Airport Police Union Says Chief Can’t Cut Umbilical Cord to LAPD

VOICES- As a last resort the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers’ Association (LAAPOA) has filed a grievance on behalf of four senior detectives that is set to go to arbitration saying that the department’s management has forcibly removed them from the critical assignment of the Crime Task Force without cause, inappropriately and quite possibly illegally.

The detectives removed were sent back to patrol and of the eight detectives remaining in the unit, two LAXPD Detectives were placed on loan to the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Pacific Division. LAAPOA is questioning whether or not the detectives are being used to help LAPD’s Pacific Division clear their backlog of Major Assault and Auto cases.

LAAPOA, the union that represents the rank-and-file police officers of the Los Angeles Airport Police Department (LAXPD), today raised concerns about what they say is LAX Police Chief Patrick Gannon’s inability to the cut the umbilical cord to the LAPD where he worked for over three decades before coming to LAX. (Photo: Gannon with LAPD Chief Beck.)

Gannon’s most recent reassignments and his bringing in a LAPD detective from Pacific Division into LAX make the Airport Police Department’s detective unit primarily comprised of LAPD personnel instead of its own men and women-something the union said would happen at the beginning of 2015 when they raised concerns over Gannon’s attempted removal of senior and most experienced key personnel from the department’s Emergency Services Unit and K-9 units.

With the increased crime rates in Pacific Division and calls from Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin for the LAPD to deploy more police officers to combat what Bonin described as “an escalating and unacceptable crime problem,” LAAPOA says that LAPD officers should not be taking up residence in another police department but rather handling their own jurisdiction.

“This is just another example in a long line of examples of Chief Gannon being unable to sever ties with the LAPD,” says LAAPOA President Marshall McClain. “The rank-and-file men and women of the LAX police department continue to be confused as to whether our chief is working for LAXPD or LAPD. Gannon’s decision to send LAXPD detectives to help LAPD with what we can only assume is their backlog is just further proof that he’s confused about which police department he heads up.”

Airport Police are not paid through any City or State tax dollars and are funded entirely by proprietary airport landing fees and other airport related revenues. A recent audit showed Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) generated nearly $822 million in airport revenues and received nearly $45 million in grant funding from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in 2012.

By moving Airport Police detectives to LAPD’s Pacific Division, which is outside of the airport, Gannon is being complicit in the diverting of airport funds. If the detectives were working on LAX airport cases, there would be no need for them to be outside of the airport and working at the LAPD’s Pacific Division.

Federal law requires that airports receiving federal grant funds, including Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), must use their revenues from landing fees and other charges for airport purposes only, in order to keep those airports as self-sustaining as possible. Sending LAXPD detectives over to help the LAPD is not an “airport purpose.”

L.A. has been cited for airport revenue diversion more than any other city in the nation. LAWA was already caught illegally paying nearly $8 million dollars to LAPD for services it cannot provide documentation for between 2006 and 2012. LAWA also spent approximately $192,000 of airport revenue on unauthorized LAPD personnel working at LAX.

In addition, a USDOT audit detected $49 million in financial reporting discrepancies between the amounts LAWA reported in its statutorily required annual financial reports to FAA and its internal financial reports. Money that is still the subject of an active federal investigation and has yet to be explained in detail or reimbursed.

“Unfortunately, it looks like most of the same is going on with airport revenue diversion in Los Angeles and is now being aided-and-abetted by our own police chief,” said LAAPOA Vice-President Julius Levy. “Gannon has taken us back 15 years to when the first LAXPD detectives were sent to LAPD’s detective school. Now by his removal of all our senior and most experienced detectives and supervision he is sabotaging our detective unit in an attempt to create a need for more LAPD officers at LAX and establish a command and control for LAPD which he has now placed in charge of the unit.

He added, “The voters have already spoken in favor of entrusting airport policing to a single dedicated agency. No other airport in the country has this type of redundant policing services and despite the fact that the current split-policing model is both unnecessary, costly and inefficient, Gannon and LAWA still continue to find creative ways to keep LAPD on the payroll when the tax paying residents of L.A. desperately need their services. ”

LAAPOA says that a vote of no confidence in Chief Gannon could happen in the near future.

(Marshall McClain is President of the LAAPOA. This article was provided to CityWatch by the Los Angeles Airport Peace Officers Association.)