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Embattled O'Hare, Midway Security Force Gets New Chief

By Heather Cherone | June 20, 2017 12:32pm | Updated on June 23, 2017 11:18am
 Andrew Velasquez III will earn $175,000 a year in his new role.
Andrew Velasquez III will earn $175,000 a year in his new role.
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Flickr/Joselito Tagarao; Department of Homeland Security

O'HARE — A former federal emergency response official will lead the security force charged with protecting passengers at O'Hare and Midway airports, Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans said Tuesday.

Andrew Velasquez III will serve as the managing deputy commissioner for safety and security for O’Hare and Midway International Airports, Evans said.

Velasquez will replace Jeffrey Redding, who was fired in April from his $118,020-a-year position as deputy commissioner for security. Velasquez will earn $175,000 annually because he will also be charged with overseeing emergency response efforts at the airport and work with federal, state and city agencies, officials said.

"Andrew’s strong experience managing large governmental security agencies and coordinating high level emergency responses between federal, state and city agencies makes him extremely qualified to manage safety and security operations for two of the nation’s largest airports, and lead the multilayered security program that helps more than 100 million passengers safely travel through Chicago’s airports each year,” Evans said in a statement.

In 2015, former President Barack Obama appointed Velasquez as the administrator of a six-state area made up of of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Velasquez served as the director of the Illinois Emergency Management Agency from 2007-15, and was the executive director of Chicago's Office of Emergency Management and Communications. A former Chicago police officer, Velasquez is a native of Chicago, officials said.

Velasquez takes over a 292-officer Aviation security force that is under investigation not only by Evans but also by city Inspector General Joseph Ferguson after security officers injured a Louisville doctor by dragging him off a United flight on April 9.

Evans apologized for the fracas that broke Dr. David Dao's nose, knocked out two of his front teeth and gave him a concussion.

Emanuel called the conduct of the security officers "totally, all-around unacceptable." Emanuel said Evans was due to complete a top-to-bottom review of airport security in May, but no findings have been announced.

In a separate incident, an off-duty Aviation Department security officer was injured and a teenager shot when bullets flew between two cars June 8 in Buffalo Grove.

Velasquez, whose first day on the job was Monday, will also find himself embroiled in the simmering fight over whether Aviation security officers should be stripped of the right to call themselves police.

Redding was terminated from the Aviation Department after the Tribune reported he was previously fired by the Illinois Tollway after officials received complaints that he sought sex and money in exchange for work-related favors.

Redding acknowledged to the newspaper that he had a consensual relationship with a female toll collector, but he said that was not the reason he was terminated. Redding also denied he coerced the woman into having sex or giving him money.

Evans gave no reason for Redding's dismissal from the Aviation Department, and representatives of the mayor's office and the Aviation Department did not respond to questions from DNAinfo.