The Syracuse Police Benevolent Association is pressing a legal challenge to a new system for security at Hancock Airport. Under a deal negotiated by a new Airport Authority, the security work is now performed by a private firm, G4S. YNN's Bill Carey says the police union is claiming the city is ignoring the potential for some serious complications.
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SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- The city says the move to private security will save millions of dollars, helping to lower costs and encourage airlines not to cutback service or raise fares in Syracuse. The plan ended the practice of paying lots of overtime to police to handle the job.
“Nobody is going to say, you know what, we'll pay overtime and lose Jet Blue or American Airlines or all of those things,” Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner said.
Still, a new airport authority had to comply with rules that required people with police powers to be on hand to compliment that private security. The answer? G4S hires off-duty officers to work for the private firm.
But the police union is now questioning whether any ticket, or any arrest made by those off duty officers working at the airport will hold up in court.
“Security companies, under the Criminal Procedure Law of New York State, when off duty officers work for them, the off duty officers do not have peace officer powers,” said Syracuse PBA President Jeff Piedmonte.
The union argues the plan put in place at Hancock has opened the door to future legal battles.
Piedmonte said, “All it's going to take is one incident, one major incident, where it's challenged in court. What are the ramifications going to be? I don't want to see the officers being sued, the city being sued.”
The city and the new airport authority say their lawyers believe all legal requirements have been met. Piedmonte, who says he warned the city early on, isn't so sure.
“Those attorneys came back and said, oh no, what we're going to do is the officers will be security guards until something occurs, at which time they will then turn into the police and now they're the police,” Piedmonte.
The PBA also claims not having a full complement of police is a recipe for serious problems.
Piedmonte said, “I think it's a huge security risk for the officers that are working it and, more importantly, for the people who are flying through the airport.”
For now, the city says it's all a case of a union unhappy that it lost out on a deal.
Miner said, “For two-and-a-half years, we worked in good faith with the PBA, but they simply did not want to make the kind of concessions that were needed.”
Concessions that Miner says were essential for the airport's future.
The city is claiming it saved a large amount of money in its $2.4 million deal with G4S.
The police union contends that its offer to provide security manpower would have cost the city even less money than the private security firm. It's a claim the airport authority and city reject.