Hands All Together

What to Do, What to Say, What to Expect - Some Rules for Safer Citizen-Police Encounters

"I reject any narrative that seeks to divide police and communities that they serve  I reject a storyline that says when it comes to public safety there’s an “us” and a “them” –- a narrative that too often gets served up to us by news stations seeking ratings, or tweets seeking retweets, or political candidates seeking some attention."

President Barack Obama (2015)

“American history…is inextricable from policing. Far more often than not, that’s been a good thing. Many of the best parts of America’s history would have been impossible without the police. All the freedoms we enjoy—freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from fear—sit on a foundation of public safety… But many of the worst parts of black history would have been impossible without police, too. Slavery, our country’s original sin, sat on a foundation codified by laws and enforced by police.” View More

New York City (and former Los Angeles) Police Commissioner, William Bratton, in a speech marking Black History Month at the Greater Allen AME church in Jamaica, NYC. (2015)

"[E]very day we seem to see an increasing disconnect between the communities we serve and the government we represent….In our law enforcement partners’ quest for support, I hear the guardians’ call for tools to calm the waters, to keep the peace, and to comfort those who fear….Yes, we have great challenges, but our strength as Americans is to turn our great challenges into great opportunities.  Many of our greatest advances in equal rights, in human rights, have come after periods of heartbreaking loss.  But they come because we choose not to give in to the twin pulls of revenge and retribution, but we turn to the law." View More

Attorney General Loretta Lynch (2015)

"I think that if you haven’t broken the law, there’s nothing wrong with complying with authority. The thing is: Don’t get shot. Don’t give ’em a reason to put their hands on you. Nothing wrong with complying; just make sure you come home." View More

Ice Cube (O'Shea Jackson) (2015)

An Introduction — Not a Conclusion

Hands All Together must remain a broad collaboration and a work in progress. We invite and need your feedback. 

Our approach seeks to share the lessons about police-community relations that minimize mistakes, reduce conflict, preserve rights and freedom, and provide greater safety. 

As with many issues that are essential to our safety, preparation matters. We offer this site and app so you can study (and re-study) this information in advance of potential encounters and events. We especially hope you will share and discuss this content with your colleagues, families and friends — in particular, the young.

Our website and app exist only because of the continued contributions and insights of a community of organizations and individuals from diverse walks of life: law enforcement, civil rights, law and criminal defense, public policy, journalism, media and communications, business, education (including students), medicine and religion.  

It is about knowing that disagreements between our people and the police are never won on the streets or in the heat of the moment. It is about getting you and the officer safely past the encounter. There will be time to find accountability — based on the facts and the law — often with the assistance of a lawyer, the courts, and other legal and community support. 

With just a little "C.A.R.E." - by all sides - we can guide safer interactions between our people and the police.

C – Comply with the law 

– Act Orderly

– Respect each other (with our words and actions)

– Empathize—stand in each other’s shoes

Stay Safe on the Streets.  Contest in the Courts. 

We hope you will take the time to explore and study our full menu — and provide your feedback.

Here are some of the reasons we have joined to offer this information.

When it comes to safety and security, we are all in this together. None of us are truly safe—especially our children—unless all of us are. 

Our shared risks require shared solutions.

We have undertaken this effort with the confidence that empathy and understanding between all sides is desired and achievable. We recognize that there have been many “teachable” moments in the history of police-community relations. Far too many.

Tensions between our people and our police have generated a  “slow-rolling crisis” that is fast eroding our common ground. We experience the shock of incidents that raise profound questions about the use of force and racial profiling by our police, as well as the behavior of our fellow citizens and those who would attack our police. 

At the same time, fears about a national increase in violent crime have ignited concerns about the consequences of less aggressive policing on community safety. Wounds on all sides remain raw and open. Political and social unrest abound. More stress and damage is trending. 

As many experts point out, the “state of the union” between our police and our citizens is a proxy for the bigger issues we must confront as a nation — poverty, prejudice, inequality, the role of personal responsibility, and a system of justice that has jailed and stigmatized far too many of our people. Police bias and misconduct are serious issues. So is the national epidemic of homicides and violence

Even in the most fair and law-abiding societies, encounters between citizens and their police are inevitable. Many of our mistakes are not. 

The ability to record and share what we witness has provided unprecedented transparency into our daily lives. For some of our citizens, the experience has always been first-hand and deeply personal—with lessons passed on from generation to generation. 

For many, we now see what we should have.  And must see what we previously wouldn’t.

Claims of illegal stops and excessive force by the police have warranted widespread investigations by federal authorities. Numerous cities and towns have agreed to consent decrees and to pay large monetary settlements in recognition of unlawful practices.  Seemingly on a daily basis, there are more revelations about the combined harm that is being done to all sides.

Too often, however, we see a single event as a tragedy, yet measure the sum of our losses only with statistics. 

Leading authorities have framed the issue: the big question is whether we, together as a nation, can bridge the gap of distrust between the police and those whom they are sworn to protect and serve. 

A century and a half ago, Lincoln urged upon us the importance of ensuring the protection of all of our citizens: 

The struggle of today, is not altogether for today; it is for a vast future also.”

A house divided against itself also cannot stand for long.

While all lives matter — deeply and profoundly, physically and emotionally, near-term and forever — not all lives have been equally at risk.

In this struggle, personal experience matters — so do words and perceptions. 

As New York Times columnist David Brooks observed: “The last year has been an education for white people. There has been a depth, power and richness to the African-American conversation about Ferguson, Baltimore, Charleston and the other killings that has been humbling and instructive.” 

In his deeply personal memoir to his son, “Between the World and Me,” Ta-Nehisi Coates writes, “In America, it is traditional to destroy the black body — it is heritage.”

And FBI Director James Comey acknowledged the “hard truth” about how much work needed to be done to help police officers and people in minority communities see each other fairly.

Our effort therefore is not about hands up or hands down. 

It is about all hands together

Admittedly, the issues are not easy. They are neither black and white — nor black vs. blue.

Competing interests do not always balance. There is the risk of preconceptions and the tendency to jump to easy conclusions.

Our footprints tell of many missteps and of the many steps yet to travel. 

Officials must continue to take a hard look at the culture and training of police organizations and any structural reforms that might help alleviate the possibility of misconduct and mistakes. Better statistics and accurate fact-finding are needed to reform policies and procedures. Technology and the social sciences offer increasing options and opportunities for transparency into both our problems and solutions. In announcing reforms in this regard, New York Police Commissioner William Bratton noted in October 2015:  “We are one of the few in government that have the power, the authority to take a life, to take people into custody, to deprive them of their liberty. So that sanctity of life, that respect for life has to be paramount in any police organization.”

The police and their communities must sustain efforts to understand each other and work together. 

Answers will not come in 140 characters or less. Investigations, due process, legal remedies and institutional change require time. Sharing the lessons and common sense that can protect lives does not. Technology now affords the ability to reach many people in fast, affordable and convenient ways. We no longer have to wait.

Our effort is intended as a beginning — not an end. Through this technology, we will remain a work in progress and learn from future events. We invite the comments and feedback that, over time, will continue to ensure better safety and security for all. 

We recognize that this effort will never be a perfect or complete solution. But the search for perfection should not be the enemy of improving the common good.

Finally, we reference four links — a sample reminder about how we are all in this together and how it is intended to be.

  • "Dear Derek, Thank you for looking out for us and thank you for seeing if we [are] ok.”  (A handwritten letter from a 5-year-old girl that New Haven officer, Derek Horner Jr., carries in his notebook.) - WSJ - View More
  • National Network for Safe Communities - YouTube - View More
  • 10 Years Later, A Pair Of Strangers Revisit What Might Have Been Lost - WNYC - View More
  • FBI Honors Office Opened Amid Struggle for Civil Rights - The New York Times-  View More

The content conveyed in this app does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied upon as such. It also is not intended to communicate all relevant information. Other sources on this subject may prove to be helpful, including local police departments, district attorneys, public defenders’, the U.S. Department of Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Design and technology contributed by Genome.