Strategies for a Successful Mediation Program
Mediation, a form of alternative dispute resolution, is often used in civilian oversight as a process for resolving citizen complaints against the police through a face-to-face meeting, during which a professional mediator serves as a neutral facilitator. Studies have shown that police and civilian mediation participants are more satisfied with the complaint resolution process than those involved in complaints subject to investigation. In addition, mediating complaints has been shown to help build police-community understanding and reduce costs and case-completion times.
Join us Tuesday, March 28, 2017, 1:00PM ET, as we hear from the directors of two civilian oversight agencies that have built and currently operate successful mediation programs: Lisa Grace Cohen of the New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) and Rochelle Howard of the Washington, DC Office of Police Complaints (OPC). In addition to discussing the nuts-and-bolts of their programs, they will suggest tools and resources for creating successful mediation programs such as consulting with mediation experts; leveraging existing research studies; and building support with police and union officials, city law departments, and legal and community advocates.
Represented Mediation Programs
New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board’s Mediation Program
The New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) is an independent agency empowered to receive, investigate, prosecute, mediate, hear, making findings and recommend actions regarding complaints filed by civilians against member of the New York City Police Department. In 1993, the legislation enacting the CCRB contained an unusual provision for its time mandating that the agency establish a mediation program. In 1997, the first year the program was in operation, the Mediation Unit was responsible for closing four cases. Since that time, the CCRB mediation program has become the largest voluntary mediation program, of its kind, in the country. In 2016, the Medication Unit closed over 400 cases.
Participation in the mediation program is voluntary for both civilians and officers. After a successful mediation (about 90% of mediated complaints are successful), the complaint is closed, there is no further investigation, and the officer is not disciplined. The CCRB mediates a wide range of allegations within its jurisdiction (that is, allegations of force, abuse of authority, offensive language, and discourtesy). The agency generally does not mediate cases in which there are allegations of property damage or physical injury, an arrest arising from the incident complained about or a pending or contemplated lawsuit. The mediation program satisfaction survey indicates that approximately 90% of officers and civilians are satisfied with both the mediation process and the outcome.
Washington, D.C. Office of Police Complaints’ Mediation Program
The Office of Police Complaints (OPC) mediation program is a key component of serving the agency’s mission: to increase community trust in the District of Columbia police forces by providing a fair, thorough, and independent system of civilian oversight of law enforcement. The OPC’s mediation program is statutorily authorized, nationally recognized, and currently resolves approximately 13% of all OPC complaints through the use of independently contracted, neutral third-party mediators. Several factors are used to determine if a case should be referred for mediation including the type of misconduct allegation, the nature of the interaction between the complainant and the officer, and whether there seemed to be a misunderstanding between the complainant and the officer. The OPC is authorized to refer a case to mediation without first obtaining the consent of the officer, and to mandate that the complainant and officer participate in the mediation in good faith.
To evaluate how its mediation program is serving the agency’s mission and its customers, the OPC asks complainants and officers who participate in mediation to complete an anonymous survey about their experience. OPC uses its mediation program as an efficient and effective way to resolve complaints while improving the relationship between the District of Columbia police forces and the community they serve. The OPC’s mediation program has served as a model for alternative dispute resolution programs in civilian police oversight agencies around the country and is a source of great pride and accomplishment within the agency.