General Information on mediation
What exactly is mediation?
A mediation session is:
- An alternative to the traditional complaint/disciplinary process.
- A voluntary, confidential process where a professional mediator helps officers and community members talk directly to each other.
- An opportunity for the officer(s) to hear how his/her actions affected the community members and vice versa.
A mediation session is not:
- A court hearing requiring witnesses.
- A process to determine who is guilty or innocent. People are there to listen to each other, not to blame each other.
- A session where parties are forced to shake hands and make up.
More and more law enforcement agencies worldwide are adopting mediation as a way to resolve citizen-police conflict, because:
- Mediation has a higher success and satisfaction rate among community members and officers alike than traditional complaint processes.
- It is more likely to improve relations between communities and police.
- It is cost effective.
- It addresses problems at the source.
How do cases get selected for mediation?
If a case is eligible, we ask the complainant at the point of intake whether they would consider mediation.
If the complainant is willing, the Director of the Independent Police Review (IPR) and the Captain of the Portland Police Internal Affairs (IA) contact the subject officers to offer the option of mediation. If the officers agree, the case is sent to IPR's mediation program manager for scheduling.
What do mediators do?
The mediator is "the person in the middle," an impartial third party who helps people to talk through and resolve their differences. Mediators explain the ground rules and the process, each side gets the opportunity to talk about what happened from their own perspective, and then the mediators guide the parties through the dialog process. The Independent Police Review has contracted with some of the finest professional mediators in the Pacific Northwest.
- Listens to everyone in the room.
- Asks questions to clarify what happened and identify central issues.
- Does not take sides, place blame, or pass judgment.
- Helps keep the discussion non-threatening and productive.
Will I have to apologize?
No. You won't have to say or do anything you don't want to. Some participants do apologize to each other, but only if they want to.
Will I have to admit to wrongdoing?
No. Mediation is not about judging who is right or wrong. You may not have done anything wrong at all. In any case, what you say is up to you.
What's in it for the officer?
Mediation takes the place of IA investigations and disciplinary actions, and offers finality. Traditional investigations can may take many months to complete, but mediation cases are generally closed within four weeks. Because mediation is confidential, officers and citizens can speak freely and honestly.
Mediation can make a significant long-term difference in how the complainant (and others close to them) view the police. Some complaints arise from misunderstandings of police procedures. In the field, officers may not have the time or opportunity to explain their actions. Mediation provides that opportunity.
What's in it for the citizen?
People may have many different reasons for mediating, including the following:
- They want experss their concerns and feel heard.
- They want hear an explaination from an officer.
- They prefer to speak directly to the officer rather than turn it over to investigators and commanding officers.
- They want to make sure officers understand the community member's perspectives and expectations, to prevent similar incidents.
- They hope to regain their confidence in, and respect for the police.
Mediation often serves those goals better than investigation or punishment.
I found this person pretty unpleasant to deal with the first time around. Won't mediation just be more of the same?
Mediation can be successful even with difficult people. This is where the mediators come in; they are professionals skilled in helping people interact and resolve issues in constructive ways.
What if the other party just wants an opportunity to verbally attack me?
One of the ground rules of mediation is that all parties treat each other with courtesy and respect. While some venting from each person is part of the process, the mediator won't permit verbal abuse or threatening conduct. Mediators can separate the parties and work with them individually, or the mediation can be terminated if necessary.
Could something said in mediation get used against me later?
Mediation is confidential: all participants sign a legally binding confidentiality agreement. The contents of a mediation session are not subject to subpoena or discovery in civil actions, and courts have upheld the mediator-client privilege. (Exception: There are mandatory reporting requirements for admissions of certain criminal acts.)
What if I am unhappy with how the mediation is progressing?
The parties are under no obligation to mediate. You can withdraw from process at any time. You are not compelled to reach any conclusions or agreements.
Some ground rules
Don't blame or name call.
Blaming the other person for everything, or antagonizing them, only pushes them to defend or fight back. Then they can't really listen to you or understand your point of view.
Rather than interpreting the other person's behavior (e.g., "you just did that because..."), give information on the impact the behavior had on you, and how it appeared to you.
Listen - and show that you are listening
Mediation requires a willingness to listen. Give the other person a chance to tell his or her side of the conflict completely. Learn how the incident looked to them, and why they responded as they did.
Talk it all through
Get everything out in the open - even the parts that are hard or uncomfortable to talk about. If it's significant to you, don't worry about whether anyone else thinks it's significant.
Work on a solution
Be working toward a solution. What, specifically, can be done to solve the problem or prevent similar problems?
For more information, call the mediation program manager at (503) 823-0906.
The Mediation Program is managed by the Independent Police Review Division of the Portland City Auditor's Office.