The Crusader Newspaper Group

More than half the police in Chicago airports are unarmed

By Chuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Ross Weidner

If armed terrorists rushed the front entrances at Chicago’s airports they would find more than half of all uniform police officers at O’Hare and Midway are unarmed.

At O’Hare and Midway not all 500 sworn police officers are created equal. Regular Chicago police carry guns. City Aviation Department police do not, even though they all undergo law enforcement training and certification. The unarmed airport police say that would be a problem in a terrorist attack.

With passengers scattering in Istanbul, authorities say armed police near the front door brought down at least one of the terrorists and stopped him from shooting even more people before blowing himself up.

At Chicago’s airports there are about 230 armed Chicago police officers and nearly 300 unarmed aviation police.

“We are the only airport that allow our police officers to be unarmed while on duty,” says 29th Ward Alderman Chris Taliaferro.

Taliaferro has been a Chicago police officer for more than two decades. He’s now on leave, serving his first term as 29th Ward Alderman. Last spring he introduced an ordinance that would arm aviation police. It’s now stalled 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.

That run and hide policy is “a recipe for failure” in a terrorist attack such as Istanbul, according to Matt Brandon, with the union that represents unarmed aviation officers.

The union has been pressing for aviation cops to be armed for decades. The I-Team first reported on it in 1999.

“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.


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