Airport Security Leadership Still Vacant: Who is Erroll Southers?

Friday, January 15, 2010

A former police officer and FBI agent, Erroll Southers has spent the last several years helping run security for one of the world’s busiest airports—Los Angeles International — while also teaching classes and working at an anti-terrorism center for the University of Southern California. His background would seem to be ideally suited to becoming the fifth person to oversee the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) since its creation in 2001, however his road to confirmation has been a rocky one. Although President Barack Obama announced his nomination of Southers in September 2009, the position of administrator of TSA remains unfilled.

Southers attended college at Brown University, where he earned a B.S. in biology in 1978. He completed one semester of medical school before deciding to switch careers and pursue law enforcement.
He was a police officer with the Santa Monica Police Department, and rose to the rank of detective. Then, in 1984, he joined the FBI as a Special Agent, working on matters involving counterterrorism and foreign counterintelligence. He also was a member of the FBI’s SWAT Team. During this period, Southers took part in professional bodybuilding contests. Training at the World Gym in Santa Monica, he met actor Arnold Schwarzenegger. He left the FBI in 1989 a few months after being censured for using confidential criminal databases to research his estranged wife’s boyfriend. It was this incident that would come back to haunt Southers when he provided misleading testimony to Congress.
Southers returned to school at USC, earning a Masters of Public Administration in 1998. He is said to have been pursuing a doctorate in policy, planning and development for several years now.
His professional experience also has included work as an executive director in the Long Beach City Manager’s Office, and serving as assistant vice president and chief of protective services for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.
In 2004, Arnold Schwarzenegger, now the governor of California, chose Southers to be Deputy Director of Homeland Security for the state of California. In this capacity, he was responsible for the oversight of counterterrorism policy and national pilot programs designed to protect the state’s critical infrastructure.
After two years, Southers returned to USC to become Adjunct Professor of Homeland Security and Public Policy in the School of Policy, Planning and Development, and serve as associate director at the Center for Risk and Economic Analysis of Terrorism Events (CREATE). He has lectured at the Joint Chiefs of Staff Level IV Antiterrorism Seminars and testified before Congress regarding homeland security issues.
Southers joined the Los Angeles World Airports Police Department, the largest airport police department in the United States, as Chief of Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism, before taking on the title Assistant Chief for Homeland Security and Intelligence. He has been in charge of emergency services, the canine unit, vulnerability assessments, critical infrastructure protection and anti-terrorism efforts.
He founded Risk Management Consultants International, providing security consultation and expert witness testimony. His career has included creating counterterrorism studies in Israel at the invitation of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Israeli Defense Forces’ Home Front Command. He was a member of the Rio Hondo Police Academy faculty and tactical staff, and is a former senior fellow at UCLA’s School of Public Affairs.
Southers is a Certified Institutional Protection manager and certified in homeland security by the American College of Forensic Examiners Institute.
On September 10, 2009, President Obama announced his intention to nominate Southers to be the administrator of TSA. Southers was approved by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on November 19, but the next day he wrote to key committee members changing his testimony. Southers had submitted an affidavit stating that in the incident relating to his wife’s boyfriend in 1987-1988, he had asked a friend who worked for the San Diego Police Department to access criminal records about the boyfriend. This was true, but Southers himself had also conducted database searches. Southers’ apology for providing misleading testimony was accepted, but later Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) held up Southers’ confirmation on the grounds that Southers was a supporter of the unionization of TSA employees.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Erroll G. Southers (University of Southern California)
TSA Nominee Misled Congress about Accessing Confidential Records (by Robert O’Harrow, Jr., Washington Post)
Conducting a Security Evaluation (by Errol Southers, National Association of Independent Schools)


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