Some 200 of the nation's most prominent police chiefs, Justice Department and White House officials, and police training experts convened in Washington, D.C., on Friday to discuss policy proposals which, if implemented broadly, would amount to the most drastic police reform in decades, the Washington Post reports. During a forum titled “Taking Policing to a Higher Standard,” top officials from many large police departments were urged to implement new training and departmental policies that supporters believe could lead to a decrease in the number of fatal shootings by officers each year, a topic near the top of national consciousness in the 18 months since the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. “This is a defining moment for us in policing,” said former Philadelphia police commissioner Charles Ramsey. He was one of several prominent police officials who said departments must change their use-of-force policies instead of waiting for an officer to be involved in a controversial shooting.
Several attendees remarked that the shift in attitude of top police officials toward reform seems a result of the protests in Ferguson, Baltimore, Chicago and elsewhere and the increase in media scrutiny of police use of force. “We need to raise the bar for all police departments,” said Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum, which organized the gathering. Accurate national statistics on fatal police shootings were unavailable until last year. when the Post launched a database to track them, documenting 987 fatal shootings by on-duty officers in 2015. Wexler presented the findings to the gathering and said that even after removing shootings in which the person killed had a gun, there were hundreds of preventable fatal shootings last year. “We can impact about 300 of those,” he said. The goal of reform, organizers said, should be to address the large number of “lawful but awful” cases that do not amount to a crime but outrage the community and could have been prevented.