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Chicago revamping police training in wake of Laquan McDonald, other shootings

CHICAGO -- Officials here are about to announce changes in police training, including a requirement that every officer responding to service calls be equipped with a Taser.

A statement from Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office late Tuesday night said Emanuel and Interim Police Superintendent John Escalante would announce Wednesday "a major overhaul" of the policy regarding how officers respond to incidents and the use of force.

The statement said the police department will begin to require every officer who "responds to calls for service" to be equipped with a Taser and trained to use it by June 1, 2016.

The mayor's office had already said some changes in training would be forthcoming in the wake of the release of dashcam video last month showing white officer Jason Van Dyke shooting black teen Laquan McDonald 16 times in October 2014. Van Dyke, who is charged with murder, pleaded not guilty Tuesday.

The veteran officer faces six counts of first-degree murder and one of official misconduct in the death of the 17 year old. McDonald, who was armed with a knife, was veering away from officers when Van Dyke opened fire.

The statement from the mayor's office doesn't specifically mention the McDonald shooting but says, "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."

Public outcry has been furious since the dashcam video was released. The footage sparked days of street demonstrations, the forced resignation of Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy and a broad federal civil rights investigation of the police department's practices and how allegations of officer misconduct are handled.

Another police shooting over the weekend has sparked further criticism of the department. Chicago police killed two people, a 55-year-old woman who was shot accidentally and a 19-year-old man police described as "combative" before he was shot. Both were black. Police have not released the race of the officer or officers involved and will not say how many officers fired their weapons or what the man and woman were doing before they were shot.

The Chicago Tribune notes that officers already on the scene before McDonald was shot "had called for a Taser but before an officer with the weapon arrived, Van Dyke responded and within seconds opened fire on the teen."

The newspaper adds that police haven't said whether officers had a Taser during last weekend's police shooting.

"Though the generally less-lethal Tasers have been available in the department for years, not every officer has been trained to use them or carries them," the Tribune reports.

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