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Airport security is a preeminent concern for airports around the world. Within the United States, airport security became an even bigger issue after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. While the federal government within the United States is responsible for providing employees whose job it is to search and scan both people and baggage, local governments are generally responsible for providing security in and around the airport in the form of airport police. The job of an airport police officer is much the same as that of any police officer — to maintain security, enforce laws and ordinances, and assist the general public and other law enforcement agencies when needed.
Although additional security is often required due to the heightened security risks, airport police are also an integral part of the basic security and law enforcement presence at airports. An airport police officer generally has the same training and meets the same requirements as a city or state police officer. In addition, airport police also have the right to carry firearms and make arrests when necessary.
Airports are high-traffic locations in most cases and therefore require the presence of a police force to help keep them following smoothly. Due to the additional security measures enacted by the Federal Aviation Administration after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 in the United States, traffic management at the arrival and departure gates has become a major issue. One of the responsibilities of an airport police officer is to help ensure that vehicles are not left unattended at the drop-off and pick-up entrances.
The jurisdiction of the police force assigned to an airport generally includes the building itself as well as all parking lots and adjacent land. Airports are hardly immune from criminal acts committed within the jurisdiction. Thefts, assaults, and intoxicated travelers are common crimes for which airport police departments are needed.
Due to the high volume of people coming and going in an airport, theft of personal belongings is a common occurrence. A passenger can easily become distracted when traveling, which creates an opportunity for criminals to swoop in and walk off with baggage or purses without the victim realizing anything is missing for some time. Passengers can also become agitated when traveling due to the inherent delays and lengthy boarding procedures, which may result in arguments that can escalate to an actual assault in some cases. An airport police officer may also have to deal with passengers who have had one too many cocktails while waiting for a delayed flight.