CHICAGO — The Chicago Police Union is suing their department for rewriting rules on officers’ use of Tasers—without input from the city’s police union.
Police are now deterred from using Tasers on people who are running away, intoxicated, or vulnerable to injury.
Law Enforcement Today believes this might sound admirable to the uninformed, but it nearly eliminates the practical use of an important tool for several reasons.
First, a large percentage of combative subjects are under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Second, everyone who gets tased is vulnerable to injury simply from the fall. However, these injuries are less risk to ALL participants than other methods of force. Third, people who run are also individuals who fight. So now if someone fights before running, the Taser cannot be deployed? Furthermore, what if the runner is someone involved in violent crimes and there is no other way to stop the individual? If it boils down to deploying the Taser or letting him go, they’ve now chosen to wave goodbye.
In essence, these policy changes remove Taser as a force option. As a result, the unintended consequences will be more injuries to officers and combatants alike.
The tightened policy follows an August investigation by the Chicago Tribune on the department’s reliance on the devices, the newspaper reported Monday.
Following controversies from officers’ alleged misuse of force, Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson overhauled the department’s policies and introduced the rules in May and enacted them in October, the report said.
Critics assailed the policy as being too permissive, while the union representing rank-and-file cops argued the department did not have the right to change the rules without its input, the report said.
Consequently, the new policies face a pending challenge from the union. It filed a complaint with the Illinois Labor Relations Board, arguing that the department violated the union’s collective bargaining rights by implementing new rules without negotiating, the Tribune reported.
Martin Preib, spokesman for the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, 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.
Chicago Police Department tightens policy on Taser use, rewriting the rules to discourage officers from shocking people who are running away or otherwise vulnerable to injury https://t.co/QT6JTlR3vM pic.twitter.com/AvUe5ApTNY
— Chicago Tribune (@chicagotribune) December 25, 2017
Craig Futterman, a University of Chicago law professor, is suing the police department over its practices, and said the new policy does not go far enough. He told the newspaper that advising officers to avoid using the Taser in certain situations is a half-measure, reported Fox News.
“They still refuse to stop telling … officers that it’s OK to Taser people who pose no immediate threat to anyone,” he said. “You need hard and fast rules on this.”
Taser is a brand of stun gun manufactured by Axon, an Arizona company.
On the other hand, Geoffrey Alpert, an expert on use of force and a criminal justice professor at the University of South Carolina, lauded the department’s move, but said it will be worth little without solid training, supervision and discipline.
“If it’s not really good training, you’re gonna end up with not really good practices,” he said.
The experts at Law Enforcement Today agree with Alpert’s comment regarding training, but believe his opinion praising the policy is misguided. Abuses need to be reigned in with disciplinary action, not restricting the use of a tool designed to keep people safe. Training is vitally important, but restricting the use in the majority of applications because of past abuse is not the answer.
The rule changes also come as Chicago police have acquired more Tasers. Frank Giancamilli, a spokesman for the Chicago Police Department, told the newspaper that the department had 745 in 2015 and has about 4,000 now.
This is what you call a cluster!