On March 7, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department arrested a Bronx man who, after claiming to be a new airport employee who did not have his identification, pushed his way through a security checkpoint at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Before the man could reach the secure area of the airport, TSA agents blocked him from entering and escorted him from the checkpoint. The PAPD airport police were called to the scene and arrested the man. Upon arrest, police discovered that he had a handgun loaded with three bullets.
AAAPO commends the TSA agents for deterring the initial threat. However, this situation serves as a stark reminder of the need for airport law enforcement officers near security screening areas to protect TSA agents and the traveling public and to ensure a threat does not penetrate the sterile area of an airport. Had the perpetrator reached for his gun and continued through screening, TSA agents and travelers would have been at high risk for injury, and it is quite possible that the armed man could have reached a plane.
AAAPO appreciates that the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 included language reauthorizing the Law Enforcement Officer (LEO) Reimbursement Program and encouraging a stronger airport police presence at passenger screening. The program authorizes federal funds to be reimbursed to airports for placing local police officers in public areas such as TSA screening and baggage claim.
“The security checkpoint is a hard line in the sand meant to ensure that a threat does not enter a sterile area with direct access to planes. The terminals at JFK are massive, and it makes no sense that a police officer should not be in the immediate local vicinity of the TSA screening area to directly address a situation like this,” says Paul Nunziato, president of the Port Authority Police Benevolent Association. “Let’s put these LEO reimbursement dollars to work and get an airport cop at TSA passenger screening points at every terminal in large airports, starting with JFK, so that anybody thinking about pulling a dangerous stunt, like this guy did, will think twice.”
“It is a win-win,” says Marshall McClain, president of the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association. “With the LEO reimbursement program, LAX can put an airport police officer near the TSA screening area and get reimbursed by the federal government. The world can be a dangerous place, and we need to do everything we can to literally let TSA know that airport police have their backs. We are all in this together.”