CHICAGO — Chicago Department of Aviation officers have filed a class action lawsuit claiming the city ruined their careers by stripping them of their police powers.
This comes nearly one year to the day after Dr. David Dau was dragged from a United Airlines jet for refusing to give up his seat. Aviation officers said the incident, and the city’s response to it, caused them professional pain and suffering.
Keia Yates, Leonardo Rodriguez, Julio Dones and Johnny Jimmerson have a quarter-century experience protecting Chicago’s airports and air travelers. It is experience, they say, that has been erased because of an incident they weren’t even involved in.
“To be scapegoated and change somebody’s life as a public relations move, is a terrible game to play and it shouldn’t be played,” Jimmerson said.
The officers blame aviation commissioner Ginger Evans for what they call an “over-reaction.”
Though the officers trained at the Chicago police academy and drove cars and wore uniforms with the police label, the aviation commissioner said they were never actually police. She asked a state agency to decertify them as “law enforcement.”
“When you apply for another police agency, that’s what they look at, your experience,” Rodriguez said. “That’s what they have taken away from me.”
Bob Sweeney, the officers’ attorney, said: “It would be like saying to a lawyer, ‘I know you’ve been a lawyer for 20 years, but I’m not just going to disbar you. I’m going to say you never were a lawyer and you never went to law school.' And then go find another job. You can’t do it.”
Aviation officers have never been allowed to carry guns. They were once instructed to “run and hide” in the event of a terrorist attack.
“Now you don’t know whether to respond to a situation or sit back and wait,” Dones said. “I don’t know how to do that. If there’s a disturbance, if there’s a problem, I’m running to that problem. That’s what I was trained to do.”
The Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board confirms these officers’ time on the aviation force will “not” count as law enforcement credit. But the agency says it will certify they went through police training, which could help them find other jobs.