Air passenger protection ordinance passes City Council Committee

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Inspired by what happened to the man who was dragged off of a United plane, Chicago's City Council will vote Wednesday on an airline passenger protection ordinance. Aldermen debated details of the measure on Monday.

Dozens of aviation security officers attended an aviation committee meeting at City Hall. At issue is a proposed ordinance that prohibits any city employee from removing an airline passenger unless there is safety or medical issue.

"We are trying to eliminate just going on a plane and handling these situations for the airlines," said Ald. Michael Zalewski, 23rd Ward, Aviation Committee Chairman.

The ordinance comes after three ASOs were suspended for forcibly removing a United Airlines passenger.

"Our employees should not be assisting airline employees in doing their dirty work," said Ald. Ed Burke, 14th Ward.

At the hearing, the aviation commissioner revealed an Israeli agency was reviewing the city's airports security policies and that she was in the process of removing references to aviation police - instead the term would be security. The commissioner said referring to the officers as "police" causes confusion and could leave the city liable.

"They are not sworn in by the police superintendent and they do not have that designation today," Chicago Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans said.

The commissioner was met with resistance on both counts - especially with the ASO's in the audience. Two testified before the committee.

"This is the first time that we are being referred to as security. I've been here 30 years and that's not the case with us. We aren't security, we are the police," said Johnny Jimmerson, an aviation security officer.

"It caused a knee jerk reaction by her to want to downgrade us to security officers, which we are not," said Aurelius Cole, an aviation security officer.

"It's very hard to respect police as it is, but once you're downgraded to security, it's just going to make the job very, very difficult," Jimmerson said.

The aviation commissioner is already in the process of removing "police" from the aviation security vehicles.

As for the proposed ordinance, the aviation committee passed the new ordinance. It goes to the full City Council on Wednesday.
Copyright © 2019 WLS-TV. All Rights Reserved.