CPD officers going through mandatory 'force mitigation' training

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The Chicago Police Department has a new training course that teaches cadets to use less force to settle disputes and confrontations. (WLS)

The Chicago Police Department has a new training course that teaches cadets to use less force to settle disputes and confrontations.

The two-day program helps officers handle people with mental health needs and deescalate high-conflict situations. It will be mandatory for all officers.

The new training follows community calls for reform following the deadly shooting of Laquan McDonald and other similar cases.

The superintendent of Chicago police said he heard those protests and heard those calls. He's trying to reduce the use of deadly force by his officers. And this training program, he said, might be one way to do that.

They looked at other departments, including the LAPD, how they were operating and their use of force. But he said this program is specific to Chicago. They will use real life situations. The officers will also be listening to the 911 calls made my Quintonio LeGrier.

The goal of the two-day hands-on training is Force Mitigation. It's a practice that is supposed to offer officers vital information about those who are mentally ill and ways to de-escalate challenging encounters.

Alexa James with the National Alliance on Mental Illness Chicago assisted CPD in developing the training.

"We are hoping that this will increase officer safety and decrease injury to somebody who is in crisis and help link them to the appropriate placement, the appropriate service," James said.

Last winter, a troubled young man called police for help, then his father called for help.

Bettie Jones was the neighbor who opened the door for police.

Jones and the young man, Quintonio LeGrier, were shot and killed by a Chicago police officer.

"Just a tragic incident that should never have happened," Larry Rogers Jr., attorney for the family of Jones said.

Rogers represents the family of Jones and believes better training would have led to a better outcome for her.

"How do throw them into these situations with nothing but a gun? No Tasers, no batons, no non-lethal weapons, just a gun, to respond? This type of training is long overdue," Jones said.

The training program is in its third week but CPD expects to have this training for all of its officers within a year. And they hope to give officers more time while they're on the scene so they can get the help they need. They want these encounters to end peacefully and not end in a news headline.

Over the weekend, the department announced that all officers will be wearing body cameras on patrol by the year 2018.

"Body-worn cameras provide a rare glimpse into the dangerous situations Chicago police officers face every day in an effort to keep our communities safe. They will also assist in our efforts to provide better training and community relations in all of the diverse neighborhoods we serve. This expansion is a win-win for the public and for officers," Johnson said.

The department launched a pilot program in the Shakespeare District in 2015, which was later expanded to four more districts.

By 2018, every officer on patrol will be equipped with Taser Axon brand cameras. The department said that it will be investing in technology upgrades in order to accommodate hosting the video from the cameras.

The program will cost about $8 million, Johnson said, being paid for from CPD's operating budget and from grants.
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