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Police chiefs are starting to acknowledge that fatal shootings are a systemic issue.

Joshua Lott/Getty Images

Around 200 police chiefs gathered in Washington, D.C. on Friday to meet with police training experts and discuss a significant slate of policy proposals. At this forum, entitled “Taking Policing to a Higher Standard,” some of the nation’s most senior police officers were made to watch the same videos of police violence that have been seemingly omnipresent for the past few years.

The Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery reported that the forum was meant to orient law enforcement towards a “proactive” approach to fatal shootings, a change from the reactive ones we’ve seen from Chicago to Miami Beach. 

Nearly all fatal police shootings are deemed legally justified, going back to a 1989 Supreme Court decision that established the “objectively reasonable” standard. Participants at Friday’s forum seemed to recognize that this low legal bar is part of the problem, and police must begin to hold themselves to a higher standard. 

“It’s important for us to recognize the gap that exists between what is acceptable in community standards of use of force,” Camden County police chief Scott Thompson told Lowery, “and what is acceptable under the law.” 

However, former Boston police commissioner Ed Davis expressed reservations. “When we get to this point where we start to say that we have to hold ourselves to a higher standard, it’s great rhetoric but…it’s difficult for an agency to say ‘even though the Supreme Court said this, we’re gonna say that.’ ”