The Mediation Program is managed by the Office of the Independent Monitor and is a collaborative effort with the Denver Police Department, the Denver Sheriff Department, and Community Mediation Concepts.
Community-Police Mediation is an alternative to the traditional way of handling police complaints. Complainants have the chance to sit down with officers in a neutral and confidential setting, with the assistance of a professional mediator. This voluntary process allows both sides to be heard. Complainants talk to the officers about the behaviors they felt were harmful, scary, or discourteous and help officers see the incident from their perspectives. Officers have the chance to explain what happened from their perspectives as well, and often share what kind of information they had going into the situation as well as relevant policies and procedures that may have impacted their decisions. The mediator helps both sides to feel safe and comfortable in getting the issues out on the table and working through them.
Mediation has proven to be a meaningful experience for the majority of complainants and officers who participate. Most complainants do feel that they were heard, that they impacted the officers' future behavior, and that they achieved closure through the process. With satisfaction for both sides at 85% (as measured through anonymous exit surveys), we know that this process is empowering and it works!
Mediation is an alternative to the traditional complaint and disciplinary process. It is a voluntary and confidential process in which a professional mediator helps community members and officers talk and listen to each other. It is also a chance for officers to hear how their actions affected community members and vice versa.
If the complainant and the officer agree to mediate, and a mediation is, in fact, completed, the complaint will be considered resolved and closed.
Also note that mediation is not like court in which a third party renders a verdict about who is right or wrong. No evidence or witnesses are needed. It is also not a session in which parties are forced to shake hands and make up.
The benefits of mediation include:
Complainants are generally offered the option of mediation during the intake process, but it can also be offered after the Internal Affairs Bureau has begun its investigation. Mediation is completely voluntary. Forcing parties to talk to one another defeats the spirit of mediation. Potential mediation cases must also be reviewed and approved by the Independent Monitor and the Denver Police Department's Internal Affairs Commander. If the officer also agrees to participate, mediations are scheduled for a mutually agreeable time and place (including weekends and evenings). Most mediations take place at the Wellington Webb Municipal Building downtown, but they can occur at libraries or city council offices if it is more convenient for the parties.
The mediator is a neutral third party trained and experienced in helping people talk through and resolve their differences in constructive ways. The OIM has contracted with a team of professional mediators to conduct community-police mediations.
The mediator will:
Avoid temptations to blame or attack.
Casting blame or antagonizing others is more likely to make them defensive, or push them to fight back, rather than encouraging them to really listen to you or to see your point of view.
Speak for yourself, and let others speak for themselves.
Avoid assuming that you know why the other party behaved as he/she did. Instead, tell him/her how the behavior looked from your perspective, and how it impacted your behavior. Let the other person tell you what was going on from his/her perspective.
Show that you are listening
Mediation requires listening. Each side needs to be heard. Listening should also be expressed in body language and facial expressions.
Talk it all through
Talk out everything that is important to you, whether or not it's significant to others.
Work toward a solution
Try to focus on solutions, not blame. The goal is to resolve the conflict and prevent similar ones from happening in the future.