An air traveler is patted down after passing through a full-body scanner at the Transportation Security Administration checkpoint at Los Angeles International Airport on Feb. 20. / ROBYN BECK, AFP/Getty Images
WASHINGTON â?? Better training and more federal funding would help airport officials and police prevent shootings like the one that killed a Transportation Security Administration officer in Los Angeles in November, a House panel heard Thursday.
Marshall McClain, president of the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association, told the Homeland Security subcommittee on transportation that staffing has fallen during the past four years despite the airport expanding. Two police officers were assigned to the terminal where the shooting occurred, "which is typical," he said.
The American Alliance of Airport Police Officers made recommendations in September 2012 that weren't acted on, but McClain said they could have helped during the Los Angeles shooting Nov. 1, 2013. The recommendations included fortifying checkpoints with more officers, coordinating police access to airport camera feeds and detailing responsibilities between police and TSA officers.
"Everyone has their role, but it's not very clearly laid out where TSA begins and ends," McClain said. "It should not be a tug of war."
Kevin Murphy, president of the Airport Law Enforcement Agencies Network, opposed the mandatory stationing of police at TSA checkpoints because greater risks might emerge at the curb where cars are dropping off passengers, at crowded ticket counters or in areas with unattended bags.
"Assigning an officer to a fixed post tethers them to one location and creates an inefficient use of much needed manpower," Murphy said.
The hearing came in the aftermath of the first on-duty death of a TSA officer. TSA Officer Gerardo Hernandez was killed at a checkpoint at Los Angeles International Airport, and two other officers and a traveler were wounded.
In the confusion, and because police and security officers used different radios, the emergency response and medical attention for Hernandez were delayed.
Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., the subcommittee chairman, noted that other airports have had similar problems, including a shooting at a Frankfurt airport in March 2011, a Moscow airport bombing in January 2011 and a Glasgow airport car bomb in June 2007.
"We all must recognize the vulnerabilities airports have and the need to be adequately prepared to handle such events," Hudson said.
Michael Landguth, CEO of Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority, said his airport conducts security drills twice a year for shooters and recently added two explosive-detection dogs.
He suggested federal grants would help airports buy better technology such as closed-circuit television and facial-recognition software to boost checkpoint security.
"Our objective is to build rings and layers of security to detect, discourage, mitigate and react to threats," Landguth said.
Frank Capello, security director for Fort Lauderdale Airport, said workers throughout the airport need to be trained to deal with emergencies. He suggested restoring federal funding for aviation security, which has declined in recent years.
Restoring funding "would be instrumental in providing more capability to deter criminal activity and is certainly a prudent measure to mitigate an active shooter situation," he said.
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