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Report: Law Enforcement Agencies Had Trouble Communicating During LAX Shooting

An 83-page report pointed out failures in communication and coordination between police and fire departments which led to delays in setting up a unified command center.

Paul Anthony Ciancia. Photo courtesy of the FBI.
Paul Anthony Ciancia. Photo courtesy of the FBI.

Originally posted at 12:46 p.m. Mach 18, 2014. Edited to add comments from Mayor Eric Garcetti. 

Lapses in communications between agencies hampered the response to a November shooting at Los Angeles International Airport that left a security screener dead, according to a report released today, but Mayor Eric Garcetti insisted steps were under way to improve emergency response.

"While November 1st was a tragic day, I want to reassure our traveling public that LAX is a safe airport," Garcetti said. "... We will never stop working to harden this target. I will not rest until we correct the things in this report that say need to be corrected, and we'll make this an even safer and better environment for all who come here to fly and all who come here to work."

The 83-page report pointed out failures in communication and coordination between police and fire departments that led to delays in the establishment of a unified command center. The various agencies also could not effectively communicate due to incompatible radio systems, the report found.

The report made dozens of recommendations aimed at bolstering security and emergency response, and warned that the Nov. 1 shooting could have been far deadlier if the perpetrator had been more sophisticated or if there had been multiple suspects.

"We're lucky this shooting didn't take more lives," Garcetti said. "We're lucky that that day the casualty list was not higher, and I asked for this report to make sure that we do everything that we can to ensure that we don't depend on luck as well as the heroic work of our first responders."

Garcetti also expressed frustration at what he considers a "nationwide failure" by public safety agencies to coordinate with each other.

The fact that agencies are "still trying to figure out a way to talk to each other" more than a dozen years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks "frustrates me as a policy maker, frustrates me as the mayor of the second-biggest city in America, frustrates me as a leader of this airport too which is consistently a target for international terrorism and domestic terrorism," he said.

The report recommended better coordination with rescue organizations such as the American Red Cross, as well as with area businesses, transportation companies and nearby cities that might be able to provide evacuation sites and shelter to stranded passengers.

It also suggested assigning more emergency management staff and making available more equipment and training to emergency responders.

"We clearly have more work to do and it begins with embracing the recommendations of this report," Airport Commission President Sean Burton said.

"The board will now carefully review the report's analysis of the shooting response and recovery, and ensure the recommendations are implemented in a timely fashion," he said.

The Airport Commission heard a presentation on the report today and is scheduled to receive a progress report in 30 days on the implementation of the recommended steps.

Paul Anthony Ciancia, 24, a New Jersey native who was living in Sun Valley, is accused of carrying out the shooting in Terminal 3 that killed Transportation Security Administration Agent Gerardo Hernandez and wounded three others.

Garcetti said that among the steps being taken by the city and the airport to improve security are tactical emergency training for paramedics and firefighters, allowing them to more quickly enter areas that have not been fully secured by police, and a review of active-shooter training protocols to include more agencies. The city is also working to train airport tenants and other LAX employees about evacuation procedures, he said.

The report looked at 26 areas including public safety, incident command, response operations and emergency management and preparedness.

"While LAX is ahead of most airports nationally and internationally, the after-action report is a template for continuing evolution at LAX," according to Gina Marie Lindsey, executive director of Los Angeles World Airports, the city agency that oversees the airport.

"Our learning will be a catalyst for change at other airports all over the world. While many responders to this incident and managers did amazing work that day, every emergency event provides the opportunity and ... the responsibility to analyze what can be done better.

"We are grateful to Mayor Garcetti and our board of airport commissioners for consistent leadership and support of our constant quest to improve. This report is our template to ensure our staff and all members of the LAX operating community and our partner agencies are even better prepared to meet the threats of an ever-changing world," she said.

The union representing TSA officers released a statement saying it is "deeply disturbed" by the report, taking issue with both the findings and the way it was prepared.

American Federation of Government Employees National President J. David Cox said LAX's security systems and procedures are "fundamentally broken."

"The lack of incident coordination exhibited in this account is absolutely unacceptable," Cox said, referring to a "33-minute gap between the time of the shooting" and the delivery of medical aid to the TSA officer who died.

Cox also said "there is no justification" for the hour it took to establish a command post and coordinate a "unified response," and there was "no reason why essential emergency equipment was left dysfunctional, or outright broken."

He also described the absence of two officers assigned to the Terminal 3 checkpoint during the shooting as "downright egregious."

Cox also said the report is "incomplete and off-target" in that it failed to look at the redeployment of law enforcement officers from an airport checkpoint and the fact that "two assigned officers were out of position when the shooting began."

"We believe those issues are critical to understanding the lessons of the LAX shooting," he said.

--City News Service


Wolfman March 25, 2014 at 11:51 AM
we need national annual certification of all law enforcement personal as they have control over your life and death

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