CHICAGO — Chicago’s mayor and police superintendent announced Wednesday that every officer who responds to service calls will have a Taser in the patrol car and officers will be properly trained to use them.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel said the number of Tasers will double to 1,400.
The announcement is part of a major overhaul in Chicago Police Department policy, Emanuel said.
“With the right policies, the right procedures and the right practices, we can change our officers’ perspectives to help them ensure their own safety and the safety of others,” he told reporters at City Hall.
One of the other changes is that officers who are involved in a shooting will be put on desk duty for 30 days instead of three.
Interim police superintendent John Escalante said the department is going to emphasize mitigation or de-escalation techniques officers can use when encountering a suspect.
“Our goal is to change the way officers think when they approach an incident,” he said. That might include calling other officers to the scene, he said.
The news comes as Chicago officials scramble to deal with what critics have slammed as a police culture of “shoot first and ask questions later.”
In the latest incident, police shot and killed Chicago teen Quintonio LeGrier and his 55-year-old neighbor, Bettie Jones.
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After that incident, Emanuel cut short a vacation in Cuba and returned to Chicago.
“He is cutting his family trip short so that he can continue the ongoing work of restoring accountability and trust in the Chicago Police Department,” Stephen Spector, another spokesman for the mayor, said in an email.
Last month, prosecutors announced an officer would face a first-degree murder charge in the 2014 shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. Amid growing protests over that case and other officer-involved shootings, the city’s police commissioner resigned.
“You had eight officers all calling for some backup for Tasers,” Emanuel said. After training and additional Tasers are put in patrol cars, “You won’t have a situation where officers are calling frantically for a Taser, because they’ll be there in the vehicles.”
As details about the LeGrier shooting emerged, Emanuel said there were “serious questions” about what happened and ordered changes in how city police officers are trained to handle calls involving people who may have mental health problems.
About 20% of officers have Tasers
Some members of LeGrier’s family have said he suffered from mental illness, CNN affiliate WLS reported, but the teen’s mother has disputed that characterization.
“Stop disparaging his character,” she pleaded Sunday. “He does not have mental issues. He was an honors student.”
Currently, about 20% of officers who respond to calls for service have access to Tasers, police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi said.