(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI DAILY NEWS)
United passenger will need surgery
A PASSENGER dragged from a United Express flight suffered “significant” concussion and a broken nose, and he lost two front teeth, one of his lawyers said yesterday.
Dr David Dao has been discharged from hospital but he will require reconstructive surgery, said attorney Thomas Demetrio, whose firm is representing the 69-year-old Kentucky physician.
Dao was removed from the plane on Sunday after he refused to give up his seat on the full flight from Chicago to Louisville.
One of Dao’s five children, Crystal Pepper, said the family was “horrified, shocked and sickened” to learn and see what happened. She said seeing her father removed from the flight was “exacerbated” by the fact it was caught on video and widely distributed.
Demetrio said he will likely file a lawsuit on Dao’s behalf, adding that airlines — and United in particular — have long “bullied” passengers.
The video of the passenger being dragged by an officer from the flight also shone an unwanted spotlight on the little-known police force that guards Chicago’s two main airports.
Chicago’s aviation officers are not part of the regular police force, unlike in many other big cities. They get less training than regular officers and can’t carry firearms inside the airports. Three are now on leave amid outrage over how they treated the passenger.
Cellphone footage of the confrontation “really has put it (the force) at risk,” Alderman Chris Taliaferro said on Wednesday, the day before aldermen were due to grill United and the Chicago Aviation Department about why Dao was yanked out of his seat at O’Hare Airport.
The city council is looking for answers about the embarrassing video seen around the world. At the top of the list of questions is whether the airport officers even had the legal authority to board the plane, said Alderman Michael Zalewski, who leads the council’s aviation committee.
“They are allowed in the terminal and baggage area, but my understanding is they may not be allowed on a plane,” he said. Zalewski also said he is not sure if the officers have the authority to make arrests or if they are only authorized to write tickets.
An aviation department spokeswoman did not respond to questions about the duties of the police force, but Zalewski said the agency’s commissioner was to be asked about them.
The department will also be asked about training. Zalewski said airport officers receive four months of training compared with the six months cadets must complete before joining the city’s police department.
“We don’t know what that two-month gap means,” he said, adding that he will ask if the airport officers receive the same kind of training in de-escalating tense situations that city police officers get.
The roughly 300 aviation police officers earn between US$50,000 and US$88,000 a year and cost the city about US$19 million a year. They are city employees but not members of the Chicago Police Department.
The city also assigns approximately 200 regular police officers to the two airports, all of them armed.
One possibility for reform could be to disband the aviation force in favor of more city police officers, though Taliaferro thinks that is unlikely.