Legislation expands powers of Los Angeles airport police

State legislation to expand the powers of Los Angeles airport police officers and improve the efficiency of local law enforcement was signed into law Sunday evening.

Gov. Jerry Brown approved a bill by Assemblyman Steve Bradford (D-Gardena) that grants statewide authority to officers of the Los Angeles Airport Police Department, which employs about 1,100 sworn and civilian personnel.

The department is responsible for law enforcement at L.A./Ontario International Airport, Van Nuys Airport, a general aviation facility, and Los Angeles International Airport, the third busiest in the country.

"This is a great thing for the city with more parolees being released and both LAPD and the Los Angeles Police Protective League calling for more officers," said Marshall McClain, president of the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Assn.

Among other things, the bill would give the officers the authority to seize firearms or other deadly weapons, remove unsafe vehicles from the street, seize explosives or incendiary devices, use explosives for canine training and enforce laws related to false bomb reports.

McClain said law enforcement would become more efficient because airport police would no longer have to rely on Los Angeles Police Department officers to perform many of those functions. LAPD personnel also are assigned to LAX.

The measure was supported by a variety of law enforcement agencies and associations around the state, including the LAPD and Chief Charlie Beck. It was opposed by the Los Angeles Police Protective League and the Riverside Sheriffs Assn.

Though the state Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training has recommended the change for a decade, the idea ran into opposition from the protective league and initial resistance from the LAPD and former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Opponents were concerned that expanding the powers of airport police might interfere with earlier efforts to merge the airport department into the LAPD.

“I thank all of the people who supported making our airport safer,” Bradford said. The airport police chief, Beck and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti “all lent their support to this common sense measure because they understand that LAX is one of our nation’s top terrorist targets, and we must give our officers legal tool to keep it safe.”


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