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City Council approved the purchase of 30 new Taser devices for use in the field, complete with high definition cameras designed to record each and every use of the devices, at its Jan. 25 meetig. The Tasers will be paid for out of funds seized by the police in narcotics arrests.
“The Chief [Richard Eddington] wants every officer in the field to be trained and to carry a Taser,” said Deputy Chief James Pickett.
Prior to the change in policy, said Deputy Chief Pickett, the use of and training on Tasers was voluntary. A Taser is “another tool in case the situation arises” when force is necessary, he said.
The Police Department currently has 19 Tasers according to Deputy Chief Pickett and the staff memo. Adding 30 new Tasers will provide enough units to equip everyone in the field, including special operations officers and detectives, with Taser units at all times.
The cameras allow the department to “see and review” every incident in which a Taser is deployed, said Deputy Chief Pickett.
Purchasing the Tasers will occur “before we get the body cameras,” said Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward. The police department is considering a move that would put body cameras on all officers in the field so that every encounter is recorded and available for review. Cameras have long been used in squad cars both in Evanston and Chicago, and recently became an issue in the shooting death of Chicago teen Laquan McDonald that ultimately resulted in the indictment of a Chicago police officer.
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, praised the use of seized funds to make the Taser purchase. Even after the $60,000 purchase, the fund will still contain nearly $200,000, she pointed out.
City CFO Marty Lyons said the fund “must be spent specifically on law enforcement” equipment and procedures under Illinois law. Sometimes seized funds are returned to the person or persons from whom they were seized, he added, in cases in which the accused was either acquitted or not charged.
Alderman Delores Homes, 5th Ward, said seized funds should be used for surveillance cameras, saying residents asked for more cameras during a community walk Saturday in the wake of recent violence.
Ald. Brathwaite agreed, saying cameras could be located behind the Burger King on Dempster Street and Dodge Avenue, and perhaps placed on utility poles to catch fly dumpers in the act in Evanston alleys.