James T. Butts Jr., who has headed police and security operations at Los Angeles World Airports for the last three years, announced Tuesday that he was stepping down at the end of the year, according to a memo obtained by The Times.

Butts is credited with improving training and discipline of those under his charge. He previously served 15 years as Santa Monica police chief.

“We have established ourselves as leaders in implementing technology and as a premier respected, trusted, professional law enforcement organization,” Butts wrote in the announcement.


His tenure also marked better relationships with outside law enforcement agencies, most notably the Los Angeles Police Department, which under Chief William J. Bratton launched an unsuccessful bid to absorb the much smaller -- and at the time maligned -- airport force.

“He was a great partner,” said LAPD Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger. “His departure will leave a void.”

Butts, who could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening, did not give a reason for his departure. He said in the memo that his position would not be filled. Instead, his duties will be absorbed by George R. Centeno, chief of airport police.

-- Andrew Blankstein