Philadelphia city council proposes $13.8 million purchase so all officers have tasers

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PHILADELPHIA, PA – Less than a month after the officer-involved-shooting of Walter Wallace, Jr., Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and the Philadelphia city council have approved the advance of $13.8 million dollars for tasers for Philadelphia police.

The city council is moving forward with a five-year plan that would outfit every officer on the force with a taser. 

Introduced to City Council on behalf of Mayor Jim Kenney’s administration, lawmakers advanced the procurement bill to the committee phase during a busy session Thursday.

City Council President Darrell Clarke’s office said no decision has been made yet on a hearing date for public input.

Joe Grace, city council spokesman, related:

“We’ll wait for the hearing and Council members can weigh in then on these issues.”

The deal would supply approximately 4,500 tasers and 18,000 long- and short-range taser cartridges to officers from an Arizona-based company, Axon. 

After the Walter Wallace shooting, his family immediately questioned why all police weren’t equipped with tasers.  The plan to equip Philly officers with tasers has been in the works for over ten years, but has never come to light – until now.

Many police reform advocates, however, plan to testify against the purchase of more devices.

“Devren Washington, an organizer of the Movement Alliance Project, a progressive advocacy group that focuses on the intersection of technology and criminal justice, noted that the electronic weapons are still lethal, and worried that officers would abuse them unnecessarily.”

Washington related:

“A major issue here is police officers and their temperament.  If you give them a less-than-lethal device to cause harm, they’ll use it in cases that don’t actually need it, when they could have talked out the situation.”

Other advocates, attorneys and family members of people shot by police often ask why the devices aren’t deployed more. The question surfaced last year after police in Kensington shot a man wielding a box cutter who, like Wallace, suffered from mental health issues.

It should be noted that the Philadelphia Police Department does have taser-equipped officers, but not enough of the electronic units for every officer to have one.

In an answer to Washington’s criticism, officers must be trained on the devices before taking them out on street duty.  Axon’s quote for the tasers includes on-site training sessions, but properly training thousands of officers requires time.

To carry a taser in the past, officers were required to take a 40-hour crisis intervention training in addition to the eight-hour police academy training.  Those training requirements have been merged to expedite the process of getting tasers into the field, according to the department.

Philadelphia Police Department Training Officer Tonya Little explained:

“Newer officers will not need the 8-hour training, and tasers will be issued as soon as possible for these officers.  

Those that did not receive the training in the academy will be scheduled for the 8-hour training as soon as possible, in light of social distancing regulations.”

The city’s business relationship with Axon dates back several years.  In 2017, the city approved a separate $12.5 million contract with Axon, formerly known as Taser International, to outfit the police force with body-worn cameras. The city did not open that contract up to competitive bids.

The spending announcement drew criticism from Devren Washington and others over the budget aspect.  Washington helped to organize a hearing scheduled for December 2nd to discuss funding issues.

Washington and other activists oppose giving any more resources to a department whose budget is now over $750 million per year.  They call to re-appropriate money to first responders better equipped to handle situations without use of force.

Washington stated:

“The first responders need to be equipped to de-escalate without the need for a gun and without the need for a taser.”

In the words of Twitter user Tamir Moore:

“LIKE DAMN! Y’all could’ve used a taser or shoot him in the arm/leg!? Prayers to his family.”

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Media spin: Press claims San Francisco officer used “arsenal” of weapons against man with knife

November 19, 2020

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – Fox News video shows the report of a man being shot at around 5 p.m. Tuesday afternoon in a retail business area in the financial district of San Francisco. 

Reports say that three men got into an altercation outside the Timberland and Walgreen’s stores near Westfield Centre Mall.  One of the men had a knife.

Arriving officers found one male suspect who police said was brandishing a knife. A witness KPIX spoke with Tuesday night said the suspect was waving a large knife.

Ezra Ortiz told KPIX San Francisco: 

“It was a big knife, pretty damn big knife.  He was walking around with it, waving it around. The cops tried to seclude him and get him away from the public … they got him secluded and he was not moving and he was still being sporadic.

They were trying to get him to follow directions and he wasn’t following directions and unfortunately they fired on him tonight.”

Police said prior to the suspect being critically injured in the officer-involved shooting, SFPD officers tried using less-lethal weapons and a San Francisco Sheriff’s Office deputy deployed a Taser.

Police said the injured suspect was taken into custody and transported to an area hospital with a gunshot wound. The suspect, an unidentified 26-year-old-male, is still hospitalized with life-threatening injuries as of Wednesday night.

One must ask – is there a conflict present, with the media stating police used an “arsenal of weapons” as part of a headline to seek to inflame or draw emotional responses from the public toward police?

It is reported that a taser, a beanbag shotgun, and a pistol were used.  This report claimed issue with this normal escalation from a non-lethal weapon to a maybe lethal weapon to a firearm as “using an entire arsenal” of weapons.

Headlines can excite people, influence them, and sway their thinking.  This is evidenced by an Instagram post by IG User jhonatittz:

“I was reading that supposedly the police fired non-lethal rounds, tased the suspect and later one cop fired his hand gun. I saw the whole thing and I never saw them fire the taser.

First 1 cop did fire a non-lethal round and right after a different cop fired his hand gun 3x disregarding the safety of civilians on the line of fire inside 835 Market st, right behind the suspect.

Soon after, the same cop fire two more lethal rounds at the suspect at a different angle with more civilians near the line of fire (standing right in front of Walgreens) and later another shot was fired.

Yes, the suspect had a knife but IMO the police did a bad job communicating with each other. The police aggressively approached the suspect with only 2 cops when the rest of the cops weren’t even ready and the suspect was still not charging at the police and no people were near him.

The cop with the non-lethal weapon did the right thing and the rest should’ve tased the suspect rather than firing lethal rounds given the circumstances of civilians standing on the line of fire (yes, they shouldn’t have). 

I know the video gives an enigmatic perspective of what happened and there’s multiple ways to perceive how the event unfolded, you be the judge.”

Philadelphia city council proposes .8 million purchase so all officers have tasers

Screenshot courtesy of  KTVU Fox San Francisco

The suspect is in critical condition.  The mayor, district attorney, and the Office of Police Accountability are all investigating the shooting.

One must ask these questions: 

Does the headline in question outline a much bigger issue suggesting that perhaps members of the press do not have proper knowledge of police tactics and use of weaponry? 

Do media personalities use their words to elicit specific responses from the public?

The headline sensationalizes the words “entire” and “arsenal” to elicit emotional responses from readers.  While that practice may be normal in order to grab attention and ratings, in this scenario, it could be said that it serves to demonize police. 

Making the police out as “the bad guys” and “monsters” helps to gain acceptance of popular liberal ideals like defunding the police and cutting police force manning levels.

This gaslighting style of media bias goes on to fuel the fire behind the “defund the police” movement.

U.S Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) has been very vocal, and very specific, in her support for the movement.

Attorney general William Barr spoke at the Major Cities Chiefs Association Conference recently about the “defund the police” movement and how it has made police work much more dangerous:

“The climate today has made the job (of a police officer) 10 times more difficult.

It is a climate characterized by cowardly politicians who do not support their police forces and by a deceitful national media that seizes on relatively few incidents to scapegoat police and cultivate a false narrative that our police are systemically evil.”

In reference to shifting funds from law enforcement to social services, Barr said these measures don’t address the root cause of crime:

“I think everyone here today would agree that tough law enforcement cannot be the only solution. We must also address the pathologies that contribute to crime. 

But they are not alternative approaches. They must be complementary … Law and order is the foundation of all social progress.”

San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced an effort to funnel funding away from the city’s police department and toward the black community, which experiences poverty at three times the average rate.

Breed, nor anyone in the media, approached the subject that the San Francisco area is the mostly costly in the continental United States for cost of living.

“Decades of disinvestment and racially disparate policies have disproportionately hurt our African-American community in SF.  This week has highlighted the devastating impacts of police violence against African-Americans in this country.”

Breed went on to explain the differences in median income between black and white families in the Bay Area, but did not address skill levels and education differences.  Breed also addressed homelessness rates between black and whites, but in the city’s “reparations” plan, did little to nothing for homeless people.

Breed continued:

“Reforming any single system, such as the criminal justice system or the police department, must go hand-in-hand with closing these disparities. Those who have been voiceless for too long are going to be at the table making these decisions that will impact their community.”

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