A gunman walks into Los Angeles International Airport and opens fire, killing and wounding several people before being neutralized by security officers. First responders are lauded for their quick action and seeming efficiency, but a later review finds fault with miscommunication, insufficient interagency cooperation and a failure to adequately handle throngs of panicked passengers.
Current events? Yes and no. An "after action" report released Tuesday by Los Angeles World Airports found similar faults with the response to the shooting incident in November at Terminal 3 that left a Transportation Security Administration officer dead and three other people wounded. But the criticisms above arose after the 2002 attack at an El Al ticket counter in the Tom Bradley International Terminal in which three people were killed and several others wounded. The assessments differ in their details, but the similarities a dozen years apart are worrisome.
The best security in the world will not always stop someone who is bent on killing or terrorizing. By all accounts, the officers who responded to the shooting reports at Terminal 3 did so with bravery and practiced professionalism. The stumbles identified in the report had less to do with individual officers than with systemic incompatibilities. What's troubling is the apparent failure in crisis preparation and training to include sufficient direction on such basic elements as preselected radio frequencies and systems for police communication, and workable protocols for establishing an on-scene incident command center. The report notes that Los Angeles police, airport police and the Los Angeles Fire Department each initially established a command center, not knowing what the others were up to.
The report offers numerous well-reasoned recommendations, focusing on the right elements: coordination of first response; upgrading of radio protocols, with training to ensure all the correct responders are speaking with one another; a more integrated command center that involves police and fire but also airport operations personnel; and better communication with airport patrons, who often are left shaken and confused in the moments after such incidents.