Oct 26, 2022 - News

Philadelphia police hit snags in Taser reform rollout

A demonstrator holds a placard reading "WALTER WALLACE JR." during a protest in Philadelphia.

Protestors gather near where Walter Wallace Jr. was killed by two police officers in October 2020 in Philadelphia. Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

Philadelphia police have been slow to roll out a new policy to equip the entire force with Tasers, one year after the city pledged reform in response to the fatal shooting of Walter Wallace Jr.

Why it matters: Wallace's family blamed the officers' lack of nonlethal options as a contributing factor in his death on Oct. 26, 2020, which sparked protests across the city.

State of play: The Philadelphia Police Department has trained and equipped 3,074 of its approximately 5,800 uniformed officers with Tasers as of this month, spokesperson Miguel Torres told Axios.

  • That's up from approximately 2,300 officers equipped with the stun guns around the time of Wallace's shooting.
  • All officers trained and equipped with Tasers must wear them while on duty, per police policy.

Between the lines: The department has until 2026 to get the full force equipped, but Cpl. Jasmine Reilly told Axios that a series of issues slowed the department's training process over the past year.

  • Pandemic protocols limited the number of individuals trained per class, Reilly said.
  • Staffing shortages have also limited the number of officers who could be sent to training at any one time.

What they're saying: Reilly said the department is no longer requiring cops to receive crisis intervention training alongside the Taser training in an effort to get the stun guns into the hands of officers faster.

  • Officers' Tasers also work in conjunction with police body cameras, Reilly said.
  • Body cameras automatically begin recording when within a certain range of an officer activating the stun gun.

What's ahead: Reilly said they're on track to meet the five-year deadline. Most of the department's patrol officers have been trained to use Tasers. The department is now moving to train its special units.

  • "The long-term effects of equipping all of our officers with Tasers will give those officers a less than lethal option in specific circumstances," Reilly said.

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