Originally created 05/06/04

Airport officials seek solution



Augusta Regional Airport security officials were scrambling Wednesday, looking for answers and solutions in light of a letter from Georgia's Peace Officer Standards and Training Council indicating the airport isn't meeting the agency's standards.

A council official said that if the airport does not come into compliance by Friday, there could be ramifications for the airport's security department, which has arrest powers.

"Once they're inactive, there are issues about them making arrests, concerning training, access to training, and access to criminal records," Brad Pope, the director of investigations for the council, said Wednesday.

James Cole, the chief of security at Augusta Regional, said a system was put in place Wednesday to deal with the problem in the next couple of days, but that the concern surprised him considering Sizemore Security has provided security to the airport for more than 40 years.

"If we had known that this was problematic, we would have addressed it in a more urgent way a long time ago," he said.

The airport received a letter from the council about a week ago, stating that its security department would be listed as inactive Friday unless it changes the way its officers are contracted through a private firm.

"As we understand it, Georgia law prohibits a government entity from contracting out the law enforcement duties," Mr. Pope said. "For them to be an active agency with POST, they have got to be of course in compliance with the state law whereby government agencies have established a police department."

A recommendation was presented to county commissioners Tuesday to have two deputies from the Richmond County Marshal's Office sent to the airport to keep it in compliance until the police force is completely switched over from Sizemore Security personnel to marshal's deputies. Originally, that switch had been set to take place in August to be able to provide officers with health and retirement benefits. The most recent recommendation will again be discussed today at 2:30 p.m. in a special called meeting.

Mr. Pope said he must evaluate the city's plans Friday before saying whether it would be acceptable to keep the airport active with the council. The airport has nine officers with full arrest powers. Chief Cole said the plan is to hire 12 marshal's deputies.

Reach Preston Sparks or Dena Levitz at (706) 724-0851.