O'Hare security chief says improvements on the way for airport

Saturday, May 11, 2002

CHICAGO -- The new director of security at O'Hare International Airport foresees a safer, more efficient airfield with shorter lines at checkpoints, more sophisticated equipment and better trained screeners.

Ike Richardson, a retired rear admiral in the Navy who steps into the new position of federal security director at O'Hare, outlined changes at the world's busiest airport Friday that he said should make the experience for passengers both safer and smoother.

"My goal is world-class security through world-class service," Richardson said.

The first step will be a reconfiguration of security checkpoints at O'Hare, which should be completed by midsummer.

Richardson sees "a very orderly procession" of passengers -- travelers in one serpentine line being directed to metal detectors by federal employees, rather than separate lines for each detector.

He hopes to cut the current average wait time of 20 to 30 minutes in half, and says there won't be any racial or ethnic profiling.

He said he and his team will instead be working on common sense approaches on whom to take a closer look at and what types of items should be confiscated. For example, no one's ever been killed by a pair of tweezers, he said.

However, Richardson said safety is the priority.

"I'm not going to sacrifice security for service," he said. Richardson works for the Transportation Security Administration, the new 30,000-person bureaucracy that is being created almost overnight after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

One of its biggest tasks is hiring and training the federal screeners who will take over.

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