L.A. Now

Federal probe clears LAPD of misappropriating LAX payments

A federal investigation has found no evidence that the Los Angeles Police Department misappropriated millions of dollars it was paid for providing law enforcement services at Los Angeles International Airport, authorities announced Thursday.

The Federal Aviation Administration reached the conclusion after reviewing a complaint filed last year alleging that the LAPD overcharged the airport and used the money to bolster city coffers and pay for police services unrelated to security at LAX.

According to federal regulations, revenue earned by an airport from landing fees, terminal rents, concessions and other charges must be used only for airport purposes.

The FAA, however, found three problems that required correction. Investigators said that LAPD staffers assigned to LAX kept inadequate records, made at least one billing error and used the airport-funded K-9 bomb squad to respond to calls away from LAX.

The complaint was filed by the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Assn., which represents more than 400 officers from the LAX Police Department, an independent agency that shares law enforcement duties at LAX with the LAPD.

Citing a sample of financial records, the complaint asserted that the LAPD imposed exorbitant fees for assigning anywhere from 50 to 150 full- and part-time officers a year to LAX, the third busiest airport in the nation. The documents showed, for example, that Los Angeles World Airports reimbursed the LAPD at a rate that was more than double the salaries of the officers assigned to the airport.

Los Angeles police said the billings were directly related to work the department performed at LAX. The fees, they added, are needed to pay for officer salaries, benefits, training, insurance, equipment, administration and oversight, including command responsibilities in case of disasters.

The FAA investigation is separate from another audit of LAX announced in late June by the inspector general of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Several members of Congress requested the audit, which will evaluate the use of about $1 billion in airport revenue and the FAA's oversight of those funds.

Marshall McClain, president of the airport police association, said he would rather rely on the inspector general than the FAA. "Our only goal," he said, "is to ensure that the LAX police force is adequate and has reasonable resources to provide for the safety and security of the airport and the traveling public."

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