The United Airlines Incident: The Police Are Not the Bad Guys

On Sunday, April 10th, 2017, United Airlines asked for four volunteers of Flight #3411 to deplane, as the flight had been overbooked. The airline company needed to fly four employees to Louisville, Kentucky by the next day.

When nobody volunteered, four passengers were then ordered to deplane. Three passengers complied with the directive to deplane. The fourth, physician David Dao, refused to deplane.

Upon his refusal to deplane, law enforcement officers were called to remove Dr. Dao. At this point, he disobeyed lawful orders from peace officers, at which point they utilized the necessary amount of force to effect his removal from the plane.

You can watch the video below:

The overwhelming majority of the ire regarding the incident I have seen has been aimed at United Airlines. Stockholders have used their strongest tool–their portfolio–and stocks held have dropped by $1.4 billion. United CEO Oscar Munoz has been forced to apologize in an attempt to mitigate this PR disaster.

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United CEO Oscar Munoz (courtesy of NBC News)

Of course, whenever the police are part of a controversial incident, there is always somebody who is looking to grind their anti-LE axe.

Nick Wing, writer for the Huffington Post, alleges that the responding LEOs utilized unjustified force. Specifically, he states that the officers employed “state-sanctioned violence…at the behest of a massive corporation.”

I’m not going to give Mr. Wing or the Huffington Post the satisfaction of directing traffic to them from my site. Should any of you wish to read Mr. Wing’s words, you have been given more than enough information to look up his article on your own.

What I will do, however, is debunk this ludicrous notion that the responding officers–and police in general–are sociopathic corporate flunkies.

An airplane is not a public thoroughfare in which anybody can board and can remain as they please. The airplane is property of a private company.

Specifically, it is private property.

If you walk into somebody’s house or apartment and they ask you to leave, it would be ridiculous to balk when the police come and forcibly remove you if you refuse to leave.

Being a corporate entity does not take away your rights of private property. As the responding officers were told by United staff, Dr. Dao refused to deplane when asked, and thus they were tasked with his removal. He could have been walked off quietly, but he insisted on disobeying the officers. Thus, he chose to depart the hard way.

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Dr. David Dao, pictured during a poker tournament. (Image courtesy of TMZ)

If you are asked to disembark, then it is within your best interests to disembark.

If a law enforcement officer gives you an order to disembark, then it would strongly behoove you to disembark.

Mr. Dao, like many others, opted to passively resist the officers rather than leave and try his hand in court.

Anti-LE types like Mr. Wing believe the police should stand next to Mr. Dao all day and politely ask him to leave. Even that might seem a bit extreme to those like him, since eventually their complaints would degenerate to, “The police are harassing that man!”

The police had a job to do, and they did it. He refused to leave and resisted when the officers attempted to pull him from the seat, so they did what they needed to do to remove him from the plane.

He was not “battered,” as Mr. Wing said in his article.

Roughed up a bit? Certainly, though I would invite anyone to try moving somebody who does not want to be moved without roughing them up. Let me give you a hint from personal experience: it’s a lot harder than it sounds.

The police are not the bad guys here, and those who suggest they are have clearly displayed their biases.

The ire clearly belongs aimed at United Airlines. There are several remedies that come to mind that could have been utilized to get their four employees to Louisville without involving law enforcement.

The first one that comes to mind is to increase the money they gave to passengers who deplaned when ordered. The first three received a free hotel and $800. Perhaps they should have utilized better customer service skills and increased that amount before resorting to asking law enforcement to have Dr. Dao removed.

Another idea would have been to contact other available United employees within a certain radius and offer them financial compensation if they redirected to Louisville to cover for the four who could not make it on the flight.

A third idea would have been for them to charter a direct flight for the four employees and fly them to Louisville.

All three of these suggestions could have resolved the situation to everyone’s benefit. Perhaps they made an attempt to do this before they resorted to forcing people off of the aircraft, or perhaps they did not.

Those are questions CEO Munoz can address directly. In fact, the “One Mile at a Time” section of BoardingArea.com suggests that United may be guilty of breach of contract for having the passengers deplane after they had paid and already boarded, so there is a distinct likelihood that Mr. Munoz (or his lawyers, in any case) will be asked those questions in civil court.

The bottom line is this: the police are informed by the airline that there is an uncooperative passenger that needs to be removed, they are going to remove them. Whether or not that removal is pleasant is up to the individual asking to be removed.

The officers did nothing wrong, and it is asinine to try and use this to paint them or police in general in a negative light.

If United Airlines is indeed guilty of breach of contract, the place to dig in one’s heels and fight that case is in a court of law, not on the airplane. This is no different than refuting a traffic violation at the scene of the public contact as opposed to refuting it in traffic court.

I applaud the court of public opinion for actually aiming their ire in the right direction, for a change. United Airlines has the resources to find an alternative solution but instead opted for a more expedient one, and they are currently paying the price for that.

For those looking to make law enforcement the boogeyman: if you’re truly about police accountability, a good step in the right direction would be to learn what the use of force continuum is and to stop crying wolf.

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