Protect and serve used to be the motto of police departments. But for Chicago airport police, that motto has been changed to “run and hide.”
According to a recent CNN story, Chicago’s aviation department advises its police officers confronted with an active shooter to run away and find someplace to lock themselves in safely.
An aviation department training video tells new officers, “If evacuation is not possible, you should find a place to hide where the active shooter is less likely to find you. Block entry to your hiding place and lock the door.”
Police at Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway airports are certified police officers in the state of Illinois. They have the usual badges, uniforms and gear that all says “police” on it.
The airport police train with other Chicago police at the same academy, according to union representatives.
The difference is that Chicago’s 300 airport police, called aviation security officers, work in a city with some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country, and the Powers That Be have determined that they should not carry firearms. The policy dates to the 1990s.
The Chicago Police Department is the primary enforcement agency at the airports. In any major arrests or incidents that the airport police handle, they have to wait for the Chicago Police to show up. The CPD officers assigned to the airport do carry weapons.
This arrangement, which according to CNN is unique among the nation’s major airports, has been the source of an ongoing dispute between aviation officers and the Police Chief Richard Edgeworth.
In at least one incident involving a man with a knife, the suspect challenged aviation officers with violence, saying he knew they were unarmed.
“We’re nothing but casualties if you tell us to run and hide,” said one anonymous security officer. “And how can the public look at us if they see police officers running and hiding? That goes against the very oath we were sworn to that we took.”
Matt Brandon, the secretary-treasurer of Service Employees International Union 73, which represents aviation officers, said, “They are the last resort to the airfield in many cases, and to have them unarmed is just, I think, it’s ludicrous.”
Even by gun control standards, the situation is absurd.
Gun control laws don’t really quell crime, but even in the logic-defying worldview where gun restrictions sound like a good idea, they are predicated on the notion that the police carry weapons to back up the unarmed citizens.
Airports are already seen as potential sites for terrorism by the world’s bad guys, and travelers count on the generally high security to keep them safe. How safe can you be at an airport where the cops are told to run at the first sign of trouble?
Just like gun-free zones, this seems like a rule designed to make Chicago’s airports even bigger targets.