In early April, Dr. Dao was dragged off a United flight from Chicago O’Hare by officers wearing uniforms that clearly said “Police” on them. This quickly became the biggest story in the country, as it struck a nerve with so many people, and summed up the abuse of power that we’ve seen in the airline industry for so long.
Due to the public outrage, within a few weeks United revealed policy changes they were making as a result of the incident, and also reached a settlement with Dr. Dao. The settlement precluded Dr. Dao from suing the airport, and specifically, the officers who dragged him off the plane. I suspect United’s motive for adding that clause is that they wanted the public attention of this case to die as quickly as possible, and they knew it would drag on if there were another case with the airport authority.
Now it has been a few months since the incident, and the Chicago Department of Aviation has made some very interesting revelations about the incident. The New York Times notes even though Dr. Dao was dragged off the plane by three people wearing black uniforms that said “Police” on them, they weren’t actually police officers:
But on Wednesday, more than three months after the episode, the Chicago Department of Aviation conceded that their security officers were not actually police officers and that the uniforms had been “improperly” marked. It vowed to remove the word from uniforms, vehicles and other insignia in the coming months.
How the heck do you “improperly” mark uniforms, vehicles, etc.?!
The Chicago Department of Aviation conceded that this was a “completely unacceptable” sequence of events, and that going forward, airport security officers will only be asked to board planes if directed to do so by the police:
Under a new “directive,” airport security officers like those who removed the passenger, Dr. David Dao, will be sent onto planes only to respond to a disturbance when Chicago Police requests them. A city ordinance that will go into effect this month will also — with a few exceptions — prevent security officers from removing passengers from an aircraft, said Lauren Huffman, a spokeswoman for the Chicago Department of Aviation.
“Really, it should be law enforcement that is boarding a plane in most situations,” Ms. Huffman said in a telephone interview. “There perhaps was some internal confusion of roles,” she said, citing the old policy documents. “And we want to be clear to the public.”
I wonder what would have happened if actual law enforcement officers had boarded the plane, rather than the airport security staff. I’m not sure the result would have necessarily been all that different, since the police would likely have enforced United’s desire to have the passenger removed. Whether or not they would have used such a level of force, though…
(Tip of the hat to @pir8z40)