Police-Community Mediation

Find resources to resolve conflicts between police and the community.

How does police-community mediation work?

A citizen with a complaint against an officer can have the opportunity to speak directly with the officer concerning the incident. The Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division determines if a complaint is appropriate for mediation, and if the citizen and officer agree, the CRC receives the referral. This collaborative mediation program with a police department is one of only a few active in the entire country.

Note: For additional information about the complaint process, contact the Civilian Oversight Board or call them at 314-657-1600. Contact the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department directly at slmpd.org or by calling 314-444-5405.

More About Mediation Between Police and Citizens

Current city ordinances mandate that the Civilian Oversight Board (COB) offer mediation as an option for resolving allegations of police misconduct. The goal of the Conflict Resolution Center (CRC) is to allow civilians and officers the chance to voluntarily resolve the issues contained in a complaint using the mediation process.

The COB seeks to offer mediation to every complainant, but while is suitable for many complaints, it is not offered in all cases. There are some factors that would render a COB complaint unsuitable for mediation. These include allegations of serious physical injury or property damage, a pending criminal case or a civil lawsuit.

How Police-Community Mediation Works

Mediation is initiated by a person who has a grievance or complaint and it is completely voluntary. A case will only be referred to CRC if the complainant chooses to participate in mediation. The choice would be between the traditional investigation by the police Internal Affairs Division or mediation. The COB investigators are required to fully describe to the complainant both the mediation and the investigative process. After being provided with both alternatives, the complainant can choose which process to participate in. The complainant must first agree to the mediation before it is presented to the officer as an option. Mediation only takes place when both the civilian and the officer have voluntarily agreed to mediate the complaint. Further, complainants reserve the right to have the case sent back through the investigations process if officers do not meet in “good faith.” A mediation session ends when all of the involved parties agree that they have had an opportunity to discuss the issues in the case.  In the vast majority of cases, the parties resolve the issues raised by the complaint. After a successful mediation, the complaint is closed as “mediated,” meaning that there will be no further investigation and the officer will not be disciplined. If the mediation is not successful, the case returns to the Internal Affairs Division for a full investigation.

Successful mediation can benefit communities because a measure of trust and respect can often develop between the parties. That, in turn, can lead to better police/community relations. The CRC provides and encourages the use of mediation as a valuable alternative method for resolving complaints. While an investigation is focused on evidence-gathering, fact-finding, and the possibility of discipline, a mediation session is focused on the complainant’s experience and can be similar to restorative justice processes. The goal is to foster discussion and mutual understanding between the civilian and the officer. Mediation gives civilians and officers the chance to meet as equals, in a private, neutral, and quiet space. Two trained, neutral mediators provided by CRC guide the session and facilitate a confidential dialogue about the circumstances that led to the complaint. Most sessions will last about an hour.

FEEDBACK FROM PAST CRC PARTICIPANTS:

“I didn’t expect a win-win outcome but the mediators helped my neighbor and me really talk for the first time.”- Participant
Thank you for facilitating our community meeting. We were worried about ensuring that everyone was comfortable voicing their concerns.- Neighborhood Association President
Wish I had known about mediation earlier it was a valuable session. I have respect for the people that volunteer their time.- Participant
You provided a safe place to talk without fear of reprisals.- Participant