LAX shooting sparks debate on security, arming TSA agents
by Laura J. Nelson and Dan Weikel
Both LAX police the Transportation Security Administrator are reviewing protocols in the wake of the shooting Friday that left a TSA agent dead and several other people wounded.
At a press conference over the weekend, TSA Administrator John Pistole said his agencies review will include the question over whether agents should be armed (they are not presently).
“We will look at what our policies and procedures are and what provides the best possible security," he said.
A review is also planned at LAX.
Experts have long said that lobbies, ticketing counters, baggage claim areas and sidewalks of the nine terminals at Los Angeles International Airport, the nation's third-busiest, are easily accessible to attackers intent on bringing firearms or bombs into the airport's public areas.
Creating a fail-safe security perimeter for the terminal area, however, would be extremely costly and might shift attacks by those seeking to do harm to other public gathering places, said Brian Jenkins, an authority on terrorism and aviation security at Rand Corp., the Santa Monica-based think tank.
"It would be very hard to do," Jenkins said. "There would be very little net security benefit. Terrorists could go somewhere else, like attack a shopping mall in Nairobi or a theater in Aurora, Colo., or Times Square. What do we really gain?"
In Friday morning's attack, a gunman identified by police as Paul Anthony Ciancia, 23, carried an assault-style rifle through the lobby of Terminal 3 and began shooting as he passed through a Transportation Security Administration checkpoint.
The gunman then continued through a corridor of shops, apparently looking for TSA employees. Witnesses said he fired additional shots before being critically wounded by airport police near a circular area of passenger boarding gates. One TSA agent checking passenger identifications just before the checkpoint was killed — the first in the agency's history — and at least two other agency employees and one civilian were wounded by gunfire.
On Saturday, Patrick Gannon, chief of the Los Angeles Airport Police Department, said the incident would be thoroughly reviewed to assess the police response and determine whether security improvements were needed. He praised the heroism of the officers who stopped the gunman near a fast-food restaurant in the terminal.
Internal reviews of such major incidents can be "brutal," Gannon said, adding that he expects his department to make security adjustments as a result.
Some say the attack points to soft spots in airport security and the need for additional measures, including more uniformed and plainclothes police on hand.
Marshall McClain, a veteran airport policeman and president of the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Assn., said that earlier this year, armed police officers were shifted from their fixed assignments at TSA checkpoints to patrolling inside and outside passenger terminals.
The fixed positioning of the officers was a product of post-9/11 concerns that terrorists could breach checkpoints and reach passenger gates and parked aircraft.
McClain said patrolling officers were not at or near the TSA screening area when Friday's attack occurred. But he added that it's not clear whether having a police officer at the site could have prevented the shooting.
"In general, the officers are a good idea," McClain said. "They could be a deterrent."
He noted that the gunman who attacked the El Al Israel Airlines ticket counter at the Tom Bradley International Terminal on July 4, 2002, waited until uniformed police officers had left the area.
In that shooting, an Egyptian-born man armed with a handgun killed two people and wounded several others before a security guard working for El Al fatally shot him.
Adding police officers to terminals and returning them to checkpoints might be beneficial, Jenkins said. But he agreed that it is hard to say whether they could have stopped Friday's attack. The gunman, Jenkins said, could have killed an officer before moving past the checkpoint and into the terminal.
"A suicidal guy with a big rifle can walk through the doors of a terminal, get shots off and hit people," Jenkins said.
Gannon defended his decision to reassign armed officers away from the TSA checkpoints, saying police need to modify their procedures to avoid becoming predictable.
The greatest threats to airport terminals are between the curbs on the street and passenger screening areas, he said, adding that more officers were needed to address those risks.
Police patrols in the terminals are responsible for the lobbies, ticket counters, concession areas, gates and sidewalks, as well as nonpublic areas such as baggage handling areas and ramps.
"We changed our strategy to a certain degree," Gannon said. "I can't run the same thing every day."
The chief also praised the actions of his officers, noting that they managed to engage the gunman about a minute after the shooting started. In general, police patrols in the terminals try to reach the scenes of emergencies within a few minutes.
Overall, studies by Rand Corp. and a blue ribbon panel of experts appointed by former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa have concluded that LAX is safe but that gaps in security still need to be addressed.
A 2004 Rand study found that the airport's easily accessible terminals were particularly vulnerable to a ground attack or bombs planted in luggage, cargo, trucks or cars. Airport officials have since taken steps to reduce the risk, such as deploying more explosive-sniffing dogs and installing barriers to keep vehicles from crashing into terminals.
Released in late 2011, the report by the panel set up by Villaraigosa's administration noted that $1.6 billion had been spent for new security measures at LAX since 9/11 and 250 officers added to the airport Police Department, bringing the force to about 1,000 sworn and civilian personnel.
It also concluded that improvement was needed in LAX emergency management, the security of its facilities and its police force. The panel also cited a perception that the airport administration under Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey emphasized the ongoing modernization of the facility and made security a secondary priority.
Bicycles big assist in community policing
by Joy Hampton
NORMAN — Norman police officers wanting a stealthy approach have an usual tool in their arsenal — bicycles. Police on bikes have ridden up on drug deals and car burglars without being noticed. The Norman bicycle team has 15 members, including four female officers. Additionally, the team has two lieutenants and a commanding captain.
It didn't start out that way.
“Apparently, the first bikes we got were from property custody,” said Lt. Jamie Shattuck, bike team member. “I think that Shon Elroy went to bike instructor school. He was our first instructor.”
Twenty years or so ago, two night shift police officers — Elroy and Harold Nicholson — were concerned about break-ins in downtown Norman. The pair did their research and became convinced that patrolling on bicycles could help.
“We had gotten interested in mountain biking and then we got interested in police patrolling on bikes,” said Sgt. Elroy who is the NPD range master.
“We met with a lot of resistance at first, but we proved ourselves,” Elroy said.
In 1992, the idea of modern police on bikes was new. Seattle is credited with the first modern bike squad in 1987. By 1992, the University of Oklahoma police did a lot of patrol work on bikes, but the idea of city police on bikes had not caught on.
Those first bike officers made a lot of arrests at games, especially at Lindsey Street and Jenkins Avenue and on Campus Corner. Mostly, it was trouble with drunks, Elroy said. Often troublemakers were told, “call a cab or you can go to jail.”
Elroy rode “a huge Cannondale” from property custody for a couple of years. At one time, Campus Corner donated a bike.
“Campus Corner really loved having the bike officers out there,” Elroy said.
Officers on bikes are much faster than foot patrol and have much greater mobility than cars. Additionally, they are quiet and can approach a suspect without being noticed.
Once, Elroy, in full police uniform, rode up to a bunch of kids who were planning a party.
“One of the kids hands me a flier for the party,” he said.
The kids were not happy when they realized he was a police officer. Elroy said he told them the police would make sure they partied safely.
Elroy said bikes also are an effective way to patrol mall parking lots during Christmas shopping season. Elroy served on the bike team for 11 years, and some days he still misses it.
“You could hear so much more,” he said. “You could see so much more.”
Bikes also encourage positive interactions with the public. Norman police officers have discovered they just look friendlier on bicycles — at least to kids who make that instant connection because they have bikes at home.
“We can get places regular patrol cars can't get to and we're a lot quieter,” said NPD bicycle team member Officer Rick Monson. “Plus we're more approachable. People will come up and talk to us.”
Officer Tara Taylor has been a member of the bike team for six months and a Norman Police officer for two years. She had not been on a bike in years, but the opportunities the bike team provides inspired her to seek out the assignment.
Officers who want to join the bike squad must submit a letter of interest, make a 3.5 on the fitness test and shoot an 80 percent on the shooting test.
“On the bike, we're more likely to be in shooting scenarios with a lot of people,” Monson said. “We're not the pistol team, but we have to shoot better than the state average.”
Team members train in active shooter scenarios where someone might have a gun and is randomly shooting into a crowd or at people in a public setting. The bikes allow officers to maneuver through the crowd more easily than a car so that they can respond more quickly. Accurate shooting is key in a crowd setting.
The bike squad works many large public events such as OU home football games, Fourth of July at Reaves Park, Fall Festival, Medieval Fair, Jazz in June and parades.
“It's also preventative. People see us there and won't commit the crime,” Monson said.
“It's a visual deterrent,” Taylor said.
Being selected is only the first portion of the process. Officers have to train to be on the bike team and training can be rigorous.
“You do a lot of things on the bike I didn't think was possible,” Monson said.
Master Police Officer Jeff Casillas is the bike team mechanic. He attended a week-long school in Louisiana to learn bike maintenance. Officers are supposed to do minor maintenance like changing tires on their own, but Casillas does the more complicated repairs. Lt. Brent Barbour is the other bike maintenance officer on the team.
Bike team members were the first on the scene when an apparently disturbed young man had explosives blow up in his backpack while sitting on a bench just outside the stadium during a home football day on Oct. 1, 2005.
Those officers assisted in establishing a perimeter and looking for other potential suspects.
“It gives us an opportunity to get out and interact with the public in ways we normally wouldn't get to,” Shattuck said. “We have a lot of camaraderie within our team. We enjoy spending time together.”
Barbour has been on the team for close to nine years.
“Our bike team can use their bikes on patrol,” Shattuck said. “They'll get out during their patrol time if they're not taking calls, and they'll patrol schools and apartment complexes or anywhere we have high crime areas.”
It's not uncommon for bike team members catch criminals red-handed.
“People who are participating in criminal activities don't recognize us until we're right there,” Barbour said. “You can hear things, you can smell things, you can locate a lot more stuff on a bike than you can on a car.”
OPD makes moves to improve community policing initiative
by Jennifer K. Woldt
Shortly before 3 p.m. on a Friday, a fleet of Oshkosh Police squad cars arrived and a crowd of officers gathered in front of a residence in the 500 block of Bowen Street.
There wasn't a problem – at least at the momentt. Instead, officers were holding their daily start-of-shift resume briefing outside the residence, which has been the location of numerous complaints. It gave officers a chance to not only become familiar with the problems, but also hear from officers who had experience responding to calls at the residence.
“Often times there's a couple of officers that are more familiar with a specific problem and bringing the resume out to the problem helps show the entire shift what the problem is and helps them familiarize themselves with whatever it might be,” Sgt. Andrew Lecker said. “It's a good way of getting everybody a better idea of exactly what's taking place by bringing them out there and showing them exactly where the problem is and what it is.”
It's one of the newest steps Oshkosh Police are taking in their community policing strategy, which aims to keep officers more connected with what's going on in the city's neighborhoods while also helping police make connections with the city's residents.
“We just want to stay connected to the people that live in them,” Oshkosh Police Chief Scott Greuel said. “Our philosophy hasn't changed. The structure of how officers are assigned has changed.”
The department adopted the community policing approach in September 2007, when the department divided the city into seven patrol officers with a team of officers and sergeants assigned to each district. The theory is that the smaller patrol areas would help officers to better identify and solve problems while building relationships with the neighborhoods they cover.
The latest change expands on that idea by breaking the city down into 151 reporting areas and assigning an officer to each area.
Officers are still assigned to a team within a district, but Greuel said they are now also responsible for developing deeper knowledge of and contacts within the reporting areas.
“They have an area of responsibly and are directly accountable for forming community partnerships and problem solving,” Greuel said. “It's that more personal relationships of officers getting out.”
Ann Rumbuc, a Neighborhood Watch captain, is looking forward to increased contact with officers and the department's desire to help residents forge one-on-one relationships with specific officers.
“If you're out in your yard and you see them drive by, it's nice to be able to wave and have that visibility,” said Rumbuc, who lives on Bent Avenue. “I think it will help us to know them. We know who to contact and who to talk to.”
Rumbuc said she believes being able to work with one officer on a day-to-day basis will help when it comes to reporting and solving problems, and will be an improvemnt over having to work with multiple officers, as was often the case in the past.
“You're able to solve the problem faster because they know what's happening,” Rumbuc said. “I think it's a fantastic move and it'll help the city a lot.”
To encourage residents to reach out to the officer assigned to their area, the department revamped its website to include an interactive map, which provides contact information for the officer assigned to their neighborhood.
While the philosophy may be new, the switch to focusing on a small area is like how policing occurred in the past, Officer Gary Sagmeister said.
“To me, it's a spinoff of what we used to do years ago, when we had beat men walking on Oregon and Main streets,” he said.
Sagmeister, who has been with Oshkosh Police for 24 years, said he thinks the approach will help make officers more accessible to residents.
The effort to develop those relationships and become more visible is accompanied by a change in how the department communicates with the community. Email newsletters that were introduced as part of the initial move to community policing are incerasingly taking a back seat to Twitter, Facebook and other social media channels that can be used to get information out to the community in a timely manner.
The briefing Friday was an example of getting out into the neighborhood as a way to disseminate information and address problems, not all of them are held for that reason.
“Sometimes we coordinate them over a tour, or we'll go where there's a problem,” Greuel said. “It's so we have our manpower visible, kind of an ‘in your face,' let them know we're there.”
Officers recently held a briefing in conjunction with a tour at Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services on Algoma Boulevard. The briefing helped officers become familiar with the building, which has recently undergone renovation, while also learning more about the organization and its policies.
“It was nice that they took the time,” said Julie Fevola, executive director of Christine Ann Domestic Abuse Services.
The final part of the community policing strategy will involve buying a mobile team policing outreach vehicle that would be used as a command post during critical incidents and would also serve as a mobile police station that could be moved to different locations throughout the community.
However, Greuel said budget limits make it unclear when that could happen.
“That will be a major hurdle, because financially I'm not sure we'll be able to get there,” Greuel said.
Greuel said he hopes the assignment of officers to smaller areas in the city will increase the level of trust residents have in law enforcement and enhance their willingness to work with officers to identify and solve neighborhood problems.
“When we start seeing people feeling more safe in their neighborhoods, that will be telling,” Greuel said. “The more they feel we're there and dealing with issues, the more they'll feel safe.”