Two aviation security officers have been fired — and a suspended officer has resigned — for their roles in the April 9 passenger dragging fiasco aboard United Airlines Flight 3411.
The final resolution of disciplinary action recommended by Inspector General Joe Ferguson is included in Ferguson’s quarterly report, released Tuesday.
As always, the names of the fired employees were withheld. They were identified only as an aviation security officer and a sergeant.
Five-day suspensions were handed to two other aviation security officers who boarded the plane and dragged a bloodied and flailing Dr. David Dao down the aisle for refusing to give up his seat for a United crew member who needed to get to Louisville.
One of the suspensions was reduced to two days after a grievance was filed. The other suspended officer filed a grievance, then withdrew it and resigned.
Instead of identifying the four officers, Ferguson described the now widely known circumstances that gave Chicago and United a black eye around the world.
The first officer was accused of violating the Department of Aviation’s use of force policy when he “escalated a non-threatening situation into a physically violent one by forcefully removing a passenger from the aircraft.”
“The ASO’s use of excessive force caused the passenger to hit his face on an armrest, resulting in the passenger sustaining a concussion, a broken nose and the loss of teeth,” Ferguson wrote.
The second officer was accused of making “misleading statements in two reports.” The third officer was accused of making “material omissions in a report regarding the first” officer’s forceful removal of Dao.
“The investigation further established that the sergeant deliberately removed material facts from the third” officer’s `To/From Report’ and approved reports without all essential information,” the inspector general said.
Ferguson said his investigation also identified what has been clear for years. There is “significant confusion” about the role that unarmed aviation security officers play in the layers of security that protect O’Hare and Midway Airports.
The confusion “highlighted CDA’s fundamental failure to implement practical policies and procedures,” Ferguson wrote.
Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans announced earlier this year that Chicago’s $19 million-a-year force of 292 unarmed aviation police officers would have their roles minimized, their training overhauled and the word “police” stripped from their badges, uniforms and vehicles.
Service Employees International Union Local 73, which represents the 292 officers, has accused the commissioner of “scapegoating” them to divert attention from what the union called “her own failed policies and mismanagement.”
The chairman of the City Council’s Black Caucus wants aviation security officers to continue to undergo four months of training at the police academy and retain their titles as police officers.
In his quarterly report, Ferguson noted that a broader review of aviation security is underway.
He urged Evans to “fully consider the serious issues identified” in his quarterly report during that review to make certain aviation security officers and their bosses “have a clear and consistent understanding of their roles and responsibilities — individually and in relation to CPD and other airport personnel.”
Ferguson noted that both fired officers have “grieved their discharge” with arbitration dates not yet scheduled.
Summoned by United, three unarmed aviation security officers boarded Flight 3411 and dragged a flailing and bloodied Dao down the aisle when the doctor refused to give up his seat for a United crew member who needed to get to Louisville.
The incident left Dao with injuries that his attorneys described as a broken nose, two chipped teeth and a sinus problem that will require surgery. Dao has already settled with United for an undisclosed amount. The settlement included an agreement not to seek damages from beleaguered Chicago taxpayers.
But viral video of the incident fast became an international symbol of passenger discontent with the flying experience and a civic embarrassment that damaged Chicago’s reputation as an international tourist destination.
“This is not a day of celebration for Dr. Dao, who is neither vindictive nor happy about Mr. Ferguson’s findings,” Dao’s attorney, Thomas Demetrio, said in a statement. Passengers, he added, should retain the right to record what is going on when they travel.
“There is a lesson to be learned here for police officers at all levels. Do not state something that is clearly contrary to video viewed by the world. But for the video, the filed report stating that only “minimal” force was used would have been unnoticed. Simply put, don’t make stuff up.”