LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — The union that represents the rank-and-file police officers at Los Angeles International Airport is raising concerns over a plan to cut back on airport vehicle checkpoints to save money.
The security checks – part of what officials call “Operation Safe Entry” – have been conducted by 12-officer teams on about 50,000 vehicles annually at LAX, according to the Los Angeles Airport Police Department (LAXPD).READ MORE: 3-Alarm Blaze Rips Through Abandoned Covina School
Following a recent decision by police officials, however, the checkpoints have been scaled back to an eight-officer position, a move that also means a fewer number of actual checkpoints, Marshall McLain, president of the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers’ Association told KNX 1070’s Charles Feldman.
According to McLain, LAXPD staffing numbers have declined from a peak of about 450 officers in 2010 down to about 420 this year, even as passenger loads at LAX have increased by more than 10 million visitors in the last five years.
The development comes on the heels of an Associated Press investigative report ranked LAX as having the third highest number of perimeter breaches nationwide – a ranking McLain said can be tied directly to a lack of manpower.READ MORE: Protests Continue Outside Sigma Nu House On USC's Fraternity Row As New Sexual Assault Allegations Emerge
“Whether you’re talking about perimeter security, whether you’re talking about internal security, you still need physical bodies to do that,” McLain said. “They can spend billions of dollars when it comes to beautifying the airport, but when it comes to the actual physical security part, we always seem to find a reason why we can’t do what we need to do.”
In response to the cuts, the union – which represents sworn police officers and firefighters of the LAXPD assigned at LAX, LA/Ontario International Airport (ONT) and Van Nuys Airport (VNY) – has filed an official claim of unfair employee relations practice, McLain said.
But according to LAX Police Asst. Chief Brian Walker, the Operation Safe Entry checkpoints are not mandated, but rather are a voluntary overtime assignment.
Walker also said even with reduced teams, officers are still conducting searches of about 200 cars and trucks daily.MORE NEWS: Lawmaker Calls For Change On California Film Sets After Prop-Gun Shooting Death Of Halyna Hutchins By Alec Baldwin
“We recognized that two teams was just as effective in meeting our counter-terrorism strategy,” he said.