Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel suggested that arming more police with Tasers and training them to make tense situations “less confrontational and more conversational” could reduce fatal shootings by officers. The Chicago Tribune says that experts and the city’s own data indicate that reducing violent episodes between police and civilians will require additional measures. Both of the mayor’s proposals are expansions of techniques and equipment that have been available to officers for years; neither prevented controversial police killings that have roiled the city. When the police department expanded use of Tasers in 2010, it did not lead to an immediate drop in police shootings. The devices have resulted in community relations problems of their own, spawning allegations in Chicago and elsewhere that police shocked civilians without justification.
Training officers how to de-escalate violent situations is generally worthwhile, experts said, though city officials provided scant detail as to what the newest training would entail. Training and equipment may mean little without effective supervision and accountability for officers who violate rules, and introducing more weapons could actually make the situation worse if the department doesn’t change as well, experts said. The president of the Chicago Police Department’s largest union said de-escalation techniques have been taught for years. Rather than through training, Fraternal Order of Police President Dean Angelo said inexperienced officers get better at de-escalating conflicts by latching onto more learned, seasoned police officers. Criminologist David Klinger of the University of Missouri at St. Louis, said de-escalation is a good strategy, though he worried about police spending too much time formulating responses to dangerous situations that could lead to harm to officers and civilians. “So it’s not just an officer-safety issue, it’s a citizen-safety issue,” Klinger said.