Conference Reacts to Alarming House Legislation Shifting Airport Law Enforcement Responsibilities to Local Government Permanently
By Ron Thaniel
October 21, 2002
The U.S. Conference of Mayors, joined by the National League of Cities and National Association of Counties has sent a letter to Congress expressing extreme concern with provisions included in both HR 5506, the Aviation Industry Stabilization and Reform Act of 2002, and HR 5559, the FY 2003 Transportation Appropriations bill" that amend the Aviation and Transportation Security Act (ATSA, P.L. 107-71) to permanently shift the responsibility for law enforcement at the nation's airports to local government. This would place a substantial unplanned financial and administrative burden on local government.
As owners and operators of the nation's commercial airports, local governments are troubled that less than a year since the enactment of ATSA there is an effort to undermine the intent of the law. ATSA called for the deployment of "a sufficient number of Federal screeners, Federal Security Managers, Federal security personnel, and Federal Law Enforcement Officers to conduct the screening of all passengers and property at airports (section 110 (c) (1)). Section 310 (c) of HR 5506 and Section 343 of HR 5559 would amend ATSA by striking the word "Federal" before "law enforcement."
If HR 5506 and HR 5559 are enacted in their current form, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), could permanently shift Federal law enforcement responsibilities to local government, including the costs and liability associated with this function with no guarantee of full and accurate reimbursement.
Additionally, many localities are dealing with public safety staffing issues in response to all areas of homeland security and crime prevention. The possibility of permanently staffing airport security will put an undue burden on many communities. Also noted in the letter is the concerned that having local law enforcement permanently intertwined with federal security personnel and federal baggage screeners may cause management and jurisdictional confusion in the airports.
As U.S.MAYOR goes to print, the Conference continues to work with Congress to protect the intent of the law and provide guarantees for full and accurate reimbursement and liability coverage for the use of local law enforcement officers at our nation's 429 commercial airports.