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Put all airport security in hands of Chicago police

Demonstrators at O'Hare International Airport in April 2017 were upset airport police officers physically removing Dr. David Dao from his seat on a United Airlines flight and dragging him off an airplane. Dao had been asked to give up his seat for a United crew member on a flight from Chicago to Louisville, Ky. | Joshua Lott/AFP/Getty Images

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Anyone who saw the upsetting videos of a passenger being dragged off a United Airlines plane on April 9 at O’Hare Airport had to wonder: Isn’t there a better way to handle security at the airports?

The officers were unarmed Chicago aviation police, a little-known security force that was the topic of a different controversy earlier this year when the airport cops — who carry radios, but not guns —were notified in an email they wouldn’t be expected to show up at disturbances in unsecured areas of the airports. Protecting unsecured areas is the job of the Chicago Police Department.

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Why, people wondered then, were O’Hare and Midway airports patrolled by cops who are expected to look the other way when people’s lives are in danger?

Now people are wondering why the aviation cops are on the loose even in the secured areas of the airports, where they apparently can’t be trusted to handle a recalcitrant ticket-buying passenger without anyone getting hurt. The passenger in the videos, Dr. David Dao, got a concussion, broken nose and lost two teeth as airport police removed him from a plane.

The most logical solution would be to put all airport security in the hands of Chicago Police officers. Tens of millions of travelers pass through O’Hare and Midway airports each year, and they deserve competent protection.

The city’s aviation cops get four months of police academy training and they must be certified each year to carry a firearm, even though they don’t carry one while on duty. The airports have 292 aviation security officers. But the United incident cast doubt on their ability to handle even a situation where no one was being threatened.

Last year, Ald. Chris Taliaferro (29th) suggested the answer was to arm the aviation cops. But it’s unlikely anyone watching the video of aviation police removing Dr. David Dao from Flight 3411 thinks that’s a good idea.

Airports are busy places. Security challenges off all sorts can pop up at any moment. If the city can’t come up with a better solution, it’s time to turn over all airport security to the Chicago Police Department.

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