There are examples of similar restrictions for how to respond to gun violence, says Hirschfield. So in Finland, officers have to get permission from a superior officer before shooting. In Spain, officers should fire a warning shot, then aim for non-vital body parts, before resorting to lethal shooting. “In the United States, you only shoot to kill. You only use deadly force,” he says.

It doesn’t help that the law in the United States gives fairly wide scope for police violence. Under the European Convention of Human Rights, police can only shoot if it’s “absolutely necessary” in order to achieve a legitimate law enforcement purpose. Meanwhile, in the US, police officers can shoot if there’s “reasonable” perception of a grave and imminent threat, which is a far more subjective standard.

“What defines reasonable?,” says Hirschfield. “We have a society where it’s often considered reasonable to take a black person reaching into their waistband as a threat. The whole legal framework for determining whether lethal force is legal or not is premised on a flawed assumption that officers can determine what is reasonable.”

A policy of unarmed police officers clearly has a better chance of working in countries where citizens don’t have access to guns. But what about in Iceland, where there are an estimated 90,000 guns in a population of 323,000? The country has one of the lowest global crime rates in the world and, the BBC reports, the majority of crimes that do occur don’t involve firearms.

In this non-violent country, the first police shooting that led to the death of a citizen happened in 2013. Tear gas was first used but didn’t affect the gunman and, when he opened fire on the police officers, they fired back. The incident led to national mourning, and the Iceland police department immediately apologized to the family out of respect.

As the events this week in Dallas show, being a police officer comes with great personal risk. But better training can minimize this risk, both to the police officers, and to the public.

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