Over half of the uniformed police officers in Chicago’s two major airports are unarmed, with about 300 certified law enforcement officers being without even a basic service weapon.
According to ABC7, of the the 500 sworn police officers at O’Hare and Midway airports, only 230 of them -those who fall under Chicago PD and not the City Aviation Department- have sidearms.
“We are the only airport that allow our police officers to be unarmed while on duty,” says 29th Ward Alderman Chris Taliaferro.
A CPD officer with over two decades on the force, Taliaferro is currently on leave as he serves in the position of 29th Ward Alderman. While an ordinance was introduced in spring of last year that would arm aviation police, it is at risk of dying in committee.
“Coupled with being unarmed they are taught as part of their training to run and hide. Certainly any law enforcement officers- in my 21 years as a police officer I’ve never been taught to run and hide. We’ve always been taught to serve and protect,” Taliaferro says.
According to aviation officer union representative Matt Brandon, the “run and hide” policy is considered a “recipe for failure if an attack such as the recent one in Istanbul were to occur in Chicago. Verily, the union has been pressing to arm the aviation police for decades.
“The public is not safe. We’re not safe. And anybody that we would have to protect is totally unprotected when we are called into a situation,” said a Chicago Aviation Officer named Ethan in 1999- well before the 9/11 terror attacks.
“This is not that hard to solve. You need armed, trained individuals on the perimeter of the airports, whether it’s CPD or someone else. Let’s figure that out,” says security expert Jeffery Cramer.
The Chicago Department of Aviation issued a statement, saying:
“The Chicago Police Department (CPD) is the primary law enforcement agency at O’Hare and Midway International Airports. Chicago Police provide the command structure, armed officers and specialized teams for explosives and active shooter response. The airports’ Aviation Security Officers (ASOs) monitor and control access at the secured area perimeter gates; respond to terminal door alarms; and provide vehicular patrol in the secured area for security, traffic enforcement, safety and compliance purposes. They also have a key role in guiding passengers to evacuation routes and safe areas. The ASOs work in close coordination with the Chicago Police Department. Chicago Police coordinates with FBI, TSA, U.S. Customs and Border Control, and others to implement a multi-layered approach for protecting the airports.”
Matt Brandon, Secretary-Treasurer of SEIU Local 73, which represents Aviation Department police officers, also issued a statement, saying:
“The attack on the International Airport in Istanbul, as tragic as it was, would have been much worse if an armed officer had not stopped one of the terrorists from detonating his suicide vest in a crowd of panicked travelers. Aviation Officers at the airports here in Chicago should be able to defend the passengers who use O’Hare and Midway airports, the workers who service them, and themselves from this threat.
The current policy of TSA and the City of Chicago Department of Aviation that Aviation Officers should ‘run and hide’ in the event of a terrorist attack is a recipe for failure! Local 73 continues to demand that the Aviation Officers at O’Hare and Midway airports be armed for the public’s safety, and for Officer’s safety.”
Alderman Taliaferro’s arming ordnance has 17-cosigners, but it held up in the City Council Committee.
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