Watch CBS News

Emanuel Announces Police Changes In Use Of Force, More Tasers For Officers

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Saying there's a difference between when a police officer "can use a gun and when they should use a gun," Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced Wednesday the Police Department would be changing its tactics and training regarding the use of force "to create more time and distance" for police when they respond to a tense situation.

The mayor also said the Police Department would be doubling the number of Tasers available to officers from 700 to 1,400, which make sure every beat car in the field has a stun gun. Every officer would be trained to use stun guns by June, and Tasers would be equipped at the start of each shift.

"I think obviously if you have eight officers – like in the Laquan McDonald situation – all calling for a Taser, and none of them have it, we have a problem, and it has to be addressed," he said at a City Hall press conference.

On the night 17-year-old Laquan McDonald was shot and killed, several officers on the scene radioed for a Taser, but no officers on the scene had one, and none arrived before Officer Jason Van Dyke shot McDonald 16 times.


Emanuel said police officers have a difficult job, and like anyone can make mistakes, but said the city has a responsibility to reduce the chances of mistakes by making sure they have the proper training to avoid abuses of power.

"Our goal as a city must always be to ensure the safety of everyone involved. To do that, we must ensure that our offices have the right tactics, the right training, the right technology to resolve tense situations safely and securely," he said. "Ultimately, what we are doing is injecting some humanity into the work of our police department and the police officers. That is what these new policies will help us do."

While not getting into specifics about the changes in the department's use of force policies, the mayor said the goal is to make sure officers do not immediately resort to using deadly force in volatile situations.

"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. "We want to ensure our officers are not just operating in either first gear or fifth gear, but to recognize the degrees in between, so they can respond appropriately to each individual situation, where force can be the last option, not the first choice."

The mayor said the Police Department will improve communication between officers and the public to make encounters "less confrontational and more conversational."

Emanuel said the training would also include making sure 911 call takers provide more information to officers in the field about calls for service so officers know more about the situations they are getting into.

Interim Police Supt. John Escalante said, in coming up with changes to department policies, they studied 15 other major city police departments around the country.

Besides adding new equipment, officers will be trained in a five-step de-escalation approach, to learn tactics on defusing hostile situations to figure out the best course of action, without the use of deadly force when possible. The new training begins next week.

Emanuel said the goal is to change officers' perspectives in tense encounters with the public, "to help them ensure their own safety and the safety of others."

"All of us will accept nothing less than complete and total reform of both the system and policing culture here in the city of Chicago," he said.

Even before the mayor's announcement Wednesday afternoon, critics were saying the changes do not go far enough to restore public trust in the Police Department.

Rev. Jesse Jackson said the mayor must do more; by being truly transparent, and making public more videos of police shooting incidents.

As for the plan to train more officers in the use of Tasers, and have every beat car equipped with a stun gun, Jackson said "it's a little late."

"We need Tasers, cameras that work, police officials who care," he said.

State Rep. Mary Flowers (D-Chicago) was even more vocal.

"If you're not talking about the root of the problem being racism, and ignorance, and not respecting human beings as human beings, the Tasers will kill, the guns will kill, ignorance will kill," she said.

At E's Barbershop in the South Austin neighborhood on the West Side, owner Darryl Fields, says he knows firsthand what a Taser feels like.

"I've been Tased before. It's not a good feeling," Fields said.

"They may as well use a gun as far as I'm concerned."

He says the Tasers can be lethal.

Former West Side resident Angela Holmes moved to Aurora, after her son was the victim of violence. Holmes says more officers trained to use Tasers, may be helpful.

"If it's going to save a life without killing them, I would agree to that," Holmes said.


The mayor's announcement comes on the heels of another fatal police-involved shooting, which claimed the lives of 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier and 55-year-old Bettie Jones. Police have acknowledged Jones was accidentally killed when an officer opened fire on LeGrier while responding to a domestic disturbance call, after LeGrier became combative.

At the press conference Wednesday, police revealed no more details on the sequence of events in Saturday's shooting.

"The last thing we would want to be accused of is putting out info that would jeopardize the use of force investigation by IPRA," said Escalante.

"Just like the public, we want answers and we want them now and yet, you also have to know IPRA has to have to have the integrity to do their job and do it thoroughly," Emanuel said.

It was the department's first use of deadly force since the release of the McDonald video, although it is unclear if any officer at the scene of this weekend's police shooting was equipped with a Taser.

The mayor cut short his family vacation in Cuba after the shooting. Emanuel was met by protesters when he returned to his Ravenswood home on Tuesday. Activists spent more than six hours outside his house, demanding the mayor resign.

The Police Department already is the focus of a Justice Department civil rights investigation, and federal authorities have said the shooting of LeGrier and Jones would be part of its probe of the Chicago Police Department's policies and practices regarding the use of deadly force.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.