If an armed assailant opens fire at one of Chicago’s airports, “run and hide” is the order of the day.
You might be surprised, however, to learn that advice isn’t for the millions of innocent air travelers passing through O’Hare and Midway international airports on business, vacation or visits to family — that’s official guidance for 300 sworn, certified and uniformed aviation police officers who work at the city’s two airports.
Because they don’t carry guns.
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“We’re nothing but casualties if you tell us to run and hide,” one aviation officer told CNN. “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.”
These cops, many of whom are military veterans and all of whom pass through the Chicago Police Training Academy, say they feel like “sitting ducks.” O’Hare Airport is the nation’s second busiest airport, and a prime, high-profile target for terrorism. The men and women working at Chicago’s airports tell CNN these rules do not make sense.
The CNN Investigations exclusive report details the policy:
Internal aviation department documents obtained through department sources state, “If evacuation is not possible: hide.”
The documents advise locking doors, turning off lights and remaining quiet and calm.
“We must also ensure that unarmed security personnel … do not attempt to become part of the response, but could be invaluable to the evacuation efforts,” the documents said.
In addition, a training video shown to aviation police officers has the same instructions: “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.”
The only firearms in the airport — aside from the guns passengers inadvertently bring to security checkpoints in their carry-on bags — are carried by the 231 Chicago police officers also stationed there.
Security experts told CNN the policy is “absurd” and “crazy.”
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A union official said the prohibition on firearms dates back to the 1990s.
“They are the last resort to the airfield in many cases, and to have them unarmed is just, I think, it’s ludicrous,” said Matt Brandon, secretary-treasurer of the Service Employees International Union Local 73.
The chief who oversees aviation police, Richard Edgeworth, refused to comment to CNN, ignored phone calls and ran away from a CNN reporter who tried to question him at his office.
In September, the union sent a letter to Mayor Rahm Emanuel asking for his help, informing him Edgeworth treats his officers like “rent-a-cops.” The letter was dated Sept. 11. The Chicago Sun-Times reported that the mayor’s office would look into the matter.
A spokesperson for the Chicago Aviation Department said the “strategy in place is working.”