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Rahm Wants Every Cop To Have A Taser

By Emma G. Gallegos in News on Dec 30, 2015 6:36PM

Taser (Photo by Kbiros via
Mayor Rahm Emanuel is expected to announce changes in Chicago Police Department tactics this afternoon, including a proposal to put a taser in the hand of every officer on the streets by summer.

Emanuel has a press conference scheduled for 2 p.m.—his first appearance since he got back from Cuba to find protesters welcoming him home—and he's expected to discuss new training for the city's police force. The Tribune reported that the changes are aimed at addressing the concerns raised by the fatal police shooting of Laquan McDonald in 2014 as the department faces a federal probe.

The Tribune says it's not clear how this is different than the current model, but the new training will "emphasize teaching officers to try to de-escalate conflicts rather than to see every confrontation as a 'shoot or don’t shoot' situation."

The plan to outfit the force with a lot more tasers responds to a concern raised by the McDonald shooting. Officers at the scene of the shooting called for a Taser, and while they waited, Officer Jason Van Dyke fired 16 times at Laquan. Phil Kadner at the Tribune pondered the "what if" scenario: "But if the officers who originally made the call for a Taser-equipped patrol car had access to one there's a possibility that McDonald is still alive, Van Dyke never kills anyone and the political chaos dominating the City of Chicago is postponed, or perhaps never occurs."

Tasers have been available to Chicago officers for years, but not every officer is trained in using them or carries them. Ald. Anthony Beale (9th) and Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) have called upon the city to outfit its police with Tasers.

But Chicago police have been accused of abusing Tasers as well. Just this month a video was released showing a man in lock-up being Tased by guards and then dragged limply out of his cell. The man, Philip Coleman, died a short while later.

The Chicago Reporter says that the department ignores key guidelines that could keep officers from abusing their stun guns:

But CPD’s directives do not follow many key recommendations from the Police Executive Research Forum, including banning “drive stuns,” or direct application of the weapon to a subject; limiting the number and duration of shocks; banning the tasing of individuals in handcuffs; or recommending against tasing individuals solely because they are fleeing. (CPD recommends tasing in the back, if possible, and also notes that multiple tasings “will increase stress in the subject.”)

PERF warns that “repeated and multiple applications” and applications of extended duration “may increase the risk of death,” and that “persons in mental crisis” are “believed to be at heightened risk for serious injury or death.” It notes that using Tasers “to achieve pain compliance may have limited effectiveness and, when used repeatedly, may even exacerbate the situation by inducing rage in the subject.”

In 2014, Amnesty International called attention to Chicago's use of tasers. Justin Mazzola told the Chicago Reporter that tasers can be torture devices if abused: "Especially in custodial situations, it has the potential to be used in cruel, inhumane, and degrading ways."