Members of the Task Force on Policing held their last listening session on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of the Task Force on Policing's Twitter account, @PoliceTaskForce)

Members of the Task Force on Policing held their last listening session on Tuesday. (Photo courtesy of the Task Force on Policing’s Twitter account, @PoliceTaskForce)

WASHINGTON — Following multiple shootings involving police and the public, demonstrators across the nation raised their hands, clutched their throats and put on hoods demanding political action to ease community-police relations. On Tuesday, a special task force began wrapping up its efforts to bridge the divide between these two groups.

Tuesday’s session took a broad look at the future of community policing, and provided a platform for a panel of researchers, professors and a sheriff to to make suggestions to improve community policing. This was the task forces’ seventh and last meeting before presenting a plan to President Barack Obama.

The witnesses said more research on police behavior and crime prevention is needed, along with training for police in recognizing mental health issues and more education, in general, for police officers.

“The overall goal of policing should be creating a safe democratic society, not a safe police state,” said Dr. Daniel Nagin, a professor public policy and statistics at Carnegie Mellon University. “We need to use policing methods that prevent crime from happening, so that there are no arrests.”

Obama signed an executive order in December creating the task force to find ways to strengthen relationships between law enforcement and the communities where they work.

“The Task Force shall…identify best practices and otherwise make recommendations to the President on how policing practices can promote effective crime reduction while building public trust,” the president wrote in his executive order.

The group had 90 days to deliver their ideas. During that time, it has held listening sessions that entertained recommendations from researchers, community leaders and local law enforcement teams. An extensive national-level report on the state of the criminal justice system hasn’t been produced in some 50 years, according to task force members.

One novel suggestion Tuesday’s came from a look across the pond at policing in Great Britain.

“The amount of people killed by police in England and Wales is zero…this is a comparison [to the United States] that is crying out for an explanation,” said Lawrence Sherman, a professor of criminology at the University of Cambridge and at the University of Maryland, College Park. The estimate for justifiable deaths in the U.S. involving police was 461 in the same year, Sherman said, citing an FBI report.

Sherman recommended that local police forces adopt the British model of state governments being responsible for local law enforcement. Establishment of state management of the police, he said, would allow for a better allocation of resources, such as dispatching officers that specialize in mental health when warranted, and setting up statewide standards of practice.

The task force report to the White House is due next week and one of its members, . Susan Lee Rahr, said the group understands the difficulty of its mission.

“At the end of the day no matter how grand our recommendations are, we have to convince 18,000 leaders to adopt them,” Rahr said.