Chicago mayor offers ‘major overhaul’ of police training program, wants more cops w/Tasers

Chicago mayor offers ‘major overhaul’ of police training program, wants more cops w/Tasers
As Chicago, Illinois faces ongoing protests over its police force, Mayor Rahm Emanuel is set to announce changes in officer training, including a new policy that calls for every cop on street duty to carry a Taser by this summer.

The new training program will emphasize teaching officers to try to de-escalate confrontations, rather than going in with a “shot or don’t shoot” mindset, the Chicago Tribune reported. It is unclear how the new procedures differ from current ones.

"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," spokeswoman Lauren Huffman said in a statement.

Emanuel is also expected to announce that all officers will be trained to use less-lethal Tasers by June 2016, and will be equipped with the electroshock devices before the start of their shifts.

The policy changes represent a “major overhaul” for the Chicago Police Department, Huffman said. The Chicago PD has been under fire in the wake of several high-profile police brutality cases, most notably the death of Laquan McDonald, a black teen who was shot 16 times by a white officer, even after he lay motionless on the ground. The shooting occurred last October, but dash-cam footage of the incident wasn’t released until November of this year, sparking outrage when the video contradicted official statements. Officer Jason Van Dyke was charged with murder hours later.

Since the release of the video, protesters have been calling for change in the Chicago PD. Emanuel has taken some steps in that direction already, including forcing the resignation of Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy on December 1. At the same time, the mayor also announced the creation of a police accountability task force assigned to “review the system of accountability, oversight and training that is currently in place for Chicago's police officers."

Forcing the police superintendent out and creating the task force took place two days after Emanuel and McCarthy had announced the expansion of the body-worn camera program for the city’s law enforcement officers.

READ MORE: Chicago’s McDonald family demands White House police brutality summit

So far, the changes have not been enough for protesters, many of whom are calling for both the mayor and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez to step down.

The Chicago PD is also the subject of a Department of Justice civil rights investigation to examine the department’s use of force, racial and ethnic disparities in enforcement, and accountability mechanisms, including disciplinary proceedings and investigations of misconduct. The probe was initiated due to the McDonald case.