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2 more aviation cops on leave after United doc-dragging incident

"And this can never, will never, happen again on a United Airlines flight," United CEO Oscar Munoz told ABC. | Screenshot

Two more Chicago aviation security police officers involved in the dragging of 69-year-old Dr. David Dao off a United Express jet on Sunday evening were suspended Wednesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration announced.

“The Chicago Department of Aviation continues reviewing the details surrounding the incident,” Department of Aviation spokesman Karen Pride said. “As part of our review, two additional officers have been placed on administrative leave until further notice. The employees’ collective bargaining agreement prohibits the CDA from releasing their names at this time.”

A third additional aviation security officer was suspended on Monday.

Wednesday’s development came after United’s CEO said Wednesday morning that the carrier will not allow police to remove a passenger from an aircraft again in situations like the one that occurred Sunday, when Dao was bloodied and dragged off the plane at O’Hare Airport.

In addition, passengers on the flight, which was delayed about three hours, will get refunds. “All customers on Flight 3411 from Sunday, April 9, are receiving compensation for the cost of their tickets,” United said Wednesday.

The day began with Munoz going on national TV to apologize for the incident, which has sparked outrage around the world after several social-media videos of it surfaced.

Oscar Munoz told ABC News that “we are not going to put a law enforcement official to take them off the aircraft. … To remove a booked, paid, seating passenger? We can’t do that.

“That is not who our family at United is and you saw us at a bad moment,” he added. “And this can never, will never, happen again on a United Airlines flight.”

Munoz described whole episode as a “system failure.”

“We have not provided our front line (employees) with the proper tools policies, procedures that allow them to use their common sense,” he said. “They all have an incredible amount of common sense and this issue could have been solved by that. That’s on me. I have to fix that, and I think that’s something that we can do.”

Dao was on the United Express flight from Chicago to Louisville when airline personnel realized they needed four more seats for an extra flight crew that was needed in Kentucky. Three other passengers eventually agreed to leave, but Dao insisted he needed to return home to care for patients.

Munoz said he hasn’t considered resigning in the wake of the scandal. He initially defended his employees’ handling of the situation and accused Dao of being “disruptive and belligerent.”

By Wednesday morning, he was more conciliatory. Asked if Dao can be blamed for doing anything wrong, Munoz replied: “No. He can’t be. He was a paying passenger.”

He said he had not yet spoken to Dao to offer a personal apology, which he said was warranted.

“We have to more deeply embed a concept of caring, a concept of trust, a concept that large corporations do have a heart,” Munoz said.

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The Chicago City Council is set to conduct a hearing on the O’Hare passenger-dragging incident on Thursday.

In advance of that, a veteran aviation security officer assigned to O’Hare is defending his colleagues. The officer spoke on condition of anonymity, noting that United staff summoned the aviation security police force to deal with the problem.

“You called the police. You needed the police. You had a person interfering with a flight. The flight needed to get off the ground,” the officer said. “Regardless of whether you’re a paying passenger or not, you still cannot interfere with a flight.

“When the police come on the scene, several times, they ask him, `Sir, can you leave? Can you stand up?’ He was uncooperative. He became resistant. Then, when they attempted to try to move him from the seat he was in, that’s when he begins swinging his arms and you could see him screaming.

“He made it look worse than what it is. Then, everybody jumps on the cell phones and says, `Oh, wow. This is a big thing.’”

In the police academy — where aviation security officers spend four months in training — officers are taught to get assailants and those resisting arrest to the ground as quickly as possible, the aviation security officer said.

“If he’s on his seat, he could use his seat to stand in one place and say, `No, I’m not moving.’ So, you’ve got to get him off the seat and get him to the ground. The person was fighting and kicking,” the officer said.

The aviation security police are one of two city law-enforcement agencies to patrol Chicago’s airports. Though they have arrest powers, they are not armed — unlike regular Chicago Police officers who also patrol O’Hare and Midway.

The aviation security officer argued that the viral video should not snuff out the longstanding drive to arm the police force.

“One situation does not mean that we should not allow our police officers to carry a sidearm, which is a tool they need to do their job. That’s crazy,” the officer said.