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Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, under increasing strain over alleged police misconduct and a string of fatal shootings, has announced a department-wide shake-up of the city's police force, including plans to train all officers in communication and "de-escalation tactics" and double the number of cops carrying Tasers from 700 to 1,400.
Emanuel and Interim Police Superintendent John Escalante announced the new policies of the Chicago Police Department (CPD) at a press conference Wednesday, saying the changes would alter the way officers use physical and lethal force.
Emanuel said that while some may call these policies "de-escalation" tactics, the intention is to inject "more humanity" into policing practices and to train officers in the difference between when they can use a gun and when they should use a gun.
"Just because you train and can use force, doesn't mean you should," Emanuel said.
Officers will also be trained in how to effectively work with communities and encouraged to call for backup during an escalating incident.
"Our goal is to change the way officers think when they approach an incident," Escalante said.
The CPD will also provide training in the use of stun guns, which is currently voluntary. Only about 20 percent of officers have received training on how to use Tasers.
The announcement came amid a Department of Justice probe into the CPD, and a series of protests that erupted after police released dashcam video last month showing Officer Jason Van Dyke shooting 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times. Van Dyke pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to first-degree murder charges.
Some protesters called for Emanuel's resignation after the video of the shooting surfaced. The ensuing turmoil led Emanuel to fire the police superintendent and create a task force to review police accountability, but the mayor has no plans to step down.
Emanuel also ended a family vacation early this week to deal with fallout from the police shootings of a 55-year-old mother and a 19-year-old college student. Bettie Jones, 55, and Quintonio LeGrier, 19, were killed on December 26 by an officer responding to a call that LeGrier was threatening his father with a baseball bat.
Chicago police have admitted the woman's death was an accident.
Meanwhile, more protests were planned in Cleveland on Wednesday, two days after a grand jury decided not to charge two white police officers in the 2014 shooting death of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old boy who was playing in a park with a toy gun that shoots plastic pellets.
The CPD is also currently facing allegations made earlier this year that it used abusive interrogation techniques on detainees held at a "black site" warehouse in the city.
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