Major Taser Expansion Also Announced as Another Tool to Help Reduce Lethal Confrontations
Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Interim Police Superintendent John Escalante today announced a major overhaul of the policy regarding how officers respond to incidents and the use of physical and lethal force, as well as a significant expansion in the number of officers trained and equipped with Tasers. 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.
“These policy changes are part of our ongoing effort to completely reform the system and policing culture in Chicago to ensure the safety of every resident and restore the trust that is necessary for our police officers to do their jobs safely and effectively,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “Our police officers operate in dangerous and difficult circumstances every day. It is essential that they have the right guidance, training, and tactics to ensure the safety of our residents and themselves.”
While recent events have brought this issue to the forefront, for far too long Chicago – like cities around the country – has faced too many incidents where officers have shot and killed people who were not armed with guns. There need to be fundamental changes because even when force may be legally justified, it doesn’t mean it’s necessary. In some cases, there were missed opportunities to reduce tension, to slow things down, or to call in specially trained teams in the minutes before the shootings occurred.
Additionally, at the Mayor’s direction CPD will launch a major expansion of access to and training on Tasers.. The goal is to expand alternatives to deadly force. Tasers can, when used properly and with the right training, provide such an alternative. By June 1, 2016, every officer responding to calls for service will be equipped with a Taser and trained to use it properly. This will include: 1) adding 700 Tasers, enough to equip every CPD officer who responds to calls for service on every shift and increasing the total number of Tasers available to officers to 1,481; 2) training every officer who responds to calls for service in the use of Tasers; and 3) implementing and enforcing procedures to ensure all trained officers are issued a Taser at the start of their shift.
“These enhancements will ultimately equip Chicago Police officers with the necessary tools and training to gain control of fast-changing situations and help create the safest environment possible for police officers and the citizens we serve,” said Interim Superintendent John Escalante. “In the end, we must use every resource at our disposal to uphold our goal of ultimately resolving incidents with the highest possible regard for the preservation of human life and the safety of all persons involved.”
Together, these new policies make it clear CPD expects officers to develop and display the skills and abilities that allow them to regularly resolve confrontations without resorting to deadly force. Officers should de-escalate and use Force Mitigation principles at the earliest possible moment. Officers will continually assess the situation and will need to ask themselves a series of key questions as an event unfolds, such as:
• What exactly is happening?
• How serious is the risk or threat?
• What is the full range of options for how to respond?
• Do I need to take action immediately or can I slow the situation down and buy more time?
• Can I create more distance to make the situation safer?
• Can I de-escalate the tension by talking to the offender?
• Am I the best person to deal with this or should I request assistance from Specialized Units
such as a Crisis Intervention Team?”
Starting next week, the Police Department will immediately begin training on the new Force Mitigation policy with a presentation to command staff, a streaming video for all officers, and roll call training. In the very near future more intensive, in-service and scenario-based training will also be conducted. Continuance training on improving de-escalation tactics and Crisis Intervention strategies for dealing with mentally ill persons, homeless persons, and other challenging situations will also be provided.
Chicago Police officers will continually assess any situation to which they are responding to evaluate force options, including whether force is necessary, appropriate, and able to be modified based on changing circumstances. Chicago Police officers are expected to adhere to all Department policies and procedures to ensure a dignified and effective response in critical incidents.