Passengers traveling through Charlotte-Douglas International Airport will now encounter police officers carrying assault-style rifles. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department says the decision to arm airport officers with the firearms came in the immediate wake of a deadly mass shooting at the Fort Lauderdale airport that left five people dead and more than 40 injured.
Not every officer on airport patrol will carry the weapons, only those who have been specially trained. Still, that’s a major shift since before the Florida shooting, when officers were armed only with handguns.
CMPD Deputy Chief Jeff Estes said the department has long owned the rifles, but typically kept them out of the public eye.
“When we had the incident in Fort Lauderdale,” Estes said, “we believed it prudent and necessary to change our particular stance that we had on what weapons we employ.”
Estes declined to say whether assault-style rifles will become permanent fixtures at the airport, saying only that police will continue to monitor the situation daily.
In addition to the display of heavily armed officers, the airport is also bulking up security in the form of a $3.8 million dollar contract to purchase and install some 500 security cameras and related equipment throughout the airport.
Aviation Director Brent Cagle said the purchase is part of routine security upgrades and is unrelated to the Fort Lauderdale shooting.
“This is not a direct response to Fort Lauderdale, but certainly world events play into our view on security,” Cagle said. “Security is always evolving because the threat is always changing.”
The contract was approved by Charlotte City Council on Monday. The tech company Johnson Controls Inc. will supply the equipment.