Official tells federal lawmakers that LAX expansion efforts have overshadowed security needs

WASHINGTON – A union representative for the police force that secures Los Angeles International Airport told members of Congress Thursday he still has concerns about a manpower shortage and a lack of co-ordination and communication with the Transportation Security Administration nearly seven months after a gunman killed a TSA officer and injured three others.

Marshall McClain, testifying Thursday before a House subcommittee, said that the airport has been increasing its size and passenger levels, but that the number of “sworn officers” responsible for helping secure the airport has steadily declined in recent years.

A subcommittee with oversight over transportation security called on McClain and other airport security officials to discuss lessons learned from the Nov. 1 shooting.

McClain says lawmakers should urge airports receiving substantial federal money to station more local police officers in screening areas. He said that when the shooting took place, there were two police officers assigned to that particular terminal, which he said was typical. He also emphasized the need for panic buttons and greater use of closed-circuit televisions and called ID systems.

A review of the emergency response by the Los Angeles World Airports found that lapses in communication and co-ordination led to delays in responding to the gunman and providing aid to victims.

McClain told the committee that LAX has been the focus of some of the country’s most high-profile crime incidents, citing an attack by a limo driver that killed two people and injured four others at Israel’s El Al Airlines ticket counter. On the general policing side, he said the number of reported crimes increased 10 per cent in 2013, with an average weekly arrest rate of 24.

“I am concerned that airport management at LAX is not balancing policing and security with their ambitions to physically expand the airport and market it as a destination for world travellers,” said McClain, president of the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association.