There are two types of officers that patrol Hawaii’s airports.
Some are regular security officers, while others are armed security officers, also known as airport police officers.
They belong to the private company Securitas, and are hired by the state.
Airport police officers are allowed to carry firearms and make arrests. Tuesday night’s incident is raising questions on whether these armed airport officers are getting the proper training. It’s a question many of our viewers, as well as lawmakers and animal rights groups, are asking.
Securitas would not provide any information, except to say that “the officer is not on duty because of injuries sustained from the unfortunate incident.”
A lawmaker now wants the state Department of Transportation to provide those answers.
State Sen. Will Espero is vice chair of the Senate Transportation Committee. He says he’s received complaints about Securitas officers at the airport before, and this recent shooting makes him question the decision-making process of the officer.
“There was a major issue there in terms of what would have happened if a gun misfired or the officer missed, and you have a woman with her baby who could have been potentially injured or killed,” he said.
Espero says he would like to know what type of training these armed officers receive. He’s written a letter to the department asking for the information.
“Many of the Securitas police have had some police experience, but we don’t know how recent it is and we need to see how much training and re-education they get, and re-training on an annual basis,” he said. “Certainly, transparency in this case should be wide open and as much information to the public should be given, especially when you’re talking about the public safety issue.”
We’ve asked the state Department of Transportation for more specifics on the training given to airport police officers. They are allowed to carry firearms and have arresting powers, and part of the requirement is that they must have at least two years of law enforcement experience.
We’re told that they are trained, but we never got answers on exactly what type of training they get. So we asked again on Thursday.
“It’s under investigation,” said transportation spokesman Tim Sakahara. “HDOT is not the lead authority, so there’s no other information I can provide at this time.”
KHON2 followed up: “As far as training, it’s up to Securitas to provide that information?”
“There’s an ongoing investigation,” Sakahara repeated. “HDOT is not the lead investigative authority, so there’s no other other information I can provide at this time.”
Espero says he understands that the state cannot comment on the investigation itself, but the training is a separate issue.
“These are officers who are on patrol right now, today, with their guns, with Securitas via the airport police, we need to know that they are properly trained and properly supervised,” he said.
KHON2 asked Espero, “Is it time to demand those answers from DOT?”
“Yes, I can see where there is a public need, because we’ve just had a handful of incidents in the last few months, and the public wonders what’s going on,” he replied.
We also asked some of the officers at the airport and they referred us to the DOT.
According to Securitas’ website, security officers do not carry guns, while airport police do carry firearms.
Security officers are there to mainly observe and report suspicious activities. Airport police respond to unusual or emergency situations, and can use appropriate escalation of force level which includes armed response.
The role of Securitas at the airports has initiated a lawsuit filed last year by the HGEA, which represents the state sheriffs. That lawsuit is still pending.