Albany sheriff pulls TSA airport check-point proposal

By Amanda Fries, For Times Union, On Aug 29th 2016, Read Original

Albany, New York ]

A contentious local law proposal that would have made it a crime for passengers to refuse screening at Albany International Airport has been taken off the table.

Sheriff Craig Apple said he requested Local Law E be withdrawn during theAlbany County Legislature's Public Safety Committee meeting on Aug. 24 because of the lack of documentation needed to move the proposal for the Colonie airport forward and the mounting opposition against it.

Several groups — from Muslim advocacy organizations to the New York Civil Liberties Union — came out against the law, which was proposed in April with bipartisan support. Opponents say the law could lead to confusion, unwarranted arrests and racial and religious profiling.

"After conferring with members of the legislature, we figured the people have spoken, they've indicated what they want to do, so let's pull it," Apple said.

The law aimed to cover a weak spot in the current system that allows passengers to walk away without boarding their flights if security staff flags them for additional scrutiny, according to Apple, who has said his deputies don't have legal grounds to question such a person.

The Transportation Security Administration has no police power of its own and currently can only levy a fine.

As the proposed law was written, passengers could be in violation of the law should they leave the line even prior to going through metal detectors and having luggage scanned. Those people could have been further charged with a misdemeanor.

Apple has said the TSA approached the sheriff's office with the proposal, shortly after TSA Administrator Peter Neffengertold Congress and travelers to expect more visible airport security in the wake of bombings at an airport and train station in Brussels, Belgium, including more random searches even after passengers have cleared security checkpoints.

On Monday a TSA representative in Albany, when asked about the withdrawl of the proposal by the legislature, would say only that it was the county's decision.

Legislature Majority Leader Frank Commisso, a Democrat, was a sponsor of the proposal.

He said pulling the proposal was the right thing to do.

"This situation was rather unique in the way it came about, and I feel the sheriff felt very strongly in walking away from it," Commisso said. "I have no problem with his decision."

Legislator Frank Mauriello, R-Colonie, said he was in favor of the measure, but thought it would've been helpful if TSA representatives had come out to explain it further.

"We knew they were the ones that came to the sheriff and asked to do this," Mauriello said. "What I found really confusing, once they had our support and ear, they decided not to come."