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World & Nation

To cut down on shootings, Chicago police to get more Tasers

Rahm Emanuel, John Escalante

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, right, listens to interim Police Supt. John Escalante during a news conference about new police procedures Wednesday. Emanuel says every Chicago police patrol car will be equipped with a Taser.

(Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press)

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday rolled out his latest short-term 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 and more conversational” 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, referencing what he said was a conversation with a police sergeant.

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 them. Under Emanuel’s plan, all officers would be trained by June and officers will be equipped before the start of a shift.

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Emanuel, joined by interim police Supt. John Escalante, 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.”

Police experts said de-escalation training can be helpful and Tasers, when used properly, can preserve the lives of police and arrestees. But the experts said no training or equipment will make a meaningful difference without effective supervision, policies and accountability.

Chicago has expanded Taser use before — in 2010 — and the city’s own numbers indicate shootings by police did not drop in the following years, even though police used the Tasers vastly more often.

Emanuel was asked why he didn’t make such changes in the previous four-plus years in office. The mayor pointed to other steps he’s taken while acknowledging he hasn’t done everything he could under his tenure. Emanuel said the problems are “four or five decades in the making” and the changes will take time.

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The mayor did not say how he would pay for doubling the number of police Tasers to 1,400, or the additional training.

hdardick@tribpub.com

dhinkel@tribpub.com

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