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With Chicago Police 'Shooting Blindly,' Tasers Are Needed: Aldermen

By Ted Cox | December 29, 2015 11:19am
 Police at a Downtown protest on Dec. 18
Police at a Downtown protest on Dec. 18
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Getty Images/Joshua Lott

CITY HALL — If all Chicago Police officers were armed with stun guns, would Quintonio LeGrier, Bettie Jones and Laquan McDonald be alive today?

It's impossible to know, but some aldermen and police officials are calling on the city to get stun guns in the hands of officers — and train them on how to best use them. 

"We are calling for Mayor Emanuel to immediately order CPD to de-escalate their tactics," said Ald. George Cardenas (12th), chairman of the City Council's Latino Caucus. "We cannot have innocent Chicagoans be affected by officers shooting blindly."

On Tuesday, 11 aldermen joined Cardenas in demanding Emanuel order the stun gun training in the wake of the weekend police shootings of LeGrier and Jones.

 Backed by Ald. Raymond Lopez and members of the Latino Caucus, Ald. George Cardenas is calling for the immediate, mandatory training of Chicago Police officers in the use of stun guns.
Backed by Ald. Raymond Lopez and members of the Latino Caucus, Ald. George Cardenas is calling for the immediate, mandatory training of Chicago Police officers in the use of stun guns.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

"Our first priority should be the use of nonlethal force," added Ald. Danny Solis (25th). "Every officer should have and be trained to use a Taser."

Police officers were requesting Tasers before the Laquan's shooting in October 2014, and Ald. Edward Burke (14th) said at the time of the $5 million settlement issued to Laquan's family that "it would appear that, if a Taser had been available in this case, the taxpayers wouldn't be shelling out $5 million."

According to the Chicago Tribune, only one in five Chicago officers are certified to use Tasers, despite a push in 2010 and again in 2014 to arm as many officers with the stun guns as possible. 

Fraternal Order of Police President Dean Angelo told CBS that police need to be "well-equipped with the latest technology," but that officers are not "trigger happy" with the stun guns or their regular guns.

The caucus also called on the mayor to issue an executive order halting police in the use of lethal force "unless an offender is threatening the life of an officer with a weapon."

"We have to change the general orders for deadly force as they relate to individuals with mental illness," said Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th). "If 911 callers identify someone as suffering from a known mental illness, lethal force should not be the initial reaction."

The mayor's press office did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Emanuel was due back in town Tuesday after cutting short a family holiday in Cuba.

The caucus also includes Aldermen Joe Moreno (1st), Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th), Ricardo Munoz (22nd), Roberto Maldonado (26th), Milly Santiago (31st), Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35th), Gilbert Villegas (36th) and Ariel Reboyras (30th), chairman of the Committee on Public Safety.

Police were called to the West Garfield Park home of LeGrier's father early Saturday morning by reports of a man swinging a bat. LeGrier was shot and killed, as was Jones, a resident of the building, with police later reporting her shooting was accidental and tragic.

"Why did the officers on the scene need to resort to the use of their firearms to subdue a young man with a bat?" Cook County Board Commissioner Richard Boykin asked after the shootings. "Why weren't the officers equipped with Tasers so that Quintonio could be subdued without lethal force?"

Jones was a member of the grassroots group Action Now, and its president, Katelyn Johnson, issued a call Monday for people to sign an online petition demanding the immediate firing of the officer who shot Jones and LeGrier, the release of the officer's name, and for Emanuel to resign as mayor.

LeGrier's father, Antonio LeGrier, filed a wrongful-death suit against the city Monday.