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Airports need more funds, training to foil shootings, House panel told

| Thursday, May 29, 2014, 9:09 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Better training and more federal funding would help airport officials and police prevent shootings such as the one that killed a Transportation Security Administration officer in Los Angeles in November, a House panel heard on 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's expansion. 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 were not acted on, but McClain said they could have helped during the Los Angeles shooting on Nov. 1, 2013. The suggestions 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.

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 was held in the aftermath of the first on-duty death of a 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.

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