WESTBROOK — I believe that the tone of our national debate about race and justice will leave us with more dead kids, more dead cops and a nation more divided. We have only begun to see that prediction come true.

I believe that race as a factor in police use of force decisions is vastly overstated. Officers make split-second decisions based on potential threats from people and circumstances.

I balance that belief with the knowledge that there are some bigots and brutes in law enforcement. When evidence suggests that either factor is present those officers should be dealt with swiftly. However, I have seen no evidence to suggest that Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Missouri, police officer, was either a brute or a bigot before that tragedy occurred, nor since. So what is our standard for provoking national outrage?

I know it is gut-wrenching and intolerable to be seen as blaming the victim when one looks at the tragic deaths of Michael Brown, Eric Garner and Tamir Rice. But I do not believe those cases are race-related. I believe a small percentage of people of every race, age and socioeconomic background make poor choices, violate the rules and attract negative attention and when they do we expect the police to respond.

Is every use of force by the police justified and reasonable? My answer is “no.” But I believe that many people are beginning to judge all police departments, all law enforcement officers and all police use-of-force situations through a lens as biased and tainted and generalized as the cruel and harmful myths, stereotypes and generalizations held by some toward communities of color. It is hypocritical to decry racial profiling by the police and then support this growing generalized anti-police sentiment.

We should consider the view of parents of police officers like Wilson who want their kids to come home at the end of their shifts. They believe the legal benefit of the doubt should accrue in favor of their sons and daughters who get inserted into these complex and volatile situations through no fault of their own.

People should know that 10,000 officers are assaulted annually with a gun or a knife. As a legal matter, every one of those might justify the use of deadly force, and yet the police take the lives of 350 people annually on average. This speaks to great professionalism, restraint and bravery by the police, not out-of-control violence.

I wish more people would take the time to understand each other. I regret that part of the black experience involves some parents and community leaders leading young people to believe that there is a barbarian behind every badge. That is simply not so.

I hope law enforcement will embrace body cameras. But as Lesley McSpadden, the mother of Michael Brown, has said, no one can fairly judge the behavior of her teenage son based on 18 seconds of video from an encounter in a convenience store. Body cameras can be part of the solution, but should not be the signature piece of our strategy.

We should create a compelling educational campaign, national in scope, to be team taught in cities and towns across America. We should create fatality review committees for all police homicides, modeled after domestic violence fatality review, to look at all police shootings with two specific questions in mind: Was there any evidence of racial bias or motivation? Were there tactical or training deficiencies implicated in these cases that we can learn from?

We should support the expansion of citizen police academies and ride-along programs in model districts around the nation in places where we know the most serious tension exists and expand the role of the Department of Justice Community Relations Service.

Long term, I think we need to take on the issues of parenting, responsible citizenship and embracing our rights AND our responsibilities as citizens. Race is not the primary issue here. People of any color who menace their fellow citizens and then challenge the police create the conflict we see play out every day. We shouldn’t shy away from examining their role in the outcome of such encounters

We need to rally leaders from communities of color, law enforcement, schools, interfaith communities and others around open and honest dialogue and move people back toward the middle of this debate. Empty rhetoric, hyperbole, hysteria and hypocrisy do not further the goal of healing our nation and preserving the rule of law. We owe it to our young people AND to the police to get this right.