Chicago's Solution to Killings by Police? More Tasers! Which Also Result in Death.

Give an officer a Taser, and he or she will find reasons to use it.


So do I, man. So do I.
Credit: roland / photo on flickr

So Chicago's police are a disaster and has been since forever, honestly. Even before the latest outrages—the brutal police killing of Laquan McDonald (and the city's attempt to suppress video footage of it) and the accidental killing of a 55-year-old grandmother by police responding to a call over the holidays—the city had been paying out millions of dollars in settlements over claims of misconduct by police.

Some are calling for Mayor Rahm Emanuel's resignation. He is declining and has been promising reform. Today we are going to be seeing what his idea of reform looks like.

And it looks like: more Tasers! Is this supposed to make people feel relieved? From CBS in Chicago:

Under the plan to be announced Wednesday afternoon at City Hall, the mayor will announce every officer responding to calls for service will be equipped with a Taser and trained to use it by June 1, 2016.

Currently, training in the use of Tasers is voluntary, and only about 20 percent of the force has been trained on how to use stun guns.

Besides adding new equipment, officers will be trained in a five-step de-escalation approach, to learn tactics on defusing hostile situations to figure out the best course of action, without the use of deadly force when possible. The new training begins next week.

"The policy changes center around de-escalation tactics to reduce the intensity of a conflict or a potentially violent situation at the earliest possible moment, emphasizing that the foremost goal is to protect the safety of all involved," the mayor's office said in a brief statement Tuesday night.

The use of Tasers themselves have been a growing problem for law enforcement agencies, and their use has been linked to significant numbers of deaths. In fact, a report from the Chicago Tribune from 2012 shows that despite their voluntary use, the city and surrounding suburbs already have a Taser problem. The more they have them, the more they use them:

In 2009, officers logged 197 incidents. A year later, after hundreds more weapons were passed out, Chicago police reported 871 incidents. As of fall, the department was on pace for 857 uses in 2011, which works out to 2.3 per day.

The anecdote the Tribune describes in its report also illustrates the problem with Taser use. Police don't use them to de-escalate dangerous scenarios. They sometimes do the exact opposite—yanking them out at a sign of the slightest defiance and using them to force compliance. The scenario used in the Tribune story has an officer shocking a man at a possible DUI stop for not getting out of a vehicle fast enough for police (and this happened after he was ordered back into his vehicle by police).

Earlier in December, we published an interview by Anthony Fisher with Nick Berardini, who researched and recently released a documentary called Killing Them Safely, about the potential dangers that come with overreliance on Tasers by police. Read that interview here.

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  1. A change in policing policy? That’s too expensive. I know what. Let’s buy new equipment!

    1. I love the fact that de-escalation is an extraordinary new approach for Chicago’s PD.

      1. Instructor: So who can tell me the first thing you should do when encountering an individual?

        [12-year veteran raises hand]

        Instructor: Yes, sergeant?

        Sgt. Porkins: Shoot him.

        Instructor: Well, no, we are looking for the first thing.

        Sgt. Porkins: Yeah.

        Instructor: No, we’re trying not to escalate encounters.

        Sgt. Porkins: Nothing de-escalates a situation like me being the only one alive.

        Instructor: Okay, but we’re looking for ways to do our job without fatalities if we can. Can you imagine a scenario where you don’t immediately jump to use of deadly force?

        Sgt. Porkins: [hand instinctively going to weapon] Yeah, but it’s making me fear for my safety…

        1. Poor Porkins is everybody’s scapegoat

          1. Well what are we supposed to do after we lost Tyree, and lost Hutch? I mean, they came at us from behind!

            1. I still wonder about the mood in the control room on Yavin when you hear “Luke, you’ve turned off your targeting computer. What’s wrong?”
              “Nothing. I’m all right”

              I am imagining all sorts of “FUCK MEs” and “What the fuck is that asshole thinking!” or just a simple “Then turn your fucking targeting computer back on dipshit!”

      2. yeah i noticed that too. peacefully resolving a violent or potentially violent situation is sort of the main point of the job, in my dumb opinion




  3. Can’t wait til there’s a mob of 4 or 5 cops all tasering one person at the same time.

    “Don’t cross the streams!”

  4. You know, perhaps the solution is to embed in the brain of each “civilian” a device that can remotely stun them, whenever cops feel uncomfortable.

    1. “whenever cops feel uncomfortable.”

      So you just want it to constantly electrocute the civilians at all times then?? Okay, I can get the design done by next week.

  5. Until cops prove themselves to be safe, they shouldn’t be allowed anything more dangerous than a water gun.

  6. De-escalation is for pussies.


    1. “COME GET UR ZAP.”


  7. The single most effective way to rain police to de-escalate encounters is to hold them personally liable for mistakes. Stop coddling the sons-a-bitches. Spare the justice and spoil the cop.

    1. Hold them to a higher duty of care, not a lower one.

      1. Yes, even higher than Caesar’s wife.

        1. Exactly. This should not be even remotely debatable. Incidentally, that should be true for ALL public employees.

          1. that should be true for ALL public employees.

            True. Sadly, I have a better chance of getting Shamrock, my pet unicorn, to not be majestic.

      2. i agree. i have a pretty strict no shooting people policy for my employees.

    2. Makes me kind of yearn for the legal system in the Judge Dredd universe. Sure, it’s a horrible, oppressive police state that micromanages everything, but at least there the dirty cops got punished. By being imprisoned as a slave for 20 years mining on Saturn’s moon, Titan.

    3. How about any settlement the city/PD has to pay, comes out of that cop’s pension.


      You taze more than 3 people in your career, you’re fired.

  8. Chicago’s Solution to Killings by Police?

    STOP CALLING THE POLICE on your loved ones and friends.

    1. This is the No. 1 solution to police violence.

    2. When the phone calls stop, the police will just take it upon themselves. They can do whatever they want with no responsibility, and SCOTUS has already ruled that they have no obligation to actually do police work while on duty.

  9. Besides adding new equipment, officers will be trained in a five-step de-escalation approach, to learn tactics on defusing hostile situations to figure out the best course of action, without the use of deadly force when possible. The new training begins next week.

    What us ordinary folks call “getting along with people”.

    1. I just love the hedge with “when possible”; as if deadly force is the default. Which, for the CPD seemingly is so I guess it’s accurate.

  10. Your odds of surviving an encounter with a cop with a jittery finger on the trigger of a taser is dramatically higher than surviving an encounter with a cop with a jittery finger on the trigger of a Glock 17, so even if tasers aren’t a perfectly non-lethal alternative, I’d say they’re still preferable. You can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the at least marginally better. More tasers, less guns means that even when cops fuck up, their victims are more likely to live to see the money from the ensuing lawsuit.

    1. Yeah, pick your poison:

      Fist and feet

      I’ll take the Taser please.

      1. Not the whip? C’mon.

        1. Where there’s a whip, there’s a way!

        2. Not everybody’s into the same stuff you are, Lee.

      2. In best practicepolicies, Taser or similar ECD use is generally considered to be the last step on the use of force continuum before the use of a sidearm. De-escelation is step one. Holds and batons are much more less lethal than ECDs.
        Use of ECDs for pain compliance is strictly prohibited, as is direct drive, with officers trained in the use of angle-drive.

        Real world policies are beginning to catch up, since best practices require different training. Since these policies may be resulting in less injuries all-round, they are not as quickly rejected. Long way to go though.

        Ideal policies, which involve the repeal of laws creating victimless crimes, remain untested.

        1. the repeal of laws creating victimless crimes

          Such crimes attracted about 99% of the current police force to the job. Investigate murders and burglaries and assaults? Why, that’s for the 1 per-centers on the force.

          It winds up being a vicious cycle – in order to pay the bloated salaries and bloated pensions, more victimless crimes are cooked up with associated fines. By definition, that increases the crime rate which inevitably means more police are hired.

          1. well the burglaries and murders are hard and maybe dangerous. and they’re heroes! why do you want to make their jobs harder and put their lives in danger?

    2. Unfortunately, this does strike me as a practical solution. The unions aren’t going away, LEOBOR isn’t going away, the grand juries, petit juries, judges, and prosecutors aren’t going to become radically different overnight, etc.

    3. Plus you just know someone in the decision making chain has a financial interest in the taser manufacturer of choice.

    4. But the difference is that — itchy fingers aside — a typical cop is more likely to use a taser at even less provocation than he would a gun. So thousands of encounters that may previously have ended without violence now will end with violence.

      1. Good, the the city can throw away even MORE money on excessive force settlements.

        The problem is the Chicago PD has for more personnel than necessary. A reduction of 40% is needed, but Rahm is too much of a chicken-shit to risk a strike. Hell, the jag off even suggested hiring MORE police back in October.

  11. Another excuse for them to not be physically fit.

  12. The Reason campaign against tasers is just a bit too far for me. What are our other options? Training all cops as ninjas? I think getting cops to use tasers instead of guns is pretty much the best we can do right now, in terms of implementable concrete policy change. The changing of training and the culture of police that is truly needed, even if implemented now, is incredibly difficult and will take many years to start making a difference.

    1. If tasers were used instead of guns, it’d be great. Instead they’re used when the cop feels he’s not being respected enough, and guns are used at other times.

      1. Bra. Wtf? Kelly gone! I was surprised.

        1. I was too, even if in the end I agree with it. It’s a mess though.

    2. Yeah, this is a case of letting the perfect be the enemy of the good.

  13. Maybe they should replace Protect and Serve with Comply or Die.

    1. That would be honest, and cops are incapable of honesty.

  14. Another option is to use Net-Guns.

    And, we should improve the current technology for Net-Guns.

    1. Just lock all their phasers on “stun”. This stuff isn’t all that hard, people!

  15. Whatever objects you put in their hands they will abuse. The problem isn’t the object; it’s the individuals wielding them. And it looks like police forces are refusing to consider that perhaps there are more than a few incompetent officers in their ranks.

  16. without the use of deadly force when possible

    “Given the totality of circumstances, the officer deemed it impossible.”

  17. officers will be trained in a five-step de-escalation approach, to learn tactics on defusing hostile situations to figure out the best course of action, without the use of deadly force when possible. The new training begins next week.

    Okay, then.

    1. Stunning that they have not had anything like this before…. even some of the small departments I used to work with got instruction on this – especially in the domestic disturbance situations.

      1. I would be shocked if the training itself wasn’t interspersed with snorts and giggles, referred to as “Pussy Training” once out of the class room, and promptly ignored by everyone in the department.

        1. I think a lot of them really do just want “to go home safely”. But if that’s the case, then you picked the wrong job. An officer’s personal safety is not irrelevant, but it is secondary.

    2. And training does lots of good when you know there will be no consequences for not following it. Plus all of the officers know the training is politically motivated (well, politically motivated in a way they don’t like), so it’s likely going to be a farce anyway.

  18. Tasers are supposed to be non-lethal self defense, but in practice they’re simply compliance (torture) tools.

    1. they’re simply compliance (torture) tools.

      Exactly, which is why they are used so frequently.

  19. Meanwhile, down at the fever swamp

    Condemning Cuyahoga County, Ohio prosecutor Tim McGinty’s decision not to indict the white officer who murdered twelve year-old Tamir Rice, the Reverend Traci Blackmon said, “Even in an open carry state, the killing of a black child carrying a pellet gun is rendered justifiable.” Blackmon’s reference to open carry is a reminder of the racist hypocrisy of the NRA’s pathological gun culture, its role in shaping American male identity and white nationhood; and its deadliness when it comes to the lives of black youth. Because open carry is designed to ensure white citizens’ right to exercise violence in public space, Rice could only have been protected by the logic of this permissive gun law if he was white.

    I, uh…


    1. The only way it even begins to make sense is when you realize that they want black people disarmed. Jim Crow isn’t dead; it’s just couched in a different sort of racialism.

      1. The screed from HuffPo is worse than random. It is more like that the writer actively had to put in the opposite of the real world for almost every thought (and I use that term loosely) they had. So advocating that citizens have the right to carry weapons openly leads to police shooting a kid that was, at one point, carrying a bb gun openly? A permissive law causes police to shoot at someone who wasn’t doing anything that even directly involved that law? Because the NRA only wants white people to openly carry. And of course, “black” culture doesn’t do anything to reinforce the idea of blacks carrying guns and shooting people.

        1. Also, Colion Noir has had a lot of racist drivel targeted at him, specifically by the PuffHo. Like a black dude is just a paid Uncle Tom for the NRA and can’t possibly have his own mind about these issues.

          Choice words:

          Probably the most outrageous attempt to sell this ‘guns-are-cool’ nonsense has been the video antics of an African-American lawyer who calls himself Colion Noir, who prances around the NRA video channel coming up with all kinds of hip and cool reasons why we should all own and carry guns. The folks who write his scripts have come up with some kind of concocted blather about using guns for self-defense, but what’s really going on here is an effort by the NRA to capture the hearts and minds of younger minority folks, most of whom don’t appear to be all that interested in owning guns.

  20. We all know the solution, end the War on Drugs.

    1. LOL!

      The police have to make quota somehow. If not for drugs, they’ll find some other law to arrest/shoot people they don’t like the looks of; there’s billions of laws just waiting to be enforced.

  21. The problem is not the Taser. It’s the cop. Apparently they don’t hire people with good judgement anymore. Tasers are the best thing to happen to law enforcement AND suspects. Prior to this, we used to crack your skull with a baton. This is that shitty shoot first, deal with citizens as people second approach that has somehow insinuated its way into law enforcement. I blame the militarization of cops and the shifting away from community oriented policing. You dress someone like a soldier, they tend to act like one.

    1. “Apparently they don’t hire people with good judgement anymore.”

      When I lived in Columbia, MO, I remember a case where a guy was threatening to commit suicide by throwing himself off an overpass. One of the officers finally got him off of it by convincing him to move down over the grassy area, and- you guessed it- TASERing him. That lawsuit only cost the city $400,000.

      A friend of mine later started a petition to ban the police from using TASERs. Not surprisingly, it didn’t do very well, but I was a bit surprised at the number of people who think the police should be allowed to Tase anyone who gives them a smartass comment or an ugly look. It’s the same attitude that prevents police from being held accountable for killing people with guns. People like believing that the world is simple (even when they know better), that there are good guys and bad guys- good cops that can always be trusted and career criminals that deserve whatever they get, and more.

    2. Well they hire people who are willing to enforce immoral laws so…..

  22. Chicago Police have killed 9 people this year. The current number of homicides in Chicago for the year 2015, 499. The problem isn’t with the police, it’s with the people that killed the other 490 people.

    1. The people who killed the other 490 aren’t being paid to protect us. Those people also face consequences when they kill without a legitimate reason to claim self-defense.

      1. Since 349 of those 490 have had no resolution, no one charged, no one arrested, nothing. I’d say that they don’t face consequences.

    2. Actually the cops enforce the immoral War on Drugs which causes a lot of those homicides so they are resposible for them too.

  23. It always amazes me how uninformed the public really is. The mayor and police chiefs have no power over the police. The DOJ the FBI have no power over the police. Repeat The mayor, police chiefs, counsel members have no power over the police. The police unions in every city has all the power to hold police officers accountable. If you get rid of the police unions only then can police officers be held accountable for murder. The police thru the unions contracts have special immunity to kill anyone for any reason and never be held accountable. This will continue to happen until we focus on dissolving police unions and the FOP.

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