OPA Mediation Program

Complainants are generally offered the option of mediation during the intake process; it is first and foremost the complainant's choice. Potential mediation cases must also be reviewed and approved by the OPA Director. If the officers also agree to participate, mediations are scheduled for a mutually agreeable time and place (including weekends and evenings).

Most complainants report mediation to be a satisfying process and would recommend it to others.

WHAT IS A MEDIATION SESSION?

  • An alternative to the traditional complaint and disciplinary process: should you select mediation as an alternative, your complaint will not be investigated further and will be resolved through the mediation program.
  • A voluntary, confidential process where a professional mediator helps citizens and officers talk and listen to each other.
  • A chance for officers to hear how their actions affected citizens and vice versa.

What a mediation session does not do:

  • Make judgments about who is right or wrong. No evidence or witnesses are needed.
  • Force parties to shake hands and make up.

THE BENEFITS OF MEDIATION

Why choose mediation?

  • Mediation allows officers and citizens to resolve complaints themselves, rather than depend on the judgment of others.
  • Mediation is more satisfying than the regular complaint process. Nearly all those who have mediated say they would recommend it to others.
  • Mediation can make a real difference in the understanding, attitude, and behavior of participants.
  • Mediation can improve relationships between community members and police.
  • Mediation is cost effective for taxpayers.

Why do citizens choose mediation?

  • To be fully heard and understood.
  • To hear the officers' perspectives.
  • To speak directly with the officer, rather than having the complaint decided by others.
  • To give officers feedback.
  • To prevent similar incidents.
  • To regain their confidence in police services, and respect for officers.

Why do officers choose mediation?

  • To be understood - officers can't always explain their actions in the field.
  • To hear the citizens' perspectives.
  • To speak directly with the citizen, rather than having the complaint decided by others.
  • To improve relations with citizens and communities.
  • To resolve the complaint outside of the disciplinary process.

THE ROLE OF THE MEDIATOR

The mediator is a neutral third party trained and experienced in helping people talk through and resolve their differences in constructive ways. The OPA has contracted with some of the finest professional mediators in the Pacific Northwest to conduct citizen-police mediations.

The mediator will:

  • Explain the process and ground rules and answer any questions.
  • Listen to both sides of the story.
  • Ask questions to clarify what happened and identify central issues.
  • Help keep the discussion focused, productive and non-threatening.
  • Not take sides, place blame, or pass judgment.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will I have to apologize or admit wrongdoing?

No. You may not have done anything wrong. In any case, what you say is up to you. Some participants do apologize to each other - if they choose to do so.

The incident was unpleasant the first time, won't mediation be the same?

Not necessarily. Mediation can work even with difficult people. Mediators are trained to help people resolve issues in constructive ways.

What if the other party just wants an opportunity to verbally attack me?

It is part of the mediator's job to prevent a mediation session from deteriorating to verbal attacks. While some venting (on both sides) is common, verbal abuse or threatening conduct are not acceptable in mediation. Mediators may separate the parties and work with them individually, or terminate the mediation 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, and courts have upheld the mediator-client privilege. The one exception is where mandatory reporting requirements apply for admissions of criminal acts by any party.

What if I am unhappy with how the mediation is progressing?

Either party can leave mediation at any time. No one is compelled to reach conclusions or agreements.

What are some tips for a constructive mediation?

  • Avoid temptations to blame or attack:
    Casting blame or antagonizing others is most likely to just make them defensive, or push them 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 they did. Instead, tell them how their behavior looked from your perspective, and how it impacted your behavior. Let them tell you what was going on from their perspective.
  • Show that you are listening:
    Mediation requires listening. Each side needs to be heard.
  • 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.