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.