Background

Traditionally, internal affairs investigates the facts underlying a citizens’ complaint against a particular police officer and presents the case for resolution to the commanding officer of the unit employing the police officer in question. The disposition is based on the strength of the evidence.  As in the criminal justice system, these investigations focus on punishment if there is sufficient proof of wrongdoing. 

In response to perceived dissatisfaction with the internal affairs and civilian review process, some police departments and civilian oversight agencies have introduced mediation as an alternative means to resolve certain carefully selected complaints against the police. Mediation is a process in which the complainant and the police officer meet face-to-face in the presence of a neutral mediator in an attempt to resolve the issues underlying the complaint.  It is conciliatory in nature, focuses on conflict resolution, and is especially useful when complaints are based on perceptions of discourtesy or misunderstandings.

For a pilot year in 2005, the Pasadena Police Department ("PPD") brought concepts of alternative dispute resolution—mediation and dialog—to bear in encounters facilitated by mediators and in community forums. 

Scope of Work

With research sparse on the long-term effects of mediation, police departments could only rely on anecdotal evidence to show that participants in these programs are generally satisfied with the process and feel that it gave them a chance to explain themselves and better understand the other’s perspective. PARC's charge was to conduct a rigorous and comprehensive assessment of the effects and effectiveness of the mediation program.

Approach

Comprehensive Approach. PARC's assessment involved both an analysis of the experiences of individuals who had gone through mediation of a complaint and a broader series of community-police dialogues to explore larger, systemic issues relating to the police-community relationship.

Results

Validation of Community Policing Efforts. The study concluded that mediation and dialog, as practiced in Pasadena, has great promise for building greater mutual understanding and trust. 

Ongoing Study on Community Relations & Policing in Pasadena. PARC's study served as the basis for ongoing refinement of mediation programs in Pasadena, southern California, and across the U.S.

 

PROJECT OBJECTIVE

Comprehensively assess pioneering citizen's complaint mediation program.

KEY ISSUES ADDRESSED

Community Policing
Police-Community Relations
Citizen's Complaints
Internal Investigations

KEY RESOURCES

Evaluation of a Pilot Community Policing Program: The Pasadena Police-Community Mediation and Dialog Program (2008)

MEDIA

Darrel W. Stephens, "Police Discipline: A Case for Change," Harvard Kennedy School (2011)