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Mediation

NEW ORLEANS COMMUNITY-POLICE MEDIATION PROGRAM

Mission

The New Orleans Community-Police Mediation Program aims to build understanding and improve relationships between NOPD employees and civilian members of the community as an alternative to the traditional complaint investigation process by the NOPD’s Public Integrity Bureau. By improving the relationship between the community and police, mediation helps make neighborhoods safer and stronger.

Benefits of Mediation

Mediation allows the civilian community member and officer to speak directly to each other, be fully heard, and understood, and play an active role in creating a solution. The process also gives officers feedback and helps to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future. Officers have the opportunity to gain new understanding, improve community relationships and build trust. The officer can explain why they may have acted the way they did on a certain day and share about their role.

Short-term benefits of mediation:

  • To be fully heard and understood.
  • A neutral, safe space for community members and police officers to speak to each other.
  • Help police understand the community members’ feelings.
  • To prevent issues from occurring in the future.
  • To regain trust in police services.
  • For officers and civilians to play an active role in finding a solution.
  • Improve community-police relationships, and
  • Hold officers accountable for alleged misconduct while providing a space for authentic sharing.

Long-term benefits of mediation:

  • In the long-term, mediation will positively, effectively, and efficiently address challenges unique to public safety departments through
  • Resource efficiency with handling of complaints.
  • Resolving complaints in a satisfactory manner for all involved.
  • Improvement in police-community relationships, and
  • A workable and sustainable process to provide healing, forgiveness, and closure.

The New Orleans Community-Police Mediation Program strives to:

  • Encourage the use of mediation to rebuild trust and confidence in NOPD.
  • Provide mediation as an alternative to the traditional complaint investigation process.
  • Educate community members and police officers about conflict resolution, dialogue, and mediation.
  • Train community members who reflect the community’s diversity with regard to age, race, gender, ethnicity, income, and education to serve as mediators.
  • Provide mediation services at no cost to residents and officers.
  • Hold mediations in neighborhoods where disputes occur or near the resident’s home or work if they like.
  • Schedule mediations at a time and place convenient to the participants.
  • Maintain high quality mediators by providing intensive, skills-based training, apprenticeships, continuing education, and ongoing evaluation of mediators.
  • Work with the community in governing the community mediation program in a manner based on collaborative problem solving among staff, volunteers and community members.

The Mediation Process

What is Mediation?

Mediation resolves conflicts that community and police may have about their interactions with each other. The mediation allows people to speak for themselves, hear what others have to say, and come to their own agreements about moving forward. Mediation creates a safe space where all can share authentically. Officers and civilians can think about their interaction, share how it made them feel, and be fully heard and understood in a non-judgmental way.

Mediation is Confidential, Non-Judgmental, and Voluntary.

Voluntary means that all are at a mediation at their own free will and can end the process at any time. No one is forced to do anything they don’t want to do. No one is forced to agree to anything they don’t want to.

Mediation is non-judgmental. The mediators are not judges. Their job is to listen, ask questions, and try to clarify what is important to everyone. They don’t give advice, decide who is right or wrong, and don’t take sides.

Mediation is confidential. Nothing is recorded on any device. Mediators may be taking notes and they destroy those notes after the session. Mediators don’t file any reports about what is said, and won’t testify at any hearing.

What Mediation is:

  • A voluntary and confidential process. Community members and officers share how their interaction made each other feel.
  • A process facilitated by two professionally-trained mediators who do not take sides.
  • A participant-guided process that helps the community member and the officer come to a mutually-agreeable solution. This helps to create mutual understanding and improve relationships.

What Mediation is not:

  • Not a process to say who is right or wrong. No evidence is needed. The mediators are not judges. The mediators do not present their thoughts on the issue.
  • Not a process where people are forced to shake hands or make-up. The role of the mediators is to be neutral outside facilitators. They will not pressure either participant to come to an agreement.
  • Not a punishment process. The community member and the officer are in charge of their own process and outcome. It will not be decided by an outside agency or person.
  • Not a legal process. There is no appeal because mediation is voluntary.

How does Mediation differ from the Traditional Complaint Investigation Process?

The traditional goal in police misconduct investigations is to determine if the officer violated law or policy and to discipline the officer appropriately. Research shows that discipline is not always the most effective tool in correcting behavior, changing attitudes, or holding people accountable for their actions to prevent future harm. Alleged or perceived officer misconduct harms the community and officer’s ability to relate to each other. While traditional discipline is an important and necessary tool to achieve this goal, mediation is a powerful tool to bring about a deeper and lasting change between community and police relationships. Relationships deepen and both participants have the opportunity to gain genuine understanding and a new ability to talk out conflict. The Community-Police Mediation Program offers the tools of incremental healing to a city urgently trying to rebuild its trust and confidence in the police department and bridge relationships between the community and the police to create a safer city.

What Kinds of Complaints can go to Mediation?

Many civilian-initiated complaints are eligible for mediation. NOPD’s Public Integrity Bureau decides which cases are referred to the mediation program. The kinds of complaints that may be referred are usually those that claim unprofessionalism, discourtesy, and neglect of duty. NOPD Policy 1025 sets out exceptions to what types of cases cannot be mediated such as unreasonable use of force, unlawful search, and criminal allegations. If a person files a complaint against an officer or if an officer has a complaint filed against them and believe it meets the criteria for mediation, one may contact the Mediation Program and request to have their complaint reviewed for mediation eligibility.

Feedback from Police Officers after Mediation

“After the mediation, I became more aware of community needs. I got a better understanding of how people view the police. I would encourage others to take advantage of the opportunity.”

“It opened my eyes that I should treat the public better and communicate with residents in a new way… even though I might be having a bad day. I should remember that they are the victim and that no matter how bad my day is going I should take them into consideration because they are the victim of a crime or something or else they wouldn’t be calling the police.”

“I valued being able to hear each other and establish common ground. I also appreciate that there is an option for handling complaints in a non-punitive way.”

“I liked getting to have both participants sit down and work through things to find out how we can better things in the future, whether it be something that I made a mistake in or whether it’s something that they can do differently.”

“It was helpful getting the average person who’s not the police to understand your side as a police officer as well as get you to understand their feelings because a lot of times when you’re interacting with people on the street, they don’t really express how they’re feeling until after. It’s like they want to say so much but everything doesn’t come out and I guess because people’s emotions are all over the place so it [mediation] just gives you a chance to really understand.”

“We were able to sit down face to face and talk about our perceptions of each other, how she perceived me as an older white officer and how I perceived her as a young, black activist even to the detail of what the symbols on her jewelry make me think of her. We had a good lengthy discussion about race in a safe space we couldn’t have during our first encounter. I didn’t want to go into it but she brought up race so the mediators invited us to talk about it since it was important to her. Although I was uncomfortable at first, I realized how important it was to her. It was eye-opening for me as I’ve never had these conversations with someone of color. I was able to tell her what the policy was and why I acted the way I did and she also shared how she felt about how I treated her. Please tell anyone in the community or in the police they can contact me if they want to know more about mediation. This is good for our city.”

Feedback from Civilian Complainants after Mediation

“More than anything in the world, I wanted to sit down at a table with this officer and tell him how I felt. This Program helped me do that. It felt so different and I was glad my case was referred to mediation. I was able to confront the officer in a respectful way that helped us get down to the root of what was going on. It wasn’t just about me and him but about this city, public safety, and how what he does can contribute to whether this city will survive, if local people will continue moving away, or if locally-owned businesses like mine will stay in business.”

“I feel so much better after talking to the officer in mediation. Really, we just had different perceptions about what was happening and now we are able to see each other’s sides rather than get mad about it. I really feel like she [the officer] understood me and cares about me.”

“I learned about police protocol and challenges and would recommend it to friends or family considering the process.” “I never thought I’d say it, but maybe New Orleans cops aren’t that bad. Officer B. really took the time to hear me out and I truly appreciated the chance to speak eye to eye with him.”

“I liked to be able to share my perspective with the officer and that he was able to understand my point of view and apologize about the way he approached me.”

“I got the chance to speak out. I was able to speak up about the situation, and get some clarification about what happened and tell her what I felt like she did wrong.”

“I appreciated the opportunity to speak to [the officer] directly. It’s not often that people get the chance to actually express your frustrations to those with power in a calm, safe way so that was a good opportunity.”

“I liked to be able to share my perspective with the officer and that he was able to understand my point of view and apologize about the way he approached me.”

“The mediators reiterated what I felt as well as what the officer felt. Solutions were offered and I felt that my voice was heard.” “I learned new things. The process was more in depth than I expected.”

Quantitative Survey Results

At the end of each mediation session, the officer, civilian, and two mediators are asked to complete surveys. The surveys are anonymous, voluntary, and aim to gather feedback for program evaluation and improvement. In addition, thirty days after the mediation, Program volunteers administer a longer survey to the officer and civilian by phone to obtain more in-depth, qualitative information regarding their opinions and experiences of the mediation process.

Evaluation findings from pre-and post-mediation session surveys include:

  • 100% of all police officers and civilians thought that the mediation meetings were unbiased.
  • 100% of all police officers and civilians appreciated having the opportunity to speak with one another.
  • 89% of civilians agreed that, “This session helped me gain a better understanding of policing.”
  • 92% of police officers agreed that, “Mediation is a good way of resolving disputes between civilians and police officers.”
  • 100% of police officers agreed that, “The mediation session helped build mutual respect between me and the civilian.”
  • 83% of civilians agreed or strongly agreed that, “The mediation session helped build mutual respect between me and the officer.”
  • 92% of police officers agreed that, “This session helped me gain a better understanding of the civilian’s point of view.”
  • 100% of police officers agreed that, “If I receive a civilian complaint in the future I would agree to a mediation meeting.”
  • Most civilians agreed that, “If I have a complaint against a police officer in the future, I would agree to a mediation meeting.”
  • Most civilians agreed that, “If I had information about a crime or incident in my neighborhood I would share that information with the police officer who participated in the mediation.”

After the mediation session, surveys showed an increase in:

  • Both police officer and civilians’ view that mediation would help resolve the issue(s).
  • Civilians’ view that mediation is a better option than formal disciplinary actions against police officers.
  • Civilians’ view that police officers have respect for the community they serve.
  • Police officers’ view that mediation is a better option than formal disciplinary action.
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