CHICAGO – Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday rolled out his latest steps to try to reduce the number of people shot by Chicago police, suggesting that training to “create more time and distance” to make tense situations less confrontational would help.
“There’s a difference between whether someone can use a gun and when they should use a gun. And we as a city must train for that difference,” Emanuel said.
The city also plans to buy hundreds of Tasers, a generally less-lethal option that has been available in the department for years, though not every officer has been trained to use them or carries one. Under Emanuel’s plan, all officers would be trained by June and officers will be equipped before the start of a shift.
Emanuel suggested the training and additional Tasers would help ensure that officers’ perspectives are changed so that “force can be the last option, not the first choice.”
Chicago has expanded Taser use before — in 2010 — and shootings by police did not drop in the following years, even though police used the Tasers vastly more often.
Emanuel was reacting to Saturday’s fatal police shootings of a college student and a grandmother identified as an innocent bystander as an officer responded to a domestic disturbance.
Emanuel announced the new policies just hours after he returned home from a family vacation to Cuba that he cut short. He is still dealing with public anger over the release of an October 2014 police dashboard camera video that showed officer Jason Van Dyke pumping 16 bullets into Laquan McDonald, a 17-year-old who was wielding a small knife but appeared to be walking away from officers.
For months, Emanuel had fought to keep the video under wraps, but a judge ordered the footage released in November. Amid a storm of criticism and public protests, the mayor fired former Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy.
The U.S. Department of Justice is conducting a civil rights probe into the policies and practices of Chicago police.