Plan suggests troopers provide flight safety

Megan Boldt

A flurry of long-term security measures have cropped up in legislative bodies across the nation since the terrorist hijackings.

But while Congress evaluates these proposals, one Minnesota representative said he might have a temporary solution to ease travelers’ fears when they board a commercial flight.

Rep. Mark Kennedy, R-Minn., proposed using state troopers as airport security officers and sky marshals until Congress comes up with a permanent solution.

“Our state patrol officials are trained, have undergone background checks, are equipped with the security enforcement equipment necessary, and many are ready to assist where needed,” Kennedy said in a written statement released Tuesday. “These officers are already trusted and recognized as safety professionals.”

Kennedy unveiled the plan this week in the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee. He proposed using $3 billion of the $15 billion airline relief package for the plan.

Robin Kern, Kennedy’s spokeswoman, said they haven’t proposed a certain number of troopers to put in the airports and on the flights.

“Ideas are just being thrown out at this point,” Kern said. “They haven’t talked about specifics yet.”

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety would back the plan, but under certain conditions, said Kevin Smith, department spokesman.

“We support any idea that would be helpful,” Smith said. “But as long as it doesn’t impede the number of troopers on the road.”

Smith suggested using retired troopers or having the federal government contract current troopers for overtime work on the flights. The department doesn’t want to risk Minnesota’s public safety by taking officers off their regular schedules.

Northwest supports the expansion of federal marshals on domestic flights, said Northwest spokesman Doug Killian.

He said Northwest also backs long-term security measure enhancements, as long as the federal government provides some funding.

But Killian said he’s not sure about using $3 billion of the $15 billion airline relief package to pay for Kennedy’s temporary sky marshals proposal.

“That money was earmarked to put us back to where we were before Sept. 11,” Killian said. “The industry’s lost billions of dollars.

 

Megan Boldt welcomes comments at [email protected]. She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3237