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Today’s number: 21.5 percent

Tuesday, Dec 15, 2015

* 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?

Sheesh.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

20 Comments
  1. - Mama - Tuesday, Dec 15, 15 @ 12:00 pm:

    Did the officer, whom shot the kid 16 times, have a Taser that he could have used?


  2. - Formerly Known As... - Tuesday, Dec 15, 15 @ 12:04 pm:

    The Chicago Police Department has not published an annual report in 4 years, iirc.

    After more than 100 years, they stopped providing even the most basic annual data on arrests, crime, manpower and clearance rates.

    Still waiting on the media to notice this shift in ==transparency==.


  3. - Anon - Tuesday, Dec 15, 15 @ 12:09 pm:

    ===But why does it take so long to get basic information like that?===

    They know it will make them look bad and rather than do things to avoid looking bad, they’d rather try to make sure you don’t know how bad they are.


  4. - Politix - Tuesday, Dec 15, 15 @ 12:12 pm:

    When you make the decision to ask the mayor’s office for CPD data, you need to give them time to get it. Even big city mayors don’t have each and every little statistic at their fingertips.

    Now, that’s not to say you wil have a better chance of getting the info from CPD because the odds of that happening are probably a lot worse.


  5. - Rod - Tuesday, Dec 15, 15 @ 12:16 pm:

    As I pointed out before Rich on your blog just having a Taser doesn’t mean it will be used as an alternative to deadly force in a knife armed suspect situation. The case in point was the Saginaw, Michigan police department and a homeless man. The cops shot 49-year-old Milton Hall 46 times armed with only a knife, killing him. As I related there were six officers and two Tasers present along with a police dog. There is also a video that can be seen on CNN.

    The police elected to shoot, not use the dog, or Tasers. None were charged even after a federal investigation (see http://www.cnn.com/2014/02/25/justice/michigan-police-shooting/index.html ). Rich there are no simple solutions and just having a Taser present doesn’t solve the problem. Here is what the Feds said in relationship to this case: “After a careful review of all of the evidence, experienced prosecutors from the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Michigan have determined that the evidence in this case is insufficient to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the SPD officers willfully shot Hall for an unlawful purpose, rather than for their stated purpose of preventing Hall from harming SPD staff. Even if the officers were mistaken in their assessment of the threat posed by Hall, this would not establish that the officers acted willfully, or with an unlawful intent, when using deadly force against Hall.”

    A decision like this is indeed possible in the case of Laquan McDonald and Officer Jason Van Dyke after going to trial. We should all be prepared for that possibility.


  6. - Ghost - Tuesday, Dec 15, 15 @ 12:18 pm:

    inly 21ish percent trained on taser use…. they have a major training problem it looks like, which may be at the heart of the problems. they should be doing constant use of force and non lethal training along with marksmanship.


  7. - Damfunny - Tuesday, Dec 15, 15 @ 12:22 pm:

    a freelance blogger is the one person who won a FOI court case which resulted in the McDonald video being released–not the Chicago papers or TV or national media, they’re way to busy to dig into things of this ilk


  8. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Dec 15, 15 @ 12:26 pm:

    –But why does it take so long to get basic information like that?–

    Emanuel is all-spin, all-message-control, all-the-time.

    He knew the contents of the McDonald video for a year, and for a year fought like crazy to keep anyone else in the world from seeing it.

    But once it’s out, he’s Sammy Maudlin, pounding the lectern, baying for “change.”

    Spin.


  9. - Bushwacker - Tuesday, Dec 15, 15 @ 12:37 pm:

    Hmmmmm…..560 plus tazers. Do you all realize CPD has over 12,000 sworn officers?


  10. - Formerly Known As... - Tuesday, Dec 15, 15 @ 1:03 pm:

    @Bushwacker - well said.

    Even if all 12000 were Taser-certified for a 100 percent rate, the training is useless if they do not have a Taser to use.

    There was a Cook County LEO on scene of the Laquan McDonald shooting as well. Are the Cook County Taser-certified numbers better than the CPD’s? They both could need training and Tasers.


  11. - Rusty618 - Tuesday, Dec 15, 15 @ 1:09 pm:

    One of the problems with a Taser is that the rechargeable ones have a lifespan. They tend to loose there charge and charging capabilities after many cycles of recharging. When the ones with built-in chargers go bad, you basically have to throw them away. If they use external chargers, replacement batteries might be difficult to find now, because of changing technology. So the ones bought prior to 2010 could be out of service by now, and those bought after could be heading that way.


  12. - cdog - Tuesday, Dec 15, 15 @ 1:14 pm:

    When did “shoot to kill” become the preferred shot?

    Seems a little more like vigilantism, street justice, roid-rage, etc.

    While getting training on Tasers, appropriate hall-dragging, etc., maybe the art of knee-caps could be incorporated.

    Maybe the Big Insurance peeps can request that kind of training when they require cops to get their new “law enforcement license,” in order to buy their new professional liability insurance. /s


  13. - Pacman - Tuesday, Dec 15, 15 @ 1:16 pm:

    Let me first say I think a less than lethal weapon should have been the first choice in this case. That being said, tasers are not the end all be all. I have seen them fail to work as often as I have seen them work, especially this time of year when people are wearing heavy clothing. Tasers don’t always penetrate though heavy clothes to complete the circuit. The barbs of the taser has to contact skin to complete the electrical circuit. There are other conditions that cause taser failure also. Another option that is more reliable is a bean bag round discharged using a specially designated 12 ga. Shotgun. In my opinion this option would have work well in thie McDonald case. I would be curious to know how CPD deploys their less than lethal weapons.


  14. - Not it - Tuesday, Dec 15, 15 @ 1:22 pm:

    Rich, I can speak with authority that public information officer budgets have been drastically reduced. I know of a city department that used to have three officers and now has none, that could be a part of the explanation for the delay.

    Doing more with less eventually means just doing less.


  15. - Big Joe - Tuesday, Dec 15, 15 @ 2:10 pm:

    Pacman said the same thing that I was thinking. There are other rounds that could have been used on MacDonald. I’m not sure what effect rubber bullets would have had on him, but the beanbag shotgun would have stopped him. And if 16 rounds of ammo was necessary, I would be very surprised. Why not shoot him in the legs as long as he didn’t have a gun on him?


  16. - Wumpus - Tuesday, Dec 15, 15 @ 2:12 pm:

    clog, I think there is only shoot to kill. There is no shooting of the hand, so the criminal drops the gun/knife.

    I think the cost of some tasers would be cost beneficial to the city. Settle 2-3 wrongful death cases and then that costs more than tasers.


  17. - Rod - Tuesday, Dec 15, 15 @ 3:06 pm:

    edog police are not taught to shoot to kill. But like in the military you are taught to shoot at the core body or the center mass. The chest is the easiest and quickest to hit.

    The phrase used is to shoot to neutralize the threat. To shoot at the extremities is strictly made for the movies stuff. It is extremely difficult as is a head shot at any distance. I know in the movies cowboys shoot the guns out of opponent hands and say something like I could have killed you if I wanted to. That is not the real world. John Wesley Hardin one the most famous gun fighters killed 27 men and wounded only a few because his shots were aimed at the core.


  18. - Muscular - Tuesday, Dec 15, 15 @ 4:17 pm:

    Chicago mayors and city related agencies release very little with FOIA requests. It is all about controlling the messaging and worrying about what the people will know. They know that if they deny FOIA requests, almost no one will sue. However, there are a few lawyers willing to take FOIA cases and the revised FOIA statute now allows for attorney fees if the person seeking the information prevails in court. Unfortunately, the public doesn’t care that politicians are spending hundreds of thousands or millions on lawyers to hide information about bad governing. Many want a boss and an outsized personality as a political leader.


  19. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Tuesday, Dec 15, 15 @ 5:23 pm:

    Make taser certification a prerequisite of firearms certification.

    An officer who cannot carry a firearm cannot get paid.


  20. - anon - Tuesday, Dec 15, 15 @ 7:03 pm:

    It’s just terrible. We are paying huge six figure salaries within the PD to Lts, Cptns, Commanders, etc. and it takes repeated phone calls and emails for basic info. All this after these latest scandals. Chicago deserves better.


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