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Phila. Leaders Pledge Reforms After Fatal Police Shooting

Philadelphia officials are pledging to improve how lawenforcement officers deal with people in mental distress after the fatal shooting of Walter Wallace Jr., reports the Wall Street Journal. Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw vowed to form a behavioral health unit and called for officers to have a directory that lists mental-health resources available around the clock. She wants to equip all 4,500 officers in operational roles with Taser stun guns. The department now has 2,300 Tasers. Mayor Jim Kenney said the city should expand a neighborhood program in which police officers take some people who are in the throes of mental illness, addiction or both to a treatment center, rather than to jail in handcuffs. “We need to spread it citywide,” Kenney said.

Police officers fatally shot Wallace on Monday. Bystander video showed him holding a knife while two police officers pointed their guns at him. Officers fired when he emerged onto a street from between parked cars and moved toward them. A police spokesman said the officers ordered the 27-year-old Black man to drop the knife before firing. Each officer fired about seven times; neither had a Taser, which officers can use to immobilize someone who ignores commands. Shaka Johnson, a Wallace family attorney, said  Wallace had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and was taking lithium under a doctor’s care. The city imposed a 9 p.m. curfew in response to major looting on the two nights after Wallace’s killing. Hundreds of Pennsylvania National Guard members are expected to begin arriving Friday, with a primary mission to safeguard property and prevent looting. Outlaw said crisis training gives officers tools to slow down a situation,  but, “We may find ourselves in situations where it escalates rather quickly and we don’t have the necessary time to go through all of those steps.”