The Ferguson Police Department and CMS:
A Collaborative Relationship
Since 2015 Community Mediation Services has been working with the Ferguson Police Department to assist in implementing the Ferguson Police Department Citizen-Police Community Mediation Program.
Police-Citizen Mediation offers a win-win opportunity for citizens to discuss concerns directly with police officers, and for officers to respond directly to citizen complaints in a informal, confidential setting. Officers can learn and improve from non-ideal experiences without the matter being put through an often impersonal and arbitrary disciplinary process. In most experiences, Police-Citizen Mediation has yielded greater understanding and trust between citizens and the police department.
In 2014 Community Mediation Services of St. Louis developed a collaborative relationship with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department to provide police citizen mediation services as a method of addressing citizen complaints against police officers. The Center for Conflict Resolution St. Louis City is currently providing Police-Citizen mediation for residents in the City of St. Louis https://www.stlresolutioncenter.org.
Police Citizen Mediation is Attractive to Citizens
- Citizens speak directly to officers and can see first hand that the police department takes their concerns seriously.
- Citizens have an opportunity to be heard and understood directly by the officers involved in their incident.
- Citizens can hear the officers’ perspective about the incident.
- Direct citizen feedback can help prevent similar incidence in the future.
- Through direct involvement, Citizens gain personal closure relatively quickly, rather than await the uncertain outcome of a formal disciplinary review process.
- In multiple experiences at similar programs around the country, citizens who have had their complaints resolved through Police-Citizen mediation hold a higher respect and more positive view of law enforcement than those who have not.
Police Citizen Mediation Benefits Officers
- Officers can explain their actions to citizens in ways that they simply cannot in the field.
- Officers have the opportunity to hear and respond directly to citizen concerns. Many formal review processes make no such allowance.
- Direct feedback can help officers improve personal skills and perspectives in community policing.
- Citizens and the Internal Affairs Office can usually schedule mediations at earliest convenience. Formal complaint procedures can take months.
- Officers can resolve issues affecting them outside of a formal review process. The conversation remains confidential.
- Mediation can often benefit officers by resolving the issue without involving department disciplinary procedures.
- Police Citizen Mediation creates a formal setting in which officers and citizens can discuss matters together as members of a community.
The opportunity for safe and open communications, combined with the opportunity to have complaints addressed in a more efficient manner, improves police citizen relations. At some point in each mediation, barriers of structure, discipline, and policy break down as citizen and officer begin to talk to each other in the same language. It helps police officers and community members find ways to collaborate and recognize that they are working together, rather than treat each other as adversaries.