I am less than impressed with Rahm Emanuel’s tasered announcement, following a dramatic return from an interrupted vacation in Cuba. His plan consists of arming officers with hundreds of tasers and some type of quickie training on how to defuse a situation. Oh, and those begin in the summer.
Tasers are just as deadly as guns when misapplied. Natasha McKenna died in a Fairfax, Virginia jail from too many applications of a taser, which will cause cardiac arrest. Learning how to defuse a situation is a skill that is learned over time, with many hours of practice. No amount of skill-building will change an officer who isn’t interested in peacemaking. Jason Van Dyke certainly had no interest in talking, pleading, or anything else. When hundreds of police officers have pinned their decision to use lethal force on fear of bodily threat, and those decisions have, for the most part, been accepted by prosecutors who’ve declined to prosecute and grand juries to indict, which do you think such an officer will reach for, his new-fangled taser or a gun?
Some sort of mini crash course in de-escalation won’t do. What will, is identifying and removing officers with a history of complaints of abusive or violent behavior. What will, is having an honest and public examination and debate on his police department’s hiring practices. What will, is changing the rules of engagement and severely narrowing the range of instances in which an officer is allowed to deholster – much less discharge – his or her weapon. What will help is hiring social scientists and mental health professionals and training them as cops. What will, is assigning undercover psychologists to observe the behavior of patrol officers in high-risk units and pull officers, as needed, if they exhibit overly-aggressive behaviors. Yes, it will be expensive. Then again, how expensive has it been to maintain such a brutal force? What will help is to do as California has done and ban grand juries for police-involved shootings.
Ah, but we run into a wall, when thinking about implementing some of these ideas. Illinois, and the city of Chicago, have a law that established special bill of rights privileges for police officers, making them very difficult to prosecute. Add to that a fraternal order of police (FOP) that is no less thuggish than the NYPD’s, and you have a situation where the political power of the FOP is such that it is impossible to implement real reform and makes it necessary to offer up band-aid solutions instead.
There isn’t a device that can save Rahm Emanuel’s dying career as a mayor. The fundamental problem his police department has is ethics and questionable hiring practices. Those won’t be fixed by hundreds of tasers which can kill when applied multiple times in a row or can be left unused in favor of a sidearm.
What Chicago needs aren’t reforms. CPD needs to be demolished and a new department constructed, from scratch. This is a long-term project for the citizens of Chicago, who will need to stay organized, be vigilant for years to come. The construction of a new police force will best done by a new mayor, with a city council that isn’t Rahm-assembled and approved.
Chicago Magazine: What Would Actually Happen if Rahm Resigns?
Los Angeles Times: To cut down on shootings, Chicago police to get more Tasers