LAX shooting: TSA administrator says arming officers is not an option (Update)

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4:06 p.m.: LAX police union responds to decision not to arm TSA officers

Marshall McClain, president of the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association, issued a statement Thursday afternoon:

"The Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association supports the Transportation Security Administration’s decision to reject arming TSA agents. LAAPOA appreciates and respects the passenger and baggage screening work that TSA agents perform as these tasks continue to be important to the security of our nation. However, our highly specialized airport police officers are sworn law enforcement officers who receive extensive training, particularly in airport-specific training such as hijacking and terrorist preparedness, and are best suited to be armed in order to protect the safety and security of our airports, passengers, and employees.”

1:16 p.m.: LAX shooting: TSA administrator says arming officers is not an option

The head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said Thursday the federal agency has rejected a proposal to arm officers posted at airport security checkpoints. The proposal from the TSA employees union came after a gunman opened fire at Los Angeles International Airport last year, killing a TSA officer.

TSA Administrator John Pistole made the comments at LAX Thursday morning, where he attended the opening of a “pre-check" application center inside Terminal 5. It is a program meant to expedite the security screening process for passengers.

Pistole said the agency is still reviewing the LAX shooting for lessons learned and potential improvements. But he said arming TSA officers was not under consideration.

After the Nov. 1 shooting, the union that represents TSA workers – the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) – proposed the TSA create a new class of employees trained as law enforcement officers.

TSA officer Gerardo Hernandez was shot and killed. He was first TSA employee to die on the job. Two other TSA officers were injured in the shooting. A school teacher was also shot in the leg.

Victory Payes is the president of the local union chapter that represents TSA workers at LAX. He said he disagrees with the decision.

“We still think there needs to be a TSA law enforcement presence,” Payes said.

The union president said the TSA administrator told employees in a video statement earlier this month that arming officers is not an option, but they are working on ensuring a safe and secure workplace at airports.

Payes said the union will collaborate with LAX airport police and federal authorities on ways to secure the airport. A review of the shooting by the TSA is expected to be submitted to Congress within 90 days.

“At the end of the day we just want to work in a place where we know there will always be an immediate response,” Payes said.

AFGE has also proposed the installation of protective platforms for transportation security officers, which it said would help improve visibility and react more quickly to potential threats.

LAX commissioners are expected to review a draft of an after-action report at its Feb. 3 meeting that is being prepared by executive officials.

With contributions by the Associated Press

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