- The Washington Times - Friday, March 8, 2002

Managers of New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport plan to replace their current work force of airport screeners with former police officers.
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is applying to the federal government to conduct a two-year experiment that would use former law enforcement officers as security screeners.
Rep. Gary L. Ackerman, New York Democrat, said at a press conference yesterday that the retired police officers would be "additionally motivated."
"We have a score to settle," Mr. Ackerman said, referring to the September 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center.
"If the experiment works, hopefully it's going to be done all over the country," he said.
Hiring former law enforcement officers would not increase costs of the federal screener work force, he said. They would be hired by a recruiting firm under a federal contract.
Elsewhere in the United States, a law enforcement background is not required to be a security screener. Applicants must only be U.S. citizens and have high school diplomas.
Mr. Ackerman asked Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta yesterday to grant the application. He said Mr. Mineta was interested but that the Transportation Department has not responded yet.
Under the Air Transportation Act Congress passed last November, the federal government is phasing in a takeover of airport screening from private companies hired by the airlines. All of the approximately 30,000 screeners at 429 commercial airports nationwide are supposed to be hired, trained and employed by the federal government by Nov. 19 of this year. The act also set up the Transportation Security Administration to manage the takeover of security at airports and on other kinds of transportation systems.
New York's Port Authority applied for a variance from the rule in a Feb. 25 letter to John Magaw, the new head of the Transportation Security Administration.
"Recent events at airports around the nation, including our own, suggest that the hundred-hour-training class for passenger screeners should not be considered sufficient when there is a pool of over one thousand retired law enforcement officers willing to work for private screening companies," Port Authority Chief Operating Officer Ernesto Butcher said in the letter applying for the variance.
None of the major airports in the Washington area plans to apply for similar changes.
The first federal screeners are expected to begin work as early as next month at the 15 airports designated as top priorities by the Transportation Security Administration.


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