Police shootings always get scrutinized, particularly in a city like Philadelphia. That’s what happened with Philly police shot and killed a knife-wielding man who appeared to be a threat to any and all in the area who was not responding to police commands.
The suspect was reportedly having a mental health episode, but police not only didn’t know that but couldn’t determine whether that episode would result in someone being injured or killed, so they did what they had to do.
Now, the city has decided police officers need another way to respond to these kinds of incidents.
Philadelphia will equip all its police officers with Tasers, which officers will be trained and required to use on the job.
The move will cost $14 million and was announced on Tuesday, which marked the one-year anniversary of the police killing of Walter Wallace Jr., a 27-year-old Black man who was shot while he was undergoing a mental health crisis, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Five months after the police killing of George Floyd, Wallace, who was holding a knife, was killed when white police officers shot him 14 times.
At the time of Wallace’s death, about two-thirds of Philadelphia’s police officers, including the ones who shot Wallace, were not equipped with stun guns, the Inquirer reported.
Of course, tasers aren’t miracle tools. They do a lot of good and can be a useful piece of the law enforcement arsenal, but they’re not magic talismans that make everything better. Folks in Philadelphia need to realize that.
After all, Wallace may not have responded to the shock from a taser.
Plus, tasers require officers to be closer than a firearm does. There may be times that’s simply too risky to get within the effective range of a taser–about 10 feet, apparently–and a firearm still needs to be used.
After all, within 10 feet, if you miss with a taser, you may be well and truly screwed.
Still, there are times the taser is the right tool for the job. I’m not sure it’s when you have a knife-wielding person who had already beaten his mother with his bare hands and was now armed and wandering around the street apparently looking for someone else to hurt, but those times when a taser is ideal do exist. The idea of all officers having these tools is probably for the best.
Why The Hill felt the need to include George Floyd is beyond me, though. After all, Floyd’s death was nothing at all like what happened with Wallace. Wallace was a clear danger to the public when he was shot and killed by police. It feels like an attempt to paint the Philadelphia police officers involved as having done something wrong.
In fact, even if they’d have had tasers, I’m not sure I could have blamed them for using firearms under the circumstances.
Still, more tools for police rather than just blaming them and taking away much-needed funding is a far more productive approach than what some cities have done, so hat’s off to Philadelphia for that, at least.