Chicago, IL - The Chicago Police Department (CPD) has rewritten its policy on Taser use, in an effort to discourage officers from shocking suspects who are running away, intoxicated, or otherwise vulnerable to injury, and the officers’ union is fighting back.
The tightened policy follows an August investigation by the Chicago Tribune on the department's reliance on Tasers. Chicago Tribune
Following controversies from officers’ alleged misuse of force, CPD Superintendent Eddie Johnson overhauled the department’s Use of Force policies, FOX News reported.
The superintendent introduced the new rules in May, and enacted them in October.
The new Taser policy was immediately criticized for being too permissive because it did not specifically ban shocking people who simply run away and posed no serious threat, according to the Chicago Tribune.
So five months later, Superintendent Johnson issued a lengthy revision to the Taser policy in an attempt to satisfy critics.
The new order included a section that advised officers not to shock people who run away, are intoxicated, or could fall and suffer a head injury, among other things.
The new rule changes stop short of firmly banning Taser use on those people, but said that “when practicable, department members should avoid” those uses, according to the Chicago Tribune.
The rewritten rules call on officers to generally avoid shocking people who run, are in a tree or other elevated position, or are otherwise likely to fall and suffer a head injury. The rule also warned officers against shocking anyone driving a vehicle or riding a bicycle.
Under the new policy, Chicago police officers must “balance the risks and benefits” of using the weapon while considering factors including the threat to the officer, the subject, and the public, as well as the likely outcome, according to the CPD.
Martin Preib, spokesman for the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), said that the additional Taser restrictions are not reasonable and the policies should have been subject to bargaining.
“We have stated frequently that the city is not negotiating policies when [it] should be,” Preib wrote in an email.
The new policies, and their revisions, mandate conduct that could lead to discipline for an officer.
The police officers' union has argued the department didn’t even have the right to change the rules without bargaining with the union first, and has since filed a complaint with the Illinois Labor Relations Board. That challenge is pending.
The new policy, and its revisions, apply to a weapon that top CPD officials have increasingly supported as an alternative to deadly force.
The CPD increased its stock of Tasers more than fivefold from about 745 in 2015 to about 4,000 in 2017, which is enough for every officer responding to calls to have one, said CPD Spokesman Frank Giancamilli.
The department plans to buy 3,000 more Tasers in the near future.
Giancamilli said CPD officials made “several minor changes” to the new Use of Force rules before they were enacted in October that were based on “feedback and questions from officers during the initial training on the new policy.”
“These changes give police officers additional explicit guidance to take into account before force is considered,” Giancamilli said.
CPD’s new policy mirrors that of other large police departments, including the New Orleans Police Department, and has been endorsed by reform advocates and use-of-force experts, who said that Taser shocks can cause people to fall and sustain devastating head injuries.