Philadelphia will spend $14 million to equip all of its officers with stun guns, train them on how to use them and require officers to wear them while on duty.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported the announcement Tuesday, the anniversary of the fatal police shooting of Walter Wallace Jr., which was filmed by a bystander and sparked days of protests over police brutality. The 27-year-old Wallace, who was Black, was having a mental health episode.
He was holding a knife when he was shot 14 times by two white police officers who were not equipped with stun guns, police officials said. The announcement Tuesday was made in coordination with Wallace’s family, including his mother, who witnessed his shooting.
“The killing of Mr. Wallace, Jr. was painful and traumatic for many Philadelphians,” Mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement. “This tragic and unsettling incident, along with last year’s protests, underscored the urgency of many important reforms such as mental health training and crisis response resources.”
After the shooting, police and city officials said that nearly two-thirds of the more than 6,000-member Philadelphia police force were not equipped with or trained to use electroshock weapons, a less lethal use of force.
After the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis just a few months before Wallace’s death, protests erupted across the country calling for changes to address police brutality. Advocates pushed departments to require training officers to exhaust other forms of force before firing guns.
After the Wallace shooting, the victim’s family sued the officers, alleging they used unreasonable force, and the city for failing to equip its officers with the stun guns, as had been recommended after a 2015 report by the U.S. Department of Justice. The lawsuit is still pending.
Wallace’s family had called for help several times the day of his shooting, and the final 911 call warned that Wallace was mentally unstable.
As part of reforms in how police and first responders handle mental health crises after the shooting of Wallace, the city began a pilot program that pairs a health care worker with a police officer to respond to 911 calls. The city hopes to expand that program.