TASERs are Not Mental Health Care. Disability is Not a Crime.

In response to the recent shooting of Quintonio Legrier and Bettie Jones, embattled mayor Rahm Emanuel has made a decision – give all cops Tasers.

Chicago’s mayor and police superintendent will announce Wednesday afternoon that every police officer who responds to service calls will be equipped with a Taser and properly trained to use it by June 1, the mayor’s deputy director of communications said. The announcement, to be made at 2 p.m. CT, will be part of a major overhaul in Chicago Police Department policy on how officers respond to incidents and the use of physical and lethal force, mayor’s spokesman Adam Collins said.

Tasers are a fine tool for policing, when used correctly. Too often, they reinforce the cult of compliance, giving police an easy (and approved) way to inflict pain on non-compliant, but non-threatening, individuals. Overall, though, I have been convinced that law enforcement officers (LEOs) should be provided with Tasers in most contexts, so long as abusers are held accountable.

What we’re seeing, though, with Emanuel’s response to Legrier/Jones and Philip Coleman is a continued focus on teaching police to manage crisis better. Such training and tools may be required, but the real solutions require focusing before the crisis and investing in public health, pushing back against stigma, funding community mental care teams, and more.

Instead, we’re giving cops TASERs and closing community mental health care facilities.

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