The sad reality we face in the U.S. today is that relations between the police and some of the communities they serve are troubled. The protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and in New York City have brought this reality to national attention.

We in the human rights community consider the perception of the relation between the police and policed communities as adversarial an unfortunate reality and a threat to human rights. Only reframing the relationship into one of partnership can help change this reality. This change can happen through community policing and community-police partnership.

The promotion of human rights calls for effective and comprehensive outreach initiatives and programs focusing on the advancement of trust and cooperation between law enforcement family and law enforcement agencies.

Constructive dialogue and engagement help dispel misconceptions and help both sides build a trusting relationship that can diffuse incidents that can grow into crises. The murder of the two police officers and the non-fatal shooting of two others in New York City is tragic. The protests and the violence are all indicators of a troubled reality.

Communication, dialogue and engagement all help build trust. The issue of trust is the key component toward enhancing safety and security.

Racial profiling, racism, discrimination and the degrading of human life are all elements of the real challenge that we all face. Building relationships between communities and law enforcement helps build trust that can help diffuse crises. Frank, direct and open communication can help stakeholders develop tools for handling grievances before they develop into crises. Time is due for respectful engagement and partnership between the police and the people. The police are not the enemy. Reducing community-law enforcement relations to an adversarial reality is a loss for both the police and the policed communities.

Policed communities are citizens that the police serve and protect while honoring their constitutional rights and the country’s democratic values.

Communities and the police can, together, build a spirit of partnership through engagement and dialogue that can take us on the path of healing and lead us to realize our ideal of a country that values all human life and honors the dignity of all.

Imad Hamad is executive director of the American Human Rights Council, based in Dearborn.

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