Experts say police who dragged passenger had other options
Published 7:43 am Thursday, April 13, 2017
CHICAGO — Airport police officers called to remove a passenger who refused to leave a United Express flight essentially walked into what law enforcement experts say was a no-win situation: enforcing a business decision by a private company.
But if the passenger posed no threat and was not being disruptive, officers almost certainly could have tried an approach other than dragging him out of his seat and down the aisle, including simply telling the airline to resolve the situation itself, experts said.
Cellphone video of the bloodied passenger, 69-year-old David Dao of Elizabethtown, Kentucky, has become a public-relations nightmare for United and led to the suspension of three police officers who worked for the Chicago Department of Aviation.
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The video also underscores a growing dilemma: From airlines to schools, police are called to deal with situations that in the past might have been handled without them, sometimes leading officers to respond with force far beyond the provocation.
“Police have an innate bias for action, but there are times that it’s not in their best interest or that of their agency to get involved in an issue that requires you to use a high level of force,” said Jim Bueermann, president of the Police Foundation, a Washington D.C.-based research group, and former police chief in Redlands, California. “You have to ask whether … you really needed to use force when doing the airline’s bidding.”