Turning “Us Against Them” into “We’re In This Together”

Hardly a week goes by without news reports of citizen outrage at a police shooting or an ambush against an officer. Recent high-profile incidents, including the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; Eric Garner in New York; Walter Scott in South Carolina; and the in-custody death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland, have fueled a perception among many citizens that police use of force is biased, indiscriminate, and out of control.

At the same time, widely publicized reports of officers ambushed and killed, including New York officers Wenjian Lieu and Rafael Ramos, assassinated while parked in their squad car, have fueled the perception among officers that it’s “open season” on cops. This perception was reinforced when a YouTube video went viral showing protesters in New York chanting, “What do we want? Dead cops! When do we want it? Now!”1