Airport Rent-A-Cops Who Dragged Dr. Dao Off Plane Have Been Fired

Filed Under: United

In early April, Dr. Dao was dragged off a United flight from Chicago to Louisville after refusing to give up his seat on an oversold flight after he was already seated. Since he refused to get up, the “police” was called, and they dragged him off the plane, causing him to sustain serious injuries.

This quickly became one of the biggest news stories in the country, as it struck a nerve with so many people, and summed up the abuse of power that we’ve seen in the airline industry for so long.

Due to the public outrage, within a few weeks United revealed policy changes they were making as a result of the incident, and also reached a settlement with Dr. Dao. The settlement precluded Dr. Dao from suing the airport, and specifically, the officers who dragged him off the plane. I suspect United’s motive for adding that clause is that they wanted the public attention of this case to die as quickly as possible, and they knew it would drag on if there were another case with the airport authority.

We later learned that the people who dragged Dr. Dao off the plane weren’t actually police officers, even though their uniforms clearly said “police” on them. Instead they were security officers, and apparently their uniforms were “improperly marked.”

It has been months since the last public development in this case, though it looks like there’s yet another update. It’s being reported that two security officers have been fired and one (who had been suspended) has resigned, for their handling of the Dr. Dao incident.

This is all according to a quarterly report by Inspector General Joe Ferguson, who outlines what caused them to get fired. According to the Chicago Sun Times:

The first officer was accused of violating the Department of Aviation’s use of force policy when he “escalated a non-threatening situation into a physically violent one by forcefully removing a passenger from the aircraft.”

“The ASO’s use of excessive force caused the passenger to hit his face on an armrest, resulting in the passenger sustaining a concussion, a broken nose and the loss of teeth,” Ferguson wrote.

The second officer was accused of making “misleading statements in two reports.” The third officer was accused of making “material omissions in a report regarding the first” officer’s forceful removal of Dao.

“The investigation further established that the sergeant deliberately removed material facts from the third” officer’s `To/From Report’ and approved reports without all essential information,” the inspector general said.

Good! Not surprisingly, the report also highlights the confusion there was regarding the role of the unarmed security officers in the incident.

I’m happy to see how how seriously this incident has been taken, it’s just a shame that it took something like this for policies to change.

(Tip of the hat to The Points Guy)

  1. Awesome. It’s often so sad that rather than focusing on the perpetrator of the injustice our society skips directly to the “company” with deeper pockets. We forget that people rather than entities generally actually are the ones to commit the injustice or wrongdoing.

  2. So is the next chapter in the story going to be rent-a-cop sues for wrongful termination?
    Or was the severance package high enough?

  3. Good. Hope they get slapped with a nice civil suit too. These thugs need to be held personally accountable for misusing the power that comes with a badge.

  4. However people often hide behind legal entities to commit injustice and wrongdoing, so there is nothing wrong in pointing out bad corporate culture

  5. I’m still kind of torn on this whole episode. It’s great Dr. Dao received compensation, but I wish United were punished – severely – for this. Make an example of them. But IANAL so I’m not quite sure how. Incredibly heavy fines? Criminal proceedings against the company as a whole? The only reason we see any lipservice to change in this egregious abuse of power, or assumption of any authority at all, is because it was highly publicized. The contract of carriage is still super-stacked against passengers. Further, we can’t just fly a different airline, and anyone who says “vote with your wallet” is a simpleton that clearly doesn’t understand how oligopolies work or how large the US truly is. Where is the government agency that’s supposed to help citizens?

    And as for the airport and its rent-a-cops, I call shenanigans that the uniforms were “improperly marked”. Is it not illegal to impersonate a police officer? And if so, then the rent-a-cop company should be punished and barred from holding any future contracts, and the owners should be held liable. The use of the badge/patch with “Police” on the uniform was systemic and they knew exactly what they were doing and were just hoping they’d not be caught. Of course that’s hard to prove, but it’s not as if just one or two uniforms were mismarked; I’d venture the entire rent-a-cop force had the same, company-issued uniforms. And that’s symptomatic of a company that’s been getting away with purposeful misrepresentation.

  6. These officers were not impersonating police officers. They were declared to be police officers by the Airport Authority and they have the authority to do so. That being said, these officers do not have the same level of training as police officers in other jurisdictions and for that reason, the Airport Authority decided to no longer call these officers police.

  7. Let’s get the facts straight. The Chicago Department of Aviation officers were certified as a law enforcement agency at the time of the incident. However since the Chicago Municipal code didn’t clearly state they were police officers, the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board decertified the agency. They are no longer certified as law enforcement officers as of June 29, 2017.

  8. “The only reason we see any lipservice to change in this egregious abuse of power, or assumption of any authority at all, is because it was highly publicized”

    Bingo. In Chicago this gets swept under the rug if not for social media. F the offenders involved in this.

  9. “Rent-a-cop” is a disparaging term.
    Would you call your friends “trolly dollys”?

  10. Lucky, is it necessary to refer to them as rent a cops? They were officers with the Chicago Department of Aviation. In today’s climate of shaming and insults, I expected more from you. They screwed up. And they were fired.

  11. They were rent-a-cops, the term is apt.

    We can use either of the following if your feelings are hurt, though:

    – Make Believe Law Fairies
    – Whack-a-Passenger Patrol
    – Officer Barbrady Squad
    – South Chicago Inhabitant

    Your choice.

  12. MG – Dao’s settlement from United precludes him from suing the rent-a-cops or the airport.

  13. It was a very aggressive and hostile society that produced these ‘rent-a-cops’. Thankfully, they’re removed from service.

  14. The Trolly dollies are funny! 9 to 5 etc….Their vids are pretty cool and wish they were FAs on our flights.. That’s big a compliment.

  15. It’s too bad that Oscar was not fired along w/ the rental cars.
    But UAL stock took a beating today thanks to stupid Oscar .

  16. @Jeff Shilling: Focusing on the perpetrators in situations like this is largely useless and we *should* focus on the companies. Simply firing the perpetrators without deep introspection of the company would just be scape-goating and is often used by companies to maintain the status quo.

    Unfortunately when most people focus on the companies, they do so because the companies have money and can be sued for a lot. But the real reason we should focus on companies is that companies dictate policies and define culture (i.e. appropriate/inappropriate behavior), which if not addressed will lead to repeat incidents.

    Most employees go to work with the intention of doing a good job. When an incident occurs, you have to ask if someone had bad intention (bad apples, etc) and then the focus should be on improvement of hiring practices, otherwise you’ll keep hiring bad apples and repeating the incidents. Secondly if there was no bad intent, you have to ask how the incident arose and what information was at hand, then work to improve processes and information sharing. I think United has problems with both – they hired/contracted bad apples who had no respect for passengers, and they also had bad policies that not only led to the overbooking, but also led to the confrontation. They’ve said they’ve addressed the policies, but they’ve largely ignored the hiring/contracting, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear future stories of assaulting passengers.

  17. @Jyee, I appreciate your comments and I realize your comments represent the majority view. I will say upfront that whatever triggered the “decision” to remove the passenger certainly needs to be investigated, and it needs to be identified if the very reason might have altered this final outcome. United should be held liable for any wrongdoing with regard for the reason. But aside from that, I take what I believe to be the minority view.

    And, given the likely large number of customers or passengers that have to be “removed,” I think the reason in this case

    If I curbed my comments to one thing I would simply, if any of us were the CEO or any other position of leadership, what would we have done to prevent this end result? I would be hard pressed for me to believe or even claim that I would have “reasonably foreseen” this outcome. And without foreseeing it, I do not think I would have altered policies, training, or hiring processes to address it. Perhaps others have more of a crystal ball than I do.

    Call the “police” what you want, they were not employees or contractors of United. They were employees of the Airport Authority, part of the local municipality or municipalities. United likely had no right or even window of opportunity to require anything on the Authority to do anything – it was that agencies job to address and handle these personnel and to train them to execute the duties of that job. And, it was the employees responsibility to act accordingly…in addition to follow the law and act like a responsible human. (emphasis added)

    No doubt, the decision to remove does pass the “but for” test: but for the decision to remove, the man would not have been harmed. However, there is no “causal connection.” Airlines and Merchants of all kinds remove customers, often times with help from the police. I find it hard to believe that they would reasonably believe the outcome to be like this one.

    In the end, United offered so much money. Sufficiently so that the passenger settled rather than took advantage of popular opinion and filed legal action. But United did not stop there. They offered a sum so high, that the passenger waived all rights to take action against the Airport Authority as well as the “police.” In my view…that’s some pretty hefty responsibility! I would ask, what more would you expect them to do? And if you felt they needed even more punishment, do you feel that punishment should go to the passenger?

    Just me. But it is sad that people escape personal responsibility in a multitude of situations. Oddly, with body cams on police, we seem to be going after the individual police offices for their actions. While I agree, I wonder why more people are not wanting to go after the municipality that hired them? Why do we focus on companies when an employee commits sexual harassment? No doubt if a company tolerates or encourages such within the environment, they should be corrected. But all to often we don’t so much as investigate such matters before we take our eyes of the perpetrator and look immediately to the company.

    I am joking or over dramatizing here in part, but I wonder if a mass murderer would be indemnified if he was doing it on the clock? Surely the company failed to train the man. They company obviously hired him. And, the company failed to identify the future outcome or otherwise prevent the act(s). Must be the fault of the company.

    I guess if I am going to do any wrong or illegal actions I best do it while employed. Perhaps then I will be indemnified.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *