Mall Security Coming to San Jose’s Airport?

San Jose officials are looking into the possibility of replacing 41 police officers and 12 firefighters currently stationed at the airport with a private security firm. An estimated $10 million could be saved if such a switch were to be made. Airport officials have invited outside companies to submit proposals.

Does this idea really make any sense? After all, do we want to recruit “mall security” types to patrol our airport? Hard to believe that the Department of Homeland Security would ever approve of such a move.

Here’s a better idea to reduce costs. Rather than outsourcing security at the airport to a private firm, why not outsource some (or all) of the maintenance for San Jose’s parks? The city contracts with private companies to provide garbage collection and recycling services, why not contract out park maintenance? One could argue that having sworn public safety officers at the airport is a higher priority than having city employees cut the grass and trim the trees at neighborhood parks.

In theory, the savings that such a move could bring could then be transferred to the airport. In practice, such a move could not be executed, as the airport, while owned by the city, has its own set of rules and regulations when it comes to sources of funding. Believe it or not, revenues and expenses are not transferred directly from the city to the airport, or vice versa. The airport and the city are “separate accounts.”

Given the dire state of government budgets, perhaps it’s high time that elected representatives re-examine the restrictions and barriers that stand in the way of practical solutions to the many problems that cities and counties now face. The idea that the City of San Jose can’t afford to place police and fire officers at the airport is, in a word, staggering.


  1. Well, if it means bringing 41 police officers back to patrol to help fight crime, I’m all for it! The crime rate in San Jose has blown up since last year. We need to increase patrols in areas where it seems like gangs have taken over. I have one question, will bringing these 41 police officers back to patrol cause more public safety layoffs this summer (change from airport fund to general fund)? If thats the case, then “no.” We need to increase our police force and start investigating more crimes. I called the police the other day for some sketchy people I thought were selling drugs at 1st and Santa Clara St., and nobody came! The police supervisor called me and said he had no police officers to send. This is not right. I pay taxes in this city and want to know my family is safe when we go out to dinner or shop. Looks like I should just stay at Santana Row.

    What about the firefighters at Moffet Field? They are private. Could we contract them to save money?

    Michelle Joakimson

      • “We need more officers so our city police could be proactive and take criminals to jail before they commit crimes.”

        BEFORE they commit crimes.  Just round up “the usual suspects”, eh? Mubarek needed you to round up all those folks before they demonstrated.

    • Michelle, that would work great if the city had the General Fund money to pay for the 41 officers hitting the streets. These officers are currently paid out of the Airport Fund. Moving them back into the General Fund (i.e. putting them back on the street) would just mean laying off the officers, or laying off more than 41 other employees to cover their compensation, or extracting more compensation concessions from employees.

      • It would also mean additional service reductions since, on top of probably laying off those additional offers, you will experience further service reductions as officer who work in patrol and have absolutely no responsibilities for any activity at the airport will, inevitably, be assigned to resolve issues which arrise at the airport and which can only be resolved by a police officer – and not a glorified security guard.

        As far as the service reduction you’ve experience: get used to it. Sergeants have been taking this common sense and respectful approach for years now – common sense, because something had to give, and respectful since he’s trying to let you know when the PD will be unable to meet your expectations. This is going to happen more and more. The leadership of the department is already strategizing how to officially create a framework of service reductions, likely some of the lowest-priority and most common types of calls for service.

    • Nice Post! 

      Looks like they will do exactly what the Mayor wants! 

      I have one question, When TSA has a Terrorist detained who is TSA going to call?  The Mall Cops? 

      Is the City going to deputize the security guards? 

      Doesn’t this violate the City of San Jose Competition Clause?  Oh wait’ that’s right Chuck Reed makes the rules up as he goes along. 

      There are NO contract security companies that will fit the bill, because-guards suck. 

      Keep Professional law enforcement officers on duty.  Don’t put travelers and taxpayers in peril with “Wanna be’s”… 90% of all security guards are police dept. rejects with very shady backgrounds and mental issues. 

      Good luck Airport Travelers!

  2. Looks like another version of Team San Jose is starting to be formed.  Nothing good will come out of this merger. 

    Didn’t Dan Fenton go out to the Airport to run his Taxi San Jose, after his Team San Jose fiasco? uh oh!

    Dress a monkey up in a suit it’s still a monkey…

    More wasted money by the City of San Jose. 

    Good Work Mayor.

    Old Frank

  3. “Mall security?” Where on earth did THAT come from?

    Absolutely nobody at city hall or the airport wants to ease security standards at the airport. Instead, they are examining ways to provide the same level of security, or better, in a more cost-effective way. 

    There are many excellent private security firms that do not fit the “mall security” stereotype. High level security firms typically hire experienced law enforcement and military personnel who have specialized skills and training. To equate these professionals with “mall security” sounds like somebody took a great big gulp of the POA’s Kool Aid.

    If the airport can equal, or surpass, it’s present security while saving an estimated $10 million dollars annually, then why not consider outsourcing? And if those 41 officers and dozen firefighters now stationed at the airport can be re-deployed to the streets to make us all safer, would that not be good for San Jose?

    I’m glad the city is open to new cost-saving ideas, but I am disappointed to see SJI dismiss creative ideas based on faulty assumptions. If ever there was a time to reexamine how public money is spent, this is that time!

    • Reader’s right. There’s no reason that a competent, highly professional private security firm could not do the job as well as, if not better than SJPD for a lot less money.
      “Public Safety” will kick and scream, not because they’re concerned about the Public’s Safety, but because they’re worried that people will finally begin to realize how much we’ve been overpaying for their services.

      • Thats right JohnG no reason at all , except that the contract will have to go out to bid – that means the lowest cost provider will win. Oh and don’t forget that to qualify for consideration in the bid process the company will have to be minority owned and the employee demographics will have to match some politically correct percentage requirement to satisfy the race-baiters at deBug/ACLU/LaRaza command. This alone is an iron-clad guarantee that you get the best possible product to keep you and yours safe!

        Then there will have to be a psychological/security background and physical fitness process for potential hires – you know one that doesn’t discriminate against persons with psychological issues , criminal history or morbid obesity problems so as to comply with the ADA and “friends on the outside” advocates.

        The security company that wins the bid will have to be able to provide the low-bid taking into consideration the City Mandated “Living Wage” and mandatory healthcare costs – the US HEalthWorks Option won’t attract the best and brightest. 

        The company will also have to provide ongoing training to keep their employees up to date on the latest security issues.

        Then of course all a security company (Professional Grade or Mall quality ) will need to know how to do is call 911 and have SJPD respond to deal with what ever the issue is.

    • That might be fine if your assuptions are true about the quility of security being sought but you are incorrect regarding the officers being redeployed in the neighborhoods.  The airport budget which covers airport police costs is different from the police budget.  Those officers would be additional lawoffs this June.  City Counsel members this past week have been quoted in the paper saying they would be in support of this move to move the officers to the street. That is an incorrect statement that sould be corrected.

      • Citizen – Please cite your source for the claim that airport police could not be re-deployed. I’m not necessarily disputing your information but curious as to where it came from since, as you point out, city officials seem to have a much different understanding of the issue. 

        Gotcha – Sorry, no you didn’t. I’m not Pier, just a taxpayer who’d like to see the city explore ways to save money without laying off off police. I’m not much of a fan of Pier ever since the sign-taking-down incident in the November election. 

        Professore: We may disagree but I had to chuckle at your post. What you describe, EOE laws, psychological and fitness testing, etc., is not too different from how police are hired today!

        • Regarding citing my source, The airport has it’s own budget seperate from the Police budget.  As it stands now the airport budget covers police cost (plus 42% markup)at the airport which is about 42 Officers.  The Police budget covers all of the police offiers on the departemnt with the exception of the airport officers and 3 gaming officers whos budget is paid for by the card rooms.  When the mayor and city manager are talking about laying off and demoting officer at the present they are only talking about the police department budget with the assumption that the police will stay at the airport.  If the contract goes private or to the S/O then you will have 42 officers comming back from the airport which will increase the Police budget hence the additional 42 layoffs.  Right now the airport pays their salary and the airport wants a cheaper option.  That money would they go to the cheaper option leaving no budget for the 42 officers.  If the officers went back to the PD budget it would be like hiring 42 additional officers which is counter to the 154 layoffs currently slated.  As far as the counsel person being miss informed it was in a Mercury News article about two weeks ago.  I’m dealing in plain facts, just pull up both budgets and look.  And if you are Pier, you should know better.

      • memorandum distributed to city counsel on 2/2/11 indicates that the city charges 42% overhead (Profit) which goes directly into the general fund for use.  Why dosn’t the city charge the actual cost for police services rather than risk going private and laying off an additional 42 officers.

        • “Citizen – Please cite your source for the claim that airport police could not be re-deployed. I’m not necessarily disputing your information but curious as to where it came from since, as you point out, city officials seem to have a much different understanding of the issue.”

          Debra Figone, you know the City Manager and the Chief of Police’s boss, has set a hard number of a reduction to 1,206 officers by June 31, 2011 (FY-2010/2011).  If the officers at the airport are sent back to the PD, they will be laid off based upon seniority.  In the upcoming FY-2011/2012 it is projected that the SJPD will have to cut 10% of it’s budget.  This equates to nearly 29 million dollars.  Since the bulk of the operating costs are personnel, there may be as many as 150-200 layoffs coupled with many demotions in order to meet the stated goal.  So, yes the airport officers will not be re-deployed. Nor will any other officers currently working in units that may be disbanded next fiscal year.

        • Thanks, I guess my point was that the hiring process would probably mimic the process that currently exists for police. The process that weeds out so many undesirables that academy classes had fewer candidates than were budgeted for. I can’t imagine the standards in a private company exceeding much less equaling those of SJPD.

          And for what? These private contractors will have to turn all evidence and pro ate persons arrestees over to the real police to process. Kind of redundant?

    • “There are many excellent private security firms that do not fit the “mall security” stereotype.” Many? Really? Which do you speak of? And you know their capabilities to do this how? Would you recommend Pinkerton? How about 41 people in red windbreakers like at a Niner game. That surely will make us a hard target when a jihadist shows up with a weapon. And you’d like 41 top flight armed personnel carrying firearms just like officers? I highly doubt the feasibility of this but this city appears to be hell bent on saving $. Nevermind going to Japan for sushi and sake. That was business. I can’t wait to see the Mayor’s next cool tourism, errrr, business, local.

      • Companies like ITCS, AVESCO provide services at airports in Asia, Austrailia and Europe. In the U.S. there are companies ESCC which already consult with, and provide training to, existing airport security and are poised to expand operations to include policing. 

        Private companies are less common at U.S. airports, although the idea has gained traction in recent years. For example Honolulu International augmments it’s airport Sheriff’s deputies with private security, which might be a good idea for San Jose to consider.

        It’s not a new concept, although in the U.S. it’s run into union opposition in communities like Cleveland which recently tried, and failed, to privatize airport policing. Florida’s Broward County has also considered replacing cops with private security services. Syracuse New York is currently considering a plan similar to what’s being considered in San Jose, and as more cities face deficits it’s an idea that I suspect will catch on.

    • “There are many excellent private security firms that do not fit the “mall security” stereotype. High level security firms typically hire experienced law enforcement and military personnel who have specialized skills and training. To equate these professionals with “mall security” sounds like somebody took a great big gulp of the POA’s Kool Aid.”

      Really?  There are security firms who hire law enforcement officers and pay them how much per hour? I have news for you.  Retired or active duty law enforcement officers are paid a minimum of $35 per hour and up.  Most off-duty officers demand the hourly pay rate prescribed by the SJPD which is about $50 per hour these days.  So, if a security firm has to pay an off-duty cop $50 per hour that means they would have to charge the airport about $80-$90 per hour in order to pay the officer and cover their own operating costs.  Tell me how this is going to save money again?

        • If you choose to hire freelance law enforcement officers to work at the airport who are already employed by an LE agency, you will avoid paying retirement, medical, dental, and other benefits provided they are classified as sub-contractors and receive a 10-99.  If you choose to hire retired officers or former officers who are looking for full time employment with benefits, you will incur additional costs per employee. 

          The problem with hiring current LE officers is that most agencies, SJPD included, regulate and restrict the type of employment and the hours of employment each officer can work if they can work any at all.  A current LE agency wants their officers to focus on their primary jobs, not side jobs working at an airport.  This leaves former and retired officers as an alternative.  These officers are not going to want to work strictly for a 10-99 thereby increasing their tax liability and without potentially adding another retirement to their portfolio.  Why should a retired officer work at an airport as a sub-contractor when far more lucrative jobs are to be had that include another retirement after 5 years, a W-2 instead of a 10-99, and additional medical and dental benefits. Or, a retired officer can make $40-$60 per hour working for a private investigator, backgrounder, or other employment not requiring a set schedule, a uniform, and reduced exposure to risk. If a retired officer obtains a P.I. license, they can make far more.

          Good luck finding enough former or retired LE members to work as glorified security guards at any airport.  Perhaps in the mid-west where they tend to pay their full time LE officers peanuts anyway but not on the west coast.

  4. Another example of what an albatross this airport is.  What a mistake.  For once I would love to hear a politician say, “We screwed up big time with this airport.”  Alas, due to incompetence and/or corruption it will not happen.  At least not soon.

    Rather, they keep coming up with hare-brained schemes to keep this POS afloat.

  5. As much as it might be distasteful to some, those in charge of keeping the airport safe and secure should be armed, and prepared to use lethal force.  That said, I want only sworn officers of the law carrying loaded weapons.

    • Then we need to stop paying 200K per police officer per year. 

      (Don’t just quote salary.  Remember to include pension and lifetime medical.)

  6. Isn’t there already in place a fee charged to each passenger for Homeland Security funding? What would it take to tack on 1.00 or 2.00 per ticket to help fund this cost. Some of the officers are already funded by Federal funds. How much is this amount?

    I too think that many of the city services could be contracted out, but fire and police services should not be part of that.

  7. Having more police and fire officers is a great goal

    Our officers do a great job and most everyone except a few malcontents agree but can San Jose afford $185,000 for each officer ?

    What would it cost to contract out airport security to

    1) Sheriff’s Department who is already providing officers to Cupetinio and a few other cities probably not $185,000 per officer

    2) CalFire provides on contract fire services to other cities What about the airport?

    since San Jose can not afford $185,000 each officer without more cuts in understaffed police and fire reducing cost per officer, or making more cuts in city services or staff

    Time for police and fire officers suggest where to cut costs in either police and fire departments or elsewhere in city government

    Three good starting points to cut $10’s millions spent on

    1) giving tax money to non city groups, stop spending tax money that city needs on groups or organizations that city is not required to fund especially in budget crisis

    2) unnecessarily excessive number of city and agency directors, deputies, assistants, managers and supervisors who after layoffs only supervise 2-4 people

    3) excessive number of city departments and separate city groups consolidation would eliminate many unnecessary expensive managers, admin and overhead –
    a) Dept Transportation / Airport ( like other cities ) ,
    b) Police / Fire ( do we need 2 Chiefs, deputies and assistants plus City Manager / 2 Assistant City Managers to manage ) ,
    c) all city and agency admin, finance etc in 1 department,
    d) all city facilities, maintenance, etc in 1 department  

    Too many managers too few workers and too many unnecessary departments, agencies, and other groups that could be consolidated to save millions

    • The airport could afford the Officers if they were only charged 185k per Officer. That is their current goal with negotiations with the city.  The problem is that the city charges the airport much more per Officer than the actual cost of the Officer to the tune of approximately 240k per Officer.  The city has a policy of making a profit on it’s services and the airport is run as an interprise fund.  The city then takes the profit from the service of it’s Officers and applies it to other pet programs of the city counsel rather than increasing it’s Police budget. The city would rather layoff another 41 officers then to just charge the airport the actual cost of the officer all at the expense of the safety of it’s citizens.

      • It is against FAA policy for any money generated by an airport to not be used for anything other than airport related purposes.

        In other words, the statement, The city has a policy of making a profit on its services and the airport is run as an interprise fund., is not true.

        The airport cannot contribute to the city enterprise fund. 

        The only money a city, or any other airport owner that has accepted FAA money, can make is via indirect income.  That is, for example, when someone visits San Jose, and buys a cheeseburger at McDonalds, the city gets a little tax revenue.  Of course, this same cheeseburger will be sold regardless of which airport the traveler uses.  The same applies for any hotel rooms used, restaurants used, or any other San Jose businesses used by the visitor.  In and of itself, the airport used by the visitor is irrelevant.

        The little money generated by the airport can easily be matched, or exceeded, by closing the airport, and developing 100 acres of the 1000 plus acres being wasted by the airport.  The other 900 acres could be made into a giant park, which would then increase property values all around the airport for even more tax revenue.  Do not forget, airports reduce property values.

        • I’m sorry sir, but you are incorrect.  The memo I cited sent to the city counsel on 2/2/11 lays out the RFQ for the airport police contract and spells out the exact cost which includes 42% overhead.  It clearly states that it goes directly back into the general fund.  I’m not sure the memo has been released to the public but it outlines all of the scenarios and costs and yes it even addresses the addition layoffs to officers if those officers are sent back to the PD budget.  I would think the memo would be public record, call down to city hall and ask for it to be posted.  The memo was a readers digest version of a study to advise the counsel for the counsel meeting when they voted to send out the contract.  The airport is indeed run as an interprise fund but has needed millions of city dollars to function.

  8. Seems like a good idea on paper but my guess is that an SJPD presence at the airport will be needed to check abuse of the flying public by the soon-to-be unionized TSA goons.

  9. San Jose International Airport.  The name itself is false.  Once again the way to save money is “CUT POLICE”
        I know a silly idea that may confuse some of the people pulling the purse strings.  How about a ballot idea for the voters.  We allow the airport to operate from 5am-1230am.  This will allow a surge of flights that can connect to all real airports in the country for long distance flights.  I have spoken to several airline people who have said these times will increase flights to San Jose several fold.  Don’t we get tax money for every flight that lands and takes off from the airport?
        Outrage! we might hear from people who live around airport operations. HAte to inform people but if you live near airport operations your going to hear planes.  Didn’t the city of San Jose insulate, window repair and aircondition homes years ago with the idea of more flights coming to San Jose.  I think the last time they did a sound test was 20 years ago when the MD 80 plane was the plane most flying in San Jose.  That plane alone will knock your fillings out on take off.  The newer modern planes have changed engines three times each of the times they have gotten lower in noise readings.  You can do your own test by standing near the airport and watch a SWA plane leave as compared to an MD 80.  That test is even free to the city of San Jose.  Only equipment needed is your ears and whats between them.
        If people are worried about noise late at night,  aircraft coming in can do a glide path approach for landing.
        All this has been made available to people in the city.  Maybe this forum will start a new wave of thinking in San Jose.

  10. “The airport and the city are “separate accounts.”
    For years we’ve been told the same is true of the RDA and the CSJ General Fund; but we have recently learned otherwise.

    Close all the different accounts with numerous restrictions, put all the $$ in one pot, and prioritize the spending according to the peoples’ wishes.

  11. Figure Ofc. X is already taken I will be Ofc. Y.  Seems that officers at the airport can be replaced with any officers we can all be officers.  Who is the Council person responsible for the airport?

  12. JMO

    Agreed, San Jose residents know that politicians and city staff lie or mislead us to believe what is not true frequently but until City Hall

    – closes all separate and many hidden accounts

    – discloses where all tax and city money is going and to whom, and for what  

    – shows public real numbers not political faked up numbers

    – audits the actual performance results

    the political games, City Hall daily lies and well deserved public mistrust of City Hall and politicians will continue until City Hall changes and is open and honest about where taxes are spent, why decisions are make and political cronyism has no part in City Hall decisions only public good

  13. I just read the memo regarding the staffing change presented to the Mayor and City Council by the Director of Aviatioin. One of the interesting aspects of the memo is that it acknowledges the inevitable need for sworn law enforcement officers to respond to the airport, a need for coordination between airport security and SJPD (which is currently achieved by the current SJPD officers presently assigned to the Airport Division), and notes that officers assigned to the Airport Division handle criminal reporting. However, the memo fails to acknowledge that provision of these services would need to continue and that SJPD remains the only option for these service. It also makes no mention of how SJPD would go about recovering the costs for providing these services to the Airport.

    So, the upshot of this proposal is an additional 41 police officers potentially being laid off (since, apparently, we can’t even afford the officers presently being paid for out of the general fund)delays in the provision of law enforcement services to the airport since officers would have to be assigned from the adjacent district to provide LE services currently provided by officers assigned to the Airport Division, and delays in response for calls for service in the adjecent district at times when traditional patrol resources are absorbed by calls for service at the airport. Oh, and, by the way, San Jose Citizens are the ones who will pay – both in terms of suffering inevitable service degradations but also, in terms of footing the bill for the Airport’s public safety needs which can’t be fulfilled by contract security.

  14. At present the airport is designated as police district “D”.  The airport is surrounded by police districts R, V, and F.  Currently when something happens after the swing shift goes home from the airport requiring additional officers or a supervisor, District R or one of the other two districts supply the resources during the midnight shift.  However, since the assisting officers have not received the specialized training required by the federal government, they can only respond to certain areas of the airport.  They most certainly cannot enter behind the checkpoints nor go onto the planes, the field, or baggage areas.  Only in an extreme emergency such as a major terrorist attack and even then it is questionable.

    Now what happens when the entire airport district is disbanded requiring surrounding police districts to respond 24/7?  None of these officers will have the required training to enter most of the airport.  If the SJPD has to train each shift, days swings, and mids on both sides of the week, to be federally qualified, it will be a nightmare.  And, the SJPD has a shift change every six months.  Is the police department going to hold airport training classes every shift change so that their people can assist on LE calls at the airport, which are many? 

    How about the citizens living in the areas surrounding the airport?  How many times will they call for police services only to have to wait because officers have been called to the airport?  Certainly if the 41 officers removed from the airport were deployed in the surrounding neighborhoods it would not be an issue.  That isn’t going to be the case and the police districts are not going to receive any additional officers.  In fact, each district in the city is currently operating with fewer officers and more cuts are looming.

    Oh, and another headache for the airport is the federal requirement that any door alarm on the concourse has to be responded to within a specified short timeframe or the airport is heavily fined.  Such a pathetic state of affairs.  I’m glad I don’t live in San Jose and can choose Oakland or SF to fly out of where they have much better security.

  15. I’m a security professional and from most of the posts I read, people have real concern for protection and many questions surrounding that protection provided by a private security firm. Replacing city/county police with priavte security (private policy)is cost saving from many venues. However, private police are lower paid and benefited and reduced trainnig and accoutability standards compaired to public counterparts. I Think that private security/policy has a significate role in performing tasks related to public safety. But, the standards, accountability and training must increase significately to do so. It hasn’t thus far. Typically, priavte security throughout the country is observe and report producing lttle accoutability and deterence to crime.

  16. There is no love lost between the County and the City of San Jose. You watch if the Sheriff’s don’t try to take the airport. I know they put in an RFP and if they did they will get it. Look for Wackenhut to take over station 20 and provide fire protection just like they do at Moffet field. If this happens I will never use the San Jose airport again. You heard it here first

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