Chicago cops to get 1,400 stun guns, conflict training
Chicago — Mayor Rahm Emanuel said Wednesday that Chicago police must be better trained to distinguish between when they can use a gun and when they should use a gun, after a series of shootings by officers sparked protests and complaints that police are too quick to fire their weapons.
Emanuel announced changes in police training and department policies on use of force during a news conference, pledging “nothing less than complete and total reform.” Reforms, he said, will include doubling the number of Tasers available to officers — from 700 to 1,400— as he works to restore public trust in Chicago’s 12,000-officer force and in his administration.
“Our police officers have a very difficult and dangerous job. They put their lives on the line so the rest of us can be safe. And like all of us, they are human and they make mistakes,” the mayor said. “Our job is to reduce the chances of mistakes.”
Emanuel pledged training to make police encounters with citizens “less confrontational and more conversational.” And he said “force can be the last option, not the first choice.”
“Just because you train that you can use force doesn’t mean you should,” he said.
Every patrol car will be equipped with a Taser by June 1, 2016, Emanuel said, though he didn’t mention cost or how the cash-strapped city will foot the bill. Tasers can cost between $500 and $1,000, potentially putting the price tag for the new stun guns at around $700,000.
Interim Police Superintendent John Escalante said the city looked at 15 police departments as it developed its policy changes.
Emanuel and Chicago police have been under heavy scrutiny since the city, under court order, released a squad car video last month showing white officer Jason Van Dyke shooting black 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times in 2014. McDonald, armed with a knife, is seen veering away from Van Dyke in the video before the veteran officer starts firing.
Van Dyke, who faces six first-degree murder counts, pleaded not guilty to the charges Tuesday.
The release of the video set off weeks of demonstrations, forced the resignation of Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and has led to an ongoing wide-ranging civil rights investigation of the entire Chicago Police Department by the U.S. Department of Justice. Protesters also have called for Emanuel to resign.
Activists were skeptical Wednesday that the changes would reverse decades of problems and mistrust between Chicago residents and police.
Ted Pearson, one of the leaders of the Chicago Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, believes the only way to bring true change is to have a civilian police accountability council that isn’t appointed by the mayor.
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