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Emanuel and CPD interim chief plan ‘de-escalation’ approach, more Tasers

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Interim Chicago Police Supt. John Escalante are expected to announce a five-step “de-escalation” approach to handling potential conflicts and standoffs, including making sure every “operational” on-duty officer is equipped with a Taser.

By June 1, 2016, every on-duty officer responding to service calls will be equipped with a Taser and trained in using it, according to an emailed statement from Chicago Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi.

Without specifically mentioning the fatal shootings of Quintonio LeGrier and Bettie Jones by a Chicago Police officer in West Garfield Park last weekend, Emanuel said the move was a long time coming.

“While recent events have brought this issue to the forefront for us all, for far too long Chicago – like cities around the country — has faced far too many incidents where officers shot and killed unarmed people,” Emanuel said in a statement. “We need a new reality.”

The city is adding 700 Tasers — twice the current total — which will be “enough to equip every CPD officer who responds to calls for service on every shift,” according to the statement.

Besides new equipment, the police department will also “ask themselves a series of key questions as an event unfolds” to determine the best course of action, according to the statement.

Training for the new policies will begin next week. “In the very near future, more intensive, in-service and scenario-based training will also be conducted,” the statement said.

Despite the mayor’s plans for policy changes, Guglielmi said he wasn’t sure yet where the funding would come from for the new training and equipment.

With new training, officers will be encouraged to ask themselves questions such as: “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?” and “Am I the best person to deal with this or should I request assistance from Specialized Units such as a Crisis Intervention Team?”

Use of force policies have been under the microscope since the city released a police dashcam video in November showing the fatal 2014 shooting of Laquan McDonald. As he walked down the street with a knife, the first responding officers asked a police dispatcher to send officers with a Taser. The dispatcher then issued three calls for a Taser before Officer Jason Van Dyke shot McDonald 16 times, killing him.

Contributing: Sam Charles