* A new era of openness by Chicago government? Hardly. Just ask Phil Kadner…
Before Laquan McDonald was shot 16 times on a Chicago street leading to federal investigations, the firing of the police superintendent, murder charges being filed against a police officer and calls for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to resign, a squad car that had been tailing McDonald radioed for a Taser-equipped patrol car to respond to the scene.
I thought all patrolmen in Chicago were equipped with Tasers. In researching this column, I found a Chicago Tribune article from March 2010 that stated Chicago was purchasing 380 new Tasers to add to the 280 in use so there would be one for each of the department’s 281 beats. “The ’stun guns’ will go in every squad car to give front-line beat officers a more effective way to protect themselves and calm a disturbance,” the story said. […]
After several days of e-mail exchanges and multiple phone calls to the mayor’s office and Chicago Police News Affairs, I was finally informed that the percentage of sworn officers that are Taser-certified is 21.5 percent. […]
There are many critics of Taser use by law enforcement and the recently released video showing a suspect in a lock-up being repeatedly zapped with a Taser by Chicago police. The suspect who was dragged out of his cell eventually died following a reaction to an antipsychotic drug, although an autopsy showed he had 50 bruises and scrapes from the top of his head to his lower legs. That video has created another Chicago Police Department scandal.
So I’m not going to suggest that Tasers would solve every problem involving the abuse and misuse of force.
But Tasers do offer an alternative to the deadly use of force, meaning a police officer may not have to discharge his sidearm when confronting a suspect. Chicago police encounter people using illegal drugs, drunks and individuals who are mentally ill on a regular basis. They may not heed calls to stop, put their hands in the air and lay down on the ground. That’s apparently what happened with McDonald, who kept on walking with a folding knife at his side as he was surrounded by police, including some who had drawn their guns.
Great points about Tasers, and very worthy of discussion here. But why does it take so long to get basic information like that?