‘Police’ No More: Chicago Airport Security Officers Lose Word From Uniforms As Cops Take Over

Chicago airport security officers are to lose the word “police” from their uniform following the forcible removal of Dr. David Dao from a United Airlines flight on April 9. Police officers are to take over handling disturbances at the city’s airports following the controversy, reports the Associated Press. The moves come following a review of security procedure in wake of the incident. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the Aviation Commissioner, Ginger Evans, set the bottom line.

“They are not police. People who are not police can’t use the word police.”

The ‘police’ markings will be replaced with ones indicating their actual status. Security officers had been previously told that they had to replace the markings with ones bearing the word “security,” Evans told the Chicago City Council hearing, but none had followed the instruction. Despite this change, airport security’s duties will stay largely intact. It was also revealed that the suspended airport security officers involved in the removal of Dao have had disciplinary action recommended against them by Inspector General Joe Ferguson, but the extent of the suggested punishment has not been disclosed. In addition to the Chicago Police Department handling disturbances and the removal of “police” decals, how security officers are trained is to be changed and their training manual is to be updated. The security officers will be furnished with a “more clear and concise understanding of terminology, duties, and training” said the Aviation Department, the Chicago Tribune reports.

United Airlines vice president John Slater speaks at City Council hearing.
United Airlines vice president, John Slater, speaks at the Chicago City Council hearing following the violent removal of David Dao from a United flight in April. [Image by Teresa Crawford/AP Images]

Part of the research for the report involved consulting an Israeli security company, as well as a review of other U.S. airports’ security arrangements, which has shown Chicago as an outlier. Most cities employ police officers to handle airport security, while Chicago relies on police in addition to 290 security officers, who are trained at the city’s police academy for only four months. There are currently no plans to change this situation, beyond the new policies, with the number of security staff not currently under consideration. The aviation officers’ union has hit back at Evans, and are undertaking a vote of no confidence in her. Evans’ has “tarnished the long standing good reputation which the Aviation Police maintained with the traveling public,” union trustee Dian Palmer said in a statement. Palmer also accused Evans of trying to “scapegoat the Airport Police officers.”

A United Airlines plane approaches Miami.
United Airlines suffered a PR disaster in April after video of the violent removal of David Dao from a flight went viral. [Image by Markus Mainka/Shutterstock]

The removal of a bloodied Dao from a United Airlines flight from Chicago O’Hare to Louisville, Kentucky was a public relations disaster for both United and Chicago Airport security. The video of his violent removal, which Dao’s attorney said left his client needing reconstructive surgery, as well as missing teeth and a broken nose, went viral immediately. An undisclosed settlement between Dao and United was reached by the end of April, as reported in the Independent.

[Featured Image by Tim Boyle/Getty Images]