Nov 1, 2023 - News

Philadelphia police shortages hamper Taser rollout

Photo illustration of a Philadelphia police cruiser with lines radiating from it.

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Philadelphia Police Department says staff shortages are slowing the rollout of a policy to outfit the entire force with Tasers.

Why it matters: The city pledged in 2021 to equip all officers with Tasers over five years in response to the fatal shooting of Walter Wallace Jr.

State of play: The police department has trained and equipped 3,811 out of approximately 5,350 officers with Tasers, spokesperson and officer Tanya Little tells Axios.

Of note: All officers trained and equipped with Tasers must wear them while on duty, per police policy.

Flashback: The police killing of Wallace in West Philly on Oct. 26, 2020, led to days of unrest and protests and the National Guard being mobilized.

  • Wallace's family, who blamed the officers' lack of nonlethal options as a contributing factor in his death, worked with the city on the $14 million plan to equip all officers with stun guns.

Zoom in: The department remains on track to outfit all officers with Tasers by the original deadline of 2026, Little says.

Yes, but: The department is nearly 1,000 officers short of what it's budgeted for, preventing it from meeting that deadline sooner because officers are needed on the street and unable to attend training.

What they're saying: The department must prioritize the training of patrol officers and uniformed special units first over others to use the device, Little says.

  • More cops could be equipped with Tasers sooner if the department could modify that schedule and train detectives or other less prioritized units.

What to watch: Tasers have been shown to significantly reduce the incidence of injury to police and others, per Little.

  • "The Taser has been proven to be a useful tool when trying to control combative noncompliant individuals," she says.
  • More funding will be needed in future city budgets to purchase enough Tasers for every officer, Little says.

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