the security arrangements that exist in other airports, as well,” he said. “The function of the TSA is to ensure that people can board planes safely, take flights safely; the responsibility for protecting airport security is not a TSA function, but something that I think we need to certainly examine given what happened in Los Angeles.”
At airports around the country, security is handled in different ways, reported CBS2’s Randy Paige.
New York Port Authority police said they have increased patrols at area airports, but would not say if armed personnel are stationed at the screening areas.
A spokesman at Chicago O’Hare International Airport said there are no armed personnel stationed at the TSA checkpoints.
Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport officials would not discuss security protocols.
Officials at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport said armed officers are present in the airport, but wouldn’t comment on where they are stationed.
A spokesman at Denver International Airport said armed officers are stationed at the checkpoints.
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