Chicago IL July 19 2017 Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans was urged Tuesday to abandon plans to “de-certify” Chicago’s $19 million-a-year force of 292 unarmed aviation police officers or risk making a move that would “destabilize the safety” of O’Hare and Midway airports.
During the 12 years he spent as a Southwest Airlines skycap at Midway Airport, rookie Ald. Ray Lopez (15th) said he saw “many incidents where aviation police responded to calls in a quicker fashion” than Chicago Police officers.
“I have witnessed the aviation police’s ‘badge effect’ on unruly passengers,” Lopez said in a press release.
“I’ve witnessed them deal with everyday routine issues like drunken passengers, fornicating passengers, aggravated passengers coping with irregular operations, domestic issues between families, as well as emergency situations such as power outages, perimeter breaches and runway mishaps.”
On his way into a meeting with aviation police officers, Aviation Committee Chairman Mike Zalewski (23rd) agreed City Council support for the officers is building.
“The commissioner has a strong belief on her behalf. But there’s a lot of aldermen … concerned about their future. And there’s a lot of good examples that they’re gonna bring forth to [Aviation Commissioner] Ginger Evans about why this shouldn’t be done,” Zalewski said. “I don’t think this is over yet.”
Lopez has introduced an order requiring the Chicago Police Department and the Department of Aviation to “identify means for the consolidation” of the two law-enforcement agencies within 60 days.
Security officers would survive the passenger dragging fiasco aboard a United Airlines flight, but only after their roles are minimized, their training is overhauled and the word “police” is stripped from their badges, uniforms and vehicles.
Service Employees International Union Local 73, which represents the officers, has vowed to pursue “all remedies available” to the union.
The chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus has demanded that aviation security officers continue to undergo four months of training at the police academy and retain their titles as police officers.
Ald. Roderick Sawyer (6th) told the Chicago Sun-Times that the aviation police officers “did nothing wrong” and should not be punished.
On Tuesday, Lopez became the latest Chicago alderman to join forces with aviation police officers and the union that represents them.
Lopez not only accused Evans of jeopardizing the safety of airline passengers — he cautioned the commissioner not to turn work previously performed by aviation police over to a private security contractor.
“Any belief that a private contractor security force will be able to handle these issues as diligently for the lowest wages possible is foolish and shortsighted,” the alderman said.
Aviation Department spokesperson Lauren Huffman had no immediate comment on the mounting support for the officers.