NAFCM: How can we contribute to the dialogue?
Monday, December 01, 2014
Posted by: Gabrielle Frey
As the National Association for Community Mediation (NAFCM) celebrates its 20th birthday this month, it is hard to feel like celebrating when we see the need for our services going untapped in such troubled times. As we wake up from the impacts of protests, both productive and unproductive, around the Country in response to the decision in Ferguson, it is clear that national conversations have begun about race, community/police relationships, and the use of force in policing.
A question then comes up: ‘How do we have these conversations in meaningful and productive ways that create the change we are hoping to see in our communities’?
The National Association for Community Mediation (NAFCM), along with over 400 independent community mediation centers that exist throughout the Country, is here to be a support in having these conversations and we have the experience facilitating difficult conversations to ensure that these conversations are productive.
Here are five ways community mediation can help us create the response needed to heal from these events and make progress in moving forward:
Citizen/Police Dialogue/Mediation Programs
Many mediation centers across the Country including Denver, Tucson, Portland, and San Francisco partner with law enforcement agencies for dialogue/mediation programs to address citizen complaints about the police. These programs have incredible success rates giving citizens a chance to voice their concerns about how they have been treated and giving officers a chance to explain the training and precautions behind why they need to do the things the way they do. A study of the program in Denver showed officers who went through the mediation process were less likely to have future complaints brought against them.
In many cities and states, community mediation centers have trained facilitators who can bring large groups of neighbors and community members together in spaces where people can be heard regarding their grievances and then work collaboratively to create action plans to create and implement change. Ferguson is a perfect example of a community in which a community mediation center could be of assistance in helping people with varying perspectives to explain their actions, learn from one another, experience healing and constructive conversations AND develop action plans to make change happen.
The United States has a disproportionate number of non-whites in jails. One way to start changing this paradigm is to create more restorative justice programs where the focus is on repairing the harm caused by crime rather than simply putting people away. The results we are seeing where restorative justice is being used far exceed the costs to communities that the existing punitive systems continue to incur.
Train Officers in Mediation Skills
The benefits of mediation skills go far beyond the mediation table. Officers are already doing informal mediation without mediation training. Imagine if we did give them the skills of reframing negative messaging, compassionate listening, and the skill to not take sides while dealing with conflicted parties. While it can take 40 hours of training, cities and towns where officers are trained in the valuable communication skills mediation offers, will experience better outcomes of officer/citizen communications and fewer complaints.
Mediation Referral Programs
Often, citizens call the police for issues where no arrestable offenses are present. These types of interactions and repeated calls can lead to arrests when officers are being pulled from more serious matters, yet are called repeatedly into conflicts that could be better handled by community mediation centers. Such referral programs exist in Maryland, Las Vegas, California, and Connecticut. These collaborative partnerships between law enforcement and community mediation can be a powerful way to create more peaceful communities.
Check out our website: www.nafcm.org – check out your local county website for mediation centers or independent mediators; enroll yourself in a conflict resolution program, class or training; see how you can bring about change in your community.
S. Gabrielle Frey
Interim Executive Director
NAFCM: National Association for Community Mediation