Magazine article Law & Order

Air Marshals: Utilizing Law Enforcement Officers on Airplanes

Magazine article Law & Order

Air Marshals: Utilizing Law Enforcement Officers on Airplanes

Article excerpt

Utilizing Law Enforcement Officers on Airplanes

Skyjacking established its prominence in the 1960s and peaked between 1968 and 1972, followed by a dramatic decline brought about by the introduction of criminal legislation with a death penalty clause, enhanced security measures at airport facilities. and the introduction of sky marshals traveling aboard aircraft. The events of September 11 have, of course, brought a renewed effort at preventing skyjackings. How can we intensify airport security and still respect the time-sensitive requirements of an industry so critically balanced by timeliness?

There needs to be a global approach whereby every aspect of the security function is microscopically examined and scrutinized at every facility throughout America. Access to the tarmac, intensified baggage inspections, fine-tuned body scanning, service vehicle tracking and movement within and outside the airport inner perimeter, the presence of uniformed police officers or military personnel in and around the airport, active monitoring of passenger behavior in and around the airport, and the intense background screening of every single airport employee, regardless of their specific responsibilities, are but a few of the measures that need consideration.

The Air Marshal program has been in existence for 16 years. Specifically, it became a matter of law on August 8, 1985, when Congress enacted Public Law 99-83, the International Security and Development Cooperation Act. The federal Air Marshal program consists of "specially trained armed teams of FAA civil aviation security specialists for deployment worldwide on anti-hijacking missions."

The practicality of an Air Marshal on every flight prior to September 11 was unrealistic; the practicality of federally employed Air Marshals accompanying every domestic flight in this country following September 11 remains unattainable without staggering cost to the American public. Even if it was possible to create an enormous Air Marshal program, the sustainability would be short-lived and impossible to support financially without causing the evaporation of a portion of those expenditures, which could be utilized elsewhere within the airline industry to bolster physical security.

In the Air

The practical solution is to utilize the services of thousands of law enforcement officers throughout America who routinely fly to countless locations throughout our country on a daily basis; policing representatives at multiple law enforcement levels with considerable degrees of experience, capable of supplementing a federally coordinated Air Marshals program; municipal police officers, deputy sheriffs and other law enforcement professionals who, through training, can dramatically augment an existing program.

The appropriate administration of a federally orchestrated program utilizing law enforcement officers from various levels within the profession to act in an Air Marshal capacity while traveling has merit. Liability concerns, injuries sustained while acting in an Air Marshal capacity, authority to be in the possession of a firearm in a state ordinarily prohibiting carrying a weapon are mere details that can be hammered out in short order by legislative representatives.

Federal legislation should be drafted that would authorize specifically designated law enforcement officers throughout the country to act as "air marshals" while traveling for business or pleasure aboard commercial aircraft within the continental United States. The FBI or the U.S. Marshals Service would act on behalf of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) as the coordinating agencies of the supplemental program due to local accessibility; however, the FAA would ultimately be responsible for the management, coordination and assignment of personnel.

Applications and application availability is to be coordinated by the local FBI field offices or the U.S. Marshals Service, due to their accessibility. …

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