CITY HALL — The city's Aviation security force should be disbanded in the wake of the firestorm created after officers seriously injured a Louisville doctor by dragging him off a United Airlines flight last week, an alderman said Wednesday.
The 292-officer Aviation Department security force — which costs the city $19 million annually — should be consolidated into the Chicago Police Department within the next 60 days, 15th Ward Ald. Ray Lopez said.
"There should be one legal authority at the airports," said Lopez, who worked as a skycap at Midway Airport for 12 years before being elected to the City Council in 2015.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel declined earlier this week to speculate about the fate of the Aviation security officers, but praised Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans' handling of the fracas and for suspending three officers involved.
Mayoral spokesman Matt McGrath said Lopez' ordinance would not have averted the incident that an alderman said gave the city "a black eye."
"The problem on that plane was a lack of judgment, not the lack of a weapon, and this wouldn't solve that problem," McGrath said.
Another measure introduced by 14th Ward Ald. Ed Burke would prohibit any city employee from "assisting airline personnel in the removal of any passenger from a plane" at O'Hare and Midway airports.
City officials and representatives of United have apologized for the incident that broke Dr. David Dao's nose, knocked out two of his front teeth and gave him a concussion, his attorney said.
McGrath said the mayor did not want to prejudge the top-to-bottom review of airport security Evans is conducting.
Emanuel did not respond to a question about why the suspended officers involved were wearing jackets emblazoned with the word "police" despite Evans telling aldermen that the Aviation security officers were told in January to identify themselves as "security."
But Emanuel's unwillingness to comment on the investigation did not stop him from pointing out that his administration had resisted efforts by some aldermen to allow the Aviation security officers to carry guns while on duty.
"That clearly would have been wrong" to allow the officers to carry guns, Emanuel said.
Lopez said disbanding the Aviation security force would resolve those questions and ensure that everyone traveling through the airport would be able to ask a full-fledged police officer for help if necessary.
United Airlines flight 3411, an Embraer jet flown through the airline's United Express arm, was scheduled to depart from O'Hare International Airport at 5:40 p.m. on April 9 for Louisville International Airport when the company asked four passengers to voluntarily leave the plane so that four nonworking crew members could travel to Louisville, United officials said.
United officials said this week that passengers who had already boarded the plane would no longer be asked to leave their seats to make room for crew members.