Long Beach group concerned about plans for airport security – A group of airport tenants Monday expressed concern that a change in policing strategy at the Long Beach Airport could leave the facility with officers who are less familiar with aviation security than those currently employed.
In a two-page letter addressed to Mario Rodriguez, the airport’s executive director, the Long Beach Airport Association’s Board of Directors said any switch by the airport from trained security guards to uniformed members of the Long Beach Police Department could be costly.
“While we understand your staff has held meetings with the city staff and elected officials and is in communication with the Police Department on this proposed change, we do not believe the airport has held meetings with the tenants to provide a briefing on this potential change,” the board members wrote.
Rodriguez did not return a phone call seeking comment.
In an email, airport spokeswoman Kerry Gerot said officials had just received the letter and had no other contact with the airport association. She said the airport uses both Long Beach police and special airport officers. Gerot said the combination works well and the facility is “very secure.”
“As a matter of policy, the airport does not discuss specific details relating to security for obvious reasons,” she said.
Long Beach police Sgt. Aaron Eaton, department spokesman, said he was not familiar with the tenant letter and could not comment on it. Mayoral candidate and City Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske, whose district includes the airport, said she was not familiar with the issue.
The crux of the communication centers on a concern that full-time security will be replaced by inexperienced and more costly police officers. To support its claim, the tenant group noted that the Long Beach Police Department has steadily increased its presence at the airport.
The tenants said it might be more cost effective to rely on an airport-only security force. They asked for a thorough cost-benefit-analysis on which policing approach might be better for the airport.
Board members additionally charged that city police are not always as adept at handling airport matters as airport-only security officers. They said city police, who rotate in and out of the airport, are not as familiar with aviation issues.
“LBPD personnel patrolling the interior of the airport have created runway incursions, as well as had multiple incidences where officers have engaged clients and customers on ramps, and have ramp-checked pilots and aircraft owners in a manner not consistent with (Federal Aviation Administration) policy,” the board members wrote.
The letter suggests that, starting in the airport’s 2014 budget year, officials could transfer some police functions from Long Beach Airport to the Long Beach Police Department, which would have full control over airport security.
Currently, policing is handled by both the city and a separate group of airport-only security officers.
“This proposed change is not consistent with the effort undertaken several years ago to secure the ability for airports in California to maintain special service officers with peace officer powers at airports,” said the letter, signed by nine members of the group’s board of directors.
The group represents many of the airport’s non-airline tenants, including the Long Beach Flying Club & Flight Academy and Signature Flight Support.
Members of the airport association referred calls to president Candy Robinson of the Long Beach Flying Club. She did not return several calls.