The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office was contracted by the Okaloosa County Board of County Commissioners in 2017 to meet the growing law enforcement and security needs of the airport. In response to the need, The Sheriff’s Office created the Airport Security Unit (ASU) with the sole purpose of the development and implementation of a dedicated law enforcement unit to service. The Airport Security Unit is funded solely from revenues generated by the Okaloosa County Airport System. Operating revenues are generated from commissions received from a percentage of gross sales, public parking fees, car rentals, retails/ concession sales, aircraft landing fees and rental agreements.
Supervised by Captain Chad Rewis, ASU deputies respond to a wide variety of calls ranging from assisting passengers with lost baggage, criminal investigations and aircraft incidents. In 2021, the ASU responded to the Transportation and Administration (TSA) Screening checkpoint 11 times for weapons violations arresting six people for trying to carry a firearm to the airplane. In addition to VPS, the ASU also provides law enforcement services to the Destin Executive Airport (DTS) located in Destin, Florida and Bob Sikes Airport (CEW) located in Crestview, Florida. Both DTS and CEW are general aviation airports and are owned and operated by Okaloosa County. In 2019 the ASU enhanced their threat mitigation capabilities by adding an Explosive Detection Canine Team.
The ASU also encompasses the Airport Operations Center (AOC) which is the “Central Nerve Center” of the airport’s system. Aside from dispatching deputies to calls for service, the AOC is tasked with duties and responsibilities that go well beyond law enforcement activities. These include such things as general aviation questions, dispatching maintenance technicians, managing flight information, contractor coordination, interagency information sharing, monitoring security cameras and access points as well as acting as a liaison with Eglin AFB on various issues.
Operations at VPS in 2020 dropped dramatically by nearly 45% from 1.6 million passengers to 950 thousand due to the pandemic. 2021 saw a resurgence and as a result, VPS experienced a 112% increase over 2020 to nearly 2 million passengers! In that time, the ASU saw an increase in calls for service of nearly 20% responding to 24,837 calls, up from 21,271 calls in 2020. This was a 56% increase over 2019 when there were 15,831 calls for service.
The Airport Security Unit provides law enforcement services at the airport 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. For more information call (850) 651-7166.