Taser Intl. gets $10M to provide Tasers, body cams to CPD cops

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Taser International has landed a $10 million contract to supply Chicago Police officers with electroshock weapons and body cameras promised by Mayor Rahm Emanuel after an officer killed two people in a controversial shooting the day after Christmas.

Emanuel cut short a family vacation to Cuba after an officer fatally shot 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier, who police said was wielding a baseball bat, and accidentally shot 55-year-old Bettie Jones, a neighbor.

In response to those deaths — and the controversial video of an officer shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times — Emanuel has ordered police officers to be retrained in “de-escalation” tactics and promised to double the number of Tasers to 1,400 to put one in every car.

The mayor also has ordered officers in six more police districts on Chicago’s South and West Sides to wear body cameras following a 30-camera test run in the Shakespeare District. The additional six districts include Austin, Wentworth, Deering, Ogden, South Chicago and Gresham, officials said.

And last week police announced they would boost the number of officers certified to deal with people with mental illnesses.

More than 780 Taser electroshock weapons are being shipped to Chicago under the five-year contract with Taser International, bringing the total used by officers to 1,481. By June 1, every officer responding to calls for service will be equipped with a Taser after completing training and certification, officials said.

“The expansion of Tasers is part of CPD’s goal to create the safest environment possible for police officers and the citizens they serve,” the department said in a statement.

Taser International will charge the city $13 per officer per month to use its Tasers and $65 a month to use its Axon body cameras, according to the contract. The contract also provides for training and storage of body camera videos.

The cameras have high-definition video and extended battery life and can “interface” with the department’s in-car dashcam systems. Twenty-four other major city police departments use Taser body cameras, officials said.

Under the contract, the body cams are capable of capturing conversations 3 feet away in the absence of wind or loud background noise. They have infrared technology for night videos. The devices also prevent recordings from being edited or deleted.

Motorola and Coban were the other companies whose body cameras were tested by the Chicago Police Department, officials said.

Emanuel and Taser International signed the contract last week, records show.

Last month, West Side Ald. Jason Ervin (28th) introduced an ordinance to require the police department to buy a Taser for each of its 12,500 sworn officers and train them to use it by Jan. 1, 2017. Ervin, whose ward includes the violence-plagued Harrison District, said Emanuel’s plan to boost the Taser inventory to 1,400 was not good enough.

“Checking something in and out is always going to lead to something not being available. It should be part of the uniform. Just like every officer has a baton and handcuffs,” said Ervin, vice chairman of the City Council’s Budget Committee.

Laquan McDonald might not have been shot to death if any of the officers following him on Oct. 20, 2014, had been equipped with a Taser.

Instead, they put in a radio call for a Taser, but Officer Jason Van Dyke, who was charged with first-degree murder in November, just hours before the video was released, unloaded 16 rounds into the black teenager during the wait.

Interim Police Supt. John Escalante has said officers need more training on Tasers.

“For officers coming on the job, it’s automatic. It’s part of their recruit training. For the older officers, it’s an option. We’ll look at ‘should it be mandatory for everyone?’ ” he said in December. “Getting non-lethal options will always be a benefit. But it has to come with the right training and proper supervision.”

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