CHICAGO – Embattled Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced a major overhaul of the U.S. city’s police force Wednesday in the wake of fatal shootings that sparked mass protests.
The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating how Chicago police use force after the death of a black teenager who was shot 16 times as he was walking away from officers.
The department has once again come under scrutiny in recent days after police killed two more of the city’s African American residents after a father called for help with his “mentally disturbed” son on Saturday.
The responding officer shot at the young man as he walked down the stairs while holding a baseball bat and the bullets also struck and killed the downstairs neighbor — a mother of five — who had answered the door.
“We must ensure our officers have the right tactics, the right training and the right technology to resolve tense situations safely and security,” Emanuel told reporters.
“There’s a difference between whether someone can use a gun and when they should use a gun. And we as a city must train for that difference.”
Frontline officers and police dispatchers will receive training in crisis intervention, how to de-escalate tense situations and also how to best communicate critical details about what the officer should expect when arriving at a scene.
Every patrol car in the city will soon be equipped with a Taser so officers will have a non-lethal alternative to firing their guns.
Police officers trying to apprehend Laquan McDonald, 17, as he wandered the street with a knife in his hand in October 2014 had asked for a unit to respond with a Taser but one could not be located in the area.
Prosecutors said officer Jason Van Dyke — who pleaded not guilty to murder charges on Tuesday — shot McDonald just 30 seconds after his cruiser pulled up to the scene and six seconds after stepping out of it.
Van Dyke, who is white, is the first Chicago police officer to be charged with murder for an on-duty fatality in more than 30 years.
Police tactics and racism have been the subject of an intense national debate since protests erupted in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014 over the shooting death of another black teen, 18-year-old Michael Brown.