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Armed security guards eventually will replace Medford Police Department officers at the Medford, Ore., airport because the Transportation Security Administration has cut funding for the program, according to an article from the Mail Tribune.
"We're too expensive," Medford police chief Tim George told the City Council Thursday, as reported in the article.
Under the current contract, Medford police charge the airport $44 an hour to have one policeman on duty for about 20 hours each day. For the next six months, until the private security company takes over, the rate will be bumped up to $46 an hour to cover increased overhead, the article says.
The airport received $24 an hour in compensation from TSA to help pay for part of the contract with Medford police, but that budget recently was dropped to $20 an hour.
Even though the Medford police won't have at least one officer at the airport nearly 20 hours a day, they still will be required to send units out for emergency calls at the airport, which is within the city limits of Medford, the Mail Tribune reports.
Councilman John Michaels said the airport still will receive the benefit of having officers nearby in case of emergencies, but won't be paying the cost of having an officer stationed at the airport, the article says.
As a result of the eventual loss of the contract, the police department will lose three full-time positions. However, the police department currently has vacancies for four officers, so no layoffs will be necessary, according to the Mail Tribune.
Airport director Bern Case said the airport has been overspending by continuing with the Medford police contract. Providing airport security has become more of an unfunded mandate, he says in the article.
With the further drop in funding from TSA, Case said, the airport could no longer absorb the cost of the more expensive police officers.
By going with a private security company, the airport estimates it will save $200,000 annually, the article says.
The security guards will receive state licenses so they can carry firearms. A private security company hasn't been selected yet, but Case said he hopes that whichever company Jackson County chooses will hire retired officers from the local area to be stationed at the airport, the article notes.
The Medford Police Department has had a contract at the airport since 2006.