Atlanta Airport Police get Training to Better Deal with Travelers

ATLANTA (AP) -- Atlanta police officers who work at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport are being trained to better deal with travelers who drive up to curbs outside terminals.

The training, which began Monday, is meant to help prevent tense situations that sometimes occur when officers clash with drivers who break the ban on parking outside terminals.

The training puts the 125 airport officers through mock scenarios that test their patience.

''The officers will go through some situations where they ask people to move, and people will be rude,'' said Ben DeCosta, general manager at the airport. ''They can prepare themselves to deal with people who are rude, stubborn and who don't follow directions.''

The training follows a widely publicized incident in November involving a Henry County woman who was thrown to the ground by an airport police officer. Officer Terence Alexander said Diana Dietrich-Barnes was screaming obscenities at him, struggled with him and bumped his elbow with the passenger side mirror of her Ford Explorer.

But Dietrich-Barnes said the officer started yelling, threw her to the ground and put his knees in her back. She said she is in talks with the city over a possible financial settlement. Charges against her were dropped and police continue an internal investigation. The officer is on medical leave.

Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin said the airport police generally do a good job but that police Chief Richard Pennington decided they need more customer service training. She said police officers across the city and other city employees will also receive the training.

Franklin said the airport must project an image of Atlanta as a friendly city, especially considering that ''the economy of the city and state and region depends on it.''

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Information from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, http://www.ajc.com

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