The City Council last night refused to carry on any discussion or vote regarding plans to integrate Long Beach Airport personnel with the Long Beach Police Department—a month after it initially postponed the vote.
Following public comment mostly opposing the controversial merger, no council member gave a second to the motion recommended by city staff that would allow a dialogue and potential vote on the matter.
The proposed integration would streamline the reporting process between the airport’s special services officers and police department, according to the city.
However, the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, which represents the officers, maintains it would strip them of training and arrest powers and undermine the safety of airport travelers.
Richard Suarez, the Grand Lodge representative for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers, said he was especially concerned over the potential diminishing of their training from 600 hours to 60.
“I can’t understand why a program with no problems for over a quarter of a century is getting dismantled,” Suarez said.
In recent public discussions, community members expressed concerns about overcommitting a police department with limited resources and personnel. Others worried about the potential discomfort some minority travelers could feel when passing through the airport.
Suarez acknowledged this point in an opinion piece published on the Long Beach Post on Tuesday.
“[Special security officers] can keep our airport safe while not triggering our black and brown neighbors,” Suarez wrote. “Having (the) police department take over will militarize the airport, and it will disproportionately impact those parts of our community.”
The city has been trying to integrate airport security for years but despite multiple negotiation sessions both parties found themselves at an impasse.
The council on April 23 decided to postpone the vote for a month to further discuss the issue and work out the details. The city added the issue as a last-minute agenda item on Friday afternoon.
Suarez said he was caught off guard when he found out the item was expected to be discussed Tuesday.
“We made every attempt up until Monday to engage, but we received very little attention,” Suarez said. “What [Council] instructed staff to do, they did not do.”
Councilwoman Suzie Price, who introduced the original motion, said she was surprised by the silence from her follow council members on Tuesday for such a hot-button issue. Price said the council was barred from discussing the matter because nobody seconded her motion, leaving the item to die on the floor.
“I wanted us to have a discussion in public but we weren’t even able to do that,” she said.
Suarez said he would like to sit down once more and see if they can reach “a symbiotic resolution”.
“I would like to see parties re-engage and try to find a fair and compatible compromise,” Suarez said.
Long Beach Police Officers Association President Jim Foster declined to comment.
City spokesman Kevin Lee said there are no immediate plans for the item to be placed back on the agenda.
Kelly Puente contributed to this report.
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