Baltimore Communities Using Mediation to Relieve Tension
Sunday, February, 21, 2016
After many residents of Baltimore nearly burned their city to the ground last year in protest of the death of a man in police custody, residents and police officers are now using mediation to move beyond the hard feelings.
Community members believe police officers have no right to be assertive in situations they consider high risk and in many cases, community members are there to assess and question everything done during a confrontation with law enforcement. There is very little trust between the community and law enforcement. One group is hoping to break down the barriers that are causing problems in the city and put police officers face to face with citizens who question their actions.
Community members who file complaints against officers regarding discourteous behavior will be invited to participate in mediation sessions to resolve the matter. These mediations will be confidential and led by a third part from the group Community Mediation Baltimore and take place in a neutral location. The process is voluntary for both sides.
Those in support of the program view it as an opportunity to bring the public and law enforcement together and have everyone’s voices heard. They acknowledge not all complaints warrant investigation and believe just by giving everyone an opportunity to speak, it could reduce the tension in the community.
It also addresses the matter quickly. In many cases, law enforcement officers might not know of a complaint against them for many months, creating a scenario in which they might not remember the details of the event when the person in the community is thinking about the event on an ongoing basis. By the time the matter is addressed, emotions are especially intense for the side that feels it has been ignored. The hope is the program will heal the current broken relationships.