- Associated Press - Monday, January 16, 2017

JANESVILLE, Wis. (AP) - A handful of police chiefs met with U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan on Monday in his Wisconsin hometown to discuss ways to reduce officers’ use of deadly force.

Ryan hosted a listening session that was open to the media but closed to the public with six chiefs from Wisconsin, Arizona, Louisiana, Florida, New Jersey and Vermont. The meeting focused on a training program from the Washington-based nonprofit Police Executive Research Forum aimed at giving officers ways to slow down threatening situations to avoid the use of force.

“We’ve witnessed - especially last year - how if we don’t get this right, communities will be destroyed, lives will be lost,” Ryan said during the meeting in Janesville, whose police department sent six officers to the training last month and plans to train all officers over the next three years.

PERF Executive Director Chuck Wexler said the techniques are particularly useful in situations where an unarmed individual is having a mental health crisis. He estimated that 300 to 400 deaths at the hands of police last year could have been prevented had the situations been handled differently.

“It’s a form of communication,” added Scott Thomson, PERF’s president and police chief of Camden County, New Jersey. Thomson said officers who have traditionally been trained to resolve situations as quickly as possible are now learning that “repositioning is not retreating.”

A message seeking comment about the gathering was left after business hours by The Associated Press with the Young Gifted and Black Coalition, a Madison-based group focused on ending police-involved deaths.

Ryan formed a bipartisan working group in Congress on police-community relations following the deaths of five law enforcement officers in a Dallas shooting in July.

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Follow Cara Lombardo on Twitter at https://twitter.com/CaraRLombardo

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This story has been updated to show that PERF Executive Director Chuck Wexler estimated the techniques could have prevented 300 to 400 deaths at the hands of police last year, not 30 to 40.


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