An unidentified female passenger was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport on Monday after walking out of the terminal and onto a ramp. After the passenger was detained, she told officers she was trying to flag down a plane.
Swift arrest next to a Southwest jet
The passenger walked onto the ramp via a door inside LAX’s Terminal 1 around 18:30. Media reports have the passenger exiting via a door at a Southwest Airlines gate. Opening the door triggered an alarm, resulting in airport police swiftly intercepting her on the ramp.
Footage posted on Twitter shows a police officer and ground employees surrounding the woman as she attempts to approach the jet. The officer and ground employees attempted to steer her away from the aircraft. There is no suggestion the passenger posed a threat to the aircraft or any person at the gate or on the ramp.
“Airline employees who witnessed the woman exiting the terminal followed security protocols and maintained visual contact until the airport police arrived shortly thereafter and detained the woman,” a spokesperson for Los Angeles Airport Police said in a statement.
“She told responding officers she was trying to flag down the aircraft, which was still parked in the gate area.”
Wow, I'm sitting here at @flyLAXairport @SouthwestAir & this white young lady runs out the door & on the tarmac trying to wave a plane down. It seems like it took the police forever to get here. If she were Black, she would be shot (with no questions asked) pic.twitter.com/85IPXbnVi1
— Tezlyn Figaro (@TezlynFigaro) November 30, 2021
Social media debate over how the airport arrest was handled
The arrest sparked an immediate online furore after police were accused of handling the passenger with kid gloves because of her skin colour. This came after a passenger in the terminal posted footage of the arrest online accompanied by some inflammatory commentary.
A spokesperson for the Los Angeles Airport Police Union rejected the claims, saying;
“@LAAirportPD officers responded within minutes of the call. Woman experiencing a mental health crisis. Officers acted professionally placing her in custody and later transported her for a mental evaluation.”
Other passengers praised the way police handled the incident and treated a clearly unwell person with respect. In fact, when police are often criticised for the over the top way in which many arrests are made, Los Angeles Airport Police come out of this incident looking pretty good.
Airport police handle a tricky situation well
From humble origins in the later 1940s when there were just six-armed airport guards and a supervisor, Los Angeles Airport Police now employs over 1,100 law enforcement and civilian
When not wrangling wayward passengers on the ramp, the bulk of their criminal work deals relates to straightforward theft and a small number of assaults on airport property. The police department also provides a 24-hour law enforcement presence in and around airport property.
“Officers respond to calls for service, apprehend criminals, perform traffic-related functions, and respond to calls from Transportation Security Administration screening stations in compliance with Federal Aviation Administration rules and regulations,” says the Los Angeles World Airports website.
The Crime Task Force Unit comprising both Los Angeles Airport Police and Los Angeles City Police, concentrate on the higher-profile role of apprehending criminals affecting the normal operations at LAX.
“Officers assigned to the unit conduct criminal investigations and evaluate and track crime trends affecting airport operations while working closely with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies throughout the global aviation system,” the website says.
Security services at airports often operate quietly in the background. Monday’s ramp incident puts the spotlight on one of them – the Los Angles Airport Police Department. Most people would agree the department’s on the scene officers did a good job handling the unwell passenger.
No flights were delayed as a result of the ramp incident.