City Council may integrate airport security with police department, despite union pushback

For years the city has been trying to reorganize Long Beach Airport’s public safety personnel under the purview of the police department, but has been met with pushback by union representatives because of proposed changes to employee roles and training.

A final decision will now be left to the City Council on Tuesday when it votes to authorize the proposed implementation despite the possibility that it may be challenged through legal or administrative proceedings, at which point the integration would be suspended until the matter is settled.

If the council votes to authorize the plan, it would mean that armed special service officers under the Airport Security Division and the Airport Police Detail will be combined to be the Airport Police Section reporting to the Long Beach Police Department, according to a report by the Director of Human Resources Alejandrina Basquez.

The city first proposed the reorganization in 2015 with the intent to create a single structured chain of command, better coordinate resources and personnel as well as provide consistent security policies and procedures, according to the report.

City officials received approval from the Police Officers Association but were met with pushback from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represents the special service officers.

Despite 10 negotiation sessions throughout 2018, the city and union representatives found themselves at an impasse. That resulted in a request by IAM for a fact-finding panel consisting of a neutral party, the IAM and a city representative.

A report by the panel that was submitted last month found the city was within its right to implement the proposal.

“Looking at other agencies it is clear that a majority of other California airports do not use [security officers], instead relying on police department or sheriff’s department personnel to provide the function,” said neutral panel chair Tony Butka.

It also found three issues in dispute with regard to the special security officers: limited training, an end to traffic patrol duties, as well as changes to their badges.

In his dissenting letter, IAM’s president Sal Vasquez, who represented the union on the panel, said the recommendations violated federal regulations.

“The Union implores those who are considering this recommendation to review the Union’s full post-fact-finding brief which raises a host of concerns about the city’s last-best-final offer, as well as the City’s overall course of conduct throughout these negotiations,” Vasquez stated in his letter.

The City Council will discuss the issue during its 5 p.m. meeting on April 23 at Council Chambers, 333 W. Ocean Blvd.

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Stephanie Rivera covers immigration and the north, west and central parts of Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter at @StephRivera88.
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