By Ron Corbin, retired LAPD and LVMPD
When flying for Air Support Div, the choices for taking CODE-7 (meal break) are minimal compared to those for patrol officers. If you don’t bring your paper bag lunch, but choose to eat at a restaurant, the accommodations are basically relegated to those at airport cafes. The positive side of this is that air crews rotated every two hours, so we had a longer time to eat and relax between flights that ground officers weren’t afforded.
One day my observer and I decided to land at LAX and find a restaurant inside one of the major terminals. Landing and parking on the ramp, we walked up one of the empty jet-way stairs for Terminal 5, and entered the passenger gate area. We continued walking toward the front of the building, exited onto the sidewalk, and went to one restaurant located in adjacent Terminal 6.
After finishing our meal, we reversed our route to return to our parked helicopter outside of Terminal 5. As we approached the passenger security screening area, there were a couple hundred passengers in line to be screened and have their carry-on baggage X-ray checked.
This was a time when hijackings were prevalent around the world and, compared to current practices and procedures, airport security was in its “infancy.” There was no TSA as we know it today. Security personnel were contracted companies and standards in personnel selection varied from airport-to-airport. LAPD provided LAX with an on-site sub-station and division of uniformed officers assigned as a regular 24/7 element for protection.
Being “uniformed” officers, we started to go through the passenger “exit corridor” in order to get to our gate’s appropriate jet-way where we left our helicopter. A female security agent stepped in front of us, held up her hand like a school crossing guard, and said, “STOP! You can’t go this way,” and pointed to a sign saying basically the same thing.
At first I thought she was joking and with a big smile, started to step around her. She moved her body in our path and said that we had to go through the body scanner that all passengers were required. Even after announcing that we were LAPD and pilots for our aircraft outside, she seemed oblivious to the guns on our hips, remaining steadfast in her demeanor.
Agreed, we weren’t in the typical LAPD blue uniform, but my partner and I had the standard uniform in those days for ASD aircrews: khaki pants and shirt with holstered gun and ammo pouches. Our shirt had ASD shoulder patches, our name tag, and of course due to “Dragnet,” probably the most famous and identifiable badge in the world was pinned to our chest.
Not having time to waste and needing to get back in the air to relieve our other airborne crew, we figured it wasn’t worth the effort to debate this issue with her. So, we went directly to the head of the passenger line and were motioned through the scanner without question or delay. Of course, the security person at this point apparently recognized we were legit and never flinched to allow us passage as the “lights, bells and whistles” of the scanner alerted to the revolvers on our hips.
“I think she must have worked security at Wally World when it was closed for repairs.”