Police Violence May Be Reduced More by Reforms Than Technology, Advocates Say

Training and oversight could be more important than body cameras.

— -- A tumultuous week in which two black men were killed by cops in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and St. Paul, Minnesota, events which ignited widespread demonstrations across the country has left lingering questions about what can be done to change police procedures and improve relations between police and the community.

Though new technologies can be helpful in adding transparency and oversight to policing, some advocates say too much emphasis is placed on the power of those technologies. Michele Jawando, the Vice President of Legal Progress at the Center for American Progress, a public policy research and advocacy organization based out of Washington D.C. told ABC News that ideas like mandating body cameras for police can be useful, but are also an "easy and flashy fix."

Jawando, who worked on a 2014 analysis titled "Four Ideas That Could Begin to Reform the Criminal Justice System and Improve Police-Community Relations" for the Center for American Progress, told ABC News that she joined demonstrations against the police shootings this week in Washington D.C. with her husband and children, but also feels the conversation needs to be broader.

In addition to these new technologies, she feels other improvements to police training and strengthening oversight could make a difference.

"What you see is that some biases increase the chances that police will react too quickly to a situation," Jawando said, referring to the tendency to view black children as older than they are. "And an extra five seconds to think can make a big difference [for police]."

Improving the collection and distribution of information about police shootings at both national and local levels could also help highlight how these incidents disproportionately affect black people.

"It's unfortunate to see people going to the media for statistics about police violence, when they should be readily available from the police," she said.

But, Jawando said, political protests and demonstrations do not have to be as specific to be effective.

"People want to express their anguish together and by being together, we have an opportunity to push the conversation forward," she said.

In regards to legal oversight in the incidents, both Gangi and Jawando want to see the appointment of independent prosecutors who investigate and prosecute police violence cases.

Citing the example of Eric Garner's death in Staten Island as an example, Gangi said that District Attorneys and other officials who are beholden to their electorate should not be expected to be impartial regarding politically charged issues like police violence.

Gangi compared Staten Island, New York's conservative voter demographic to nearby Brooklyn, New York's, which is notably more liberal, as a point of reference. He said that an independent prosecutor focused on police violence would help to "remove politics from the equation" and provide oversight that people could trust.

Police should be tasked to focus only on police work, Gangi also suggested. He referenced the "broken windows" theory of criminology, and said that cops would best serve their communities by doing more focused, specific roles like what many associate with "TV cops shows." Smaller incidents do not need bigger reactions.

"Alton Sterling was selling CDs," he said. "Philando Castile stopped with a broken taillight. You don't see cops doing these things on TV."

Gangi said that issues like selling CDs could be handled by departments focused on consumer affairs, and broken taillights could be handled by personnel focused on traffic and safety to keep violence out of incidents that lacked urgency.

He said, "These types of smaller busts are breeding feelings of mistrust in the black community."