Union says airport police name change to airport security is 'endangering public safety'

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A union representing three officers involved in the incident at O'Hare Airport, where a United Airlines passenger was dragged off a flight, have now filed a labor board complaint claiming the city is endangering public safety by trying to downgrade the entire agency to security guards.

The ABC 7 I-Team reported Tuesday that city officials are rebranding the Aviation Police Agency to Aviation Security. This follows the infamous onboard passenger dragging by three aviation police officers.

Their union said the name change is a safety risk and a contract violation.

Until the incident at O'Hare, Chicago's Airport Police were angling to become part of the Chicago Police Department. Now, they are fighting just to keep the word "police" on their sleeves after the I-Team reported that that Aviation Police vehicles were already being rebranded as security.

The busting down from police to essentially security guards resulted in an unfair labor practices complaint being filed by the union representing Chicago Aviation police officers.

SEIU Local 73 accused the city of jeopardizing the traveling public's safety by rebranding DOA Police as something else.

On Wednesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the name change had been in the works but what is critical is what officers do.

"What everybody saw is totally unacceptable. There's a review/investigation going on and I'm not going to pre-judge that. My main goal now is to get to the bottom of what happened, find out who's responsible. Make whatever changes are necessary. When the report's back, we're going to do that," he said.

The downgrade from police to security "undermine the actual authority held by aviation officers and place everyone using Chicago airports at unnecessary risk," according to complaints.

DOA officers are trained and certified as police officers, although they have never been armed.

Prior to the United incident, the nearly 300-officer DOA police force seemed closer than ever to being armed or even absorbed into the Chicago police, even gaining traction in the city council.

"They would keep everything they currently have but would become a part of or a branch of the Chicago Police Department that is something certainly I would be satisfied with if it allows, if they are armed," 29th Ward Alderman Chris Taliaferro said last February.

That optimism in February from Alderman Taliaferro gave way to criticism. On Wednesday, Taliaferro told the I-Team that the city's name change from police to security will cost money because he said security guards can't write tickets and federal law enforcement funds can't be used on security guards.
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