We sure can, and we should be doing this ASAP for officers everywhere. Situational awareness is already taught, but the training should be augmented and expanded.
Officers can be trained in ways to assess situations and escalate accordingly, and they can be equipped with protection for themselves (vests, cameras, etc.) and non-lethal means to subdue unarmed suspects. Community policing and awareness programs are also a way to cut down on the mistakes. Build more trust between a community and it’s police force and you’re less likely to end up with dead citizens in a traffic stop for broken tail lights. This way if the police arrive on a scene like the one in Baton Rouge, where someone was reported to have a gun and be threatening someone, yet on arrival there is no such activity happening, the response more measured and escalates only if required, rather than them rolling up in full takedown mode and ending up with predictable results. On the other hand, if they arrive to see a suspect firing shots, then by all means…
Another problem we’re going to face very soon (and it sounds like the Minnesota case may be a prime example) is that there is a seemingly ever-increasing threat of violence on the streets (terrorist threats, Orlando nightclub style attacks, gang violence, etc.) putting officers more and more on edge combined with a now ever-increasing armed population (fearful of those same threats listed above). Groups like the NRA want pretty much unrestricted gun rights and paint this picture of there being an inherent safety in packing your own legal heat. The more people out there carrying, the more mistakes are going to be made by police officers who fear anyone with a gun is a threat.
Imagine a big Venn diagram with the left circle as “jittery unprepared police force” and the right circle as “legal gun owners” with the overlapping piece labeled “citizen mistakenly shot/killed”. That overlapping piece is going to get larger and larger as we move forward. You may as well draw a smaller circle completely inside the overlap space and label it “Minority” too.
I’m not against gun rights (provided they are reasonable), and I am certainly not against law enforcement officials whom I respect and admire, but it’s obvious to anyone at this point that there is a problem in this country and we need to address it. It’s gone beyond the rare racist cop or cop with a bad-ass hero complex acting out in the line of duty and getting someone killed, it’s now a full-on issue happening in multiple cities on a regular basis. Awareness is the first step to solving the problem, followed by training and community outreach designed to alleviate the issue for both the community and the officers. There are no “bad guys” here, just two sides that need to come together to solve this problem before anyone else is needlessly killed.