CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Police Department launched mandatory training designed to help officers de-escalate conflicts, including situations involving the use of force and mental health issues, officials said Monday.
The program, which Superintendent Eddie Johnson discussed at an evening news conference, is among several department reforms following the fatal shooting of teenager Laquan McDonald, who was shot 16 times by police. The department, which is undergoing a U.S. Department of Justice investigation, will expand the use of body cameras, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel has pitched a new police accountability system. He's expected to give a speech on policing and crime this week.
The de-escalation training at the Chicago Police Academy, which is in its second week, was developed with a panel of national policing and mental health experts. It uses live scenarios and exercises to help officers better assess how to respond to complex and tense situations. Some of the tactics include using slower and calmer approaches when possible.
During a news conference, Johnson said the training is designed to teach officers how to avoid the use of deadly force whenever possible.
"That's how we build trust," he added. "By letting the public know we are doing everything we can to resolve conflicts peacefully."
All of about 12,500 sworn officers will undergo the two-day training within about a year, which includes drills to test their reactions and judgment, according to The Chicago Tribune.
Sgt. Larry Snelling, a lead instructor in de-escalation, said trainers will draw on real-life examples of police who ended up using force.
In discussing the training, Snelling mentioned the December 2015 shootings of 19-year-old Quintonio LeGrier and 55-year-old Bettie Jones. Officer Robert Rialmo was responding to a 911 call for help when he fatally shot LeGrier, claiming the student was coming at him with a bat. The shooting of Jones has been called an accident. Rialmo has not been charged in the shootings.
"If we're not Monday morning quarterbacking, we're not getting better," Snelling said.
Some community leaders were skeptical of the impact without other improvements, particularly in impoverished neighborhoods that've experienced more violence.
"What would really help would be escalating resources in blighted communities," said the Rev. Gregory Livingston with the Coalition for a New Chicago. "If you don't escalate the resources, all the de-escalation training in the world will not make a difference."
Over the weekend, the police department announced that it will expand the use of body cameras to include all officers on patrol by 2018, which follows a 2015 pilot program with the cameras.
Emanuel's administration has proposed a new system to investigate police-involved shootings, officer complaints and department practices, which City Council members are considering. It includes creating a new agency and deputy inspector general position. Emanuel's speech is slated for Thursday evening.
McDonald, a black 17-year-old, was fatally shot in 2014 by a white police officer, who's since been charged with murder. Graphic squad-car video of the shooting was released last year, prompting citywide protests, police leadership changes and the federal probe.