BY: LEIGHTON SCHNEIDER, ABC NEWS
(NEW YORK) -- After weeks of protests across the country over police violence, President Trump introduced a series of executive actions this week on police reform.
The actions include curbing the use of deadly force by police, encouraging a ban on chokeholds, and setting up a database for police departments to share information on officers with a history of misconduct and excessive use of force, so they aren't rehired elsewhere.
John Cohen, a former undersecretary at the Department of Homeland Security and an ABC News contributor, told ABC News' Cheri Preston, host of ABC News' Perspective Podcast, that the actions were a missed opportunity.
“The president had an opportunity to come out and make a strong statement saying, basically, police are vital to our society and they protect our communities from violence, but the people of this country will not tolerate individuals or police organizations allowing racial bias to influence the decision making of officers or these organizations,” Cohen said.
Cohen has worked in law enforcement and homeland security for over 30 years. He has also personally been involved in two police shootings.
He says police aren't trained to shoot to kill, instead, they are trained to shoot to stop someone who is a threat.
“I've been involved in shootings and you teach an officer to aim center mass because that is where you're going to have the highest likelihood of not only striking the individual, but striking him in a way that stops them from doing whatever action it is that the officer deemed to be the threat. It's not easy, particularly when you're in those situations, to aim to hit a hand that may be carrying an item or a leg,” Cohen said.
Cohen believes changing police training and tactics when it comes to the use of lethal force would be difficult, but he says there is a better way to train officers.
“Where we have to focus our training is in the area of teaching officers how to, at the initial point of a call, set the tone in that call so it doesn't escalate. ... The key is making sure that an officer approaches a situation, whether it's responding to a call for service, or an interaction with somebody on the street that the officer initiates, that you handle that call in such a way that it doesn't escalate to a situation requiring the use of force," Cohen said.
He adds improved training could change the outcome of some situations.
“With a lot of these calls, the officers approached the situation poorly. They allowed it to get out of control, then they use deadly force when deadly force wasn't necessary. If someone's running away from you and you're shooting your gun at them, it doesn't matter whether you're aiming for their leg or their back. You shouldn't be shooting your gun,” Cohen said.
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