Resolving conflict transparently and meaningfully is critical to ensuring solid relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve. According to Jennifer Knight, Columbus, Ohio, Deputy Police Chief (retired), mediation is a valuable alternative to the traditional method of conflict resolution.
Compared to the traditional conflict resolution method, mediation opens the line of communication between police and the community and allows both sides to air their grievances in a healthy, productive, and transparent manner.
Below is a full explanation of mediation and how it's essential in conflict resolution.
What is Conflict Resolution?
Conflict resolution is nothing new to law enforcement agencies. Professionals have been trained to utilize different methods to deal with the various situations they face in the field, including disputes between neighbors and households.
Most law enforcement agencies will include classroom instruction and scenario-based training around conflict resolution to prepare new officers to respond appropriately to these situations.
Mediation has evolved as an alternative method to traditional conflict resolution practices, where parties appeal to a higher authority to help resolve a dispute that law enforcement officers can't settle in a brief interaction.
While many communities have developed proper mechanisms for mediation between individuals and other community members to avoid litigation, mediation as an alternative to citizen complaint investigations is still in its infancy. In fact, Jennifer Knight, Deputy Police Chief (retired), says that as of 2002, only 16 mediation programs for citizens and police had been established and operational in the country.
What is Mediation?
Mediation is a voluntary process that allows the parties in a dispute to discuss their issues in a neutral and confidential setting. The process is facilitated by a person who serves as an independent mediator who will help the parties stay on task and understand each other's perspectives better.
In traditional conflict resolution, the outcome is that one side will prevail over the other, with the investigation resulting in an assignment of blame. Mediation, by contrast, promotes mutual understanding while facilitating creative solutions.
Jennifer Knight, Columbus, Ohio, Deputy Police Chief (retired), says mediation results in both parties being more satisfied with the outcome. In addition, mediation often prevents similar situations from occurring in the future. In other words, it solves the current dispute to the satisfaction of both sides while also providing a solution to the underlying issue going forward.
Mediation is an inclusive process used increasingly in various types of disputes, including employment grievances, divorce proceedings, and contract issues.
Law enforcement agencies should also consider implementing mediation as part of the conflict resolution process because it puts the power of control in the hands of both sides of the dispute rather than just in the hands of law enforcement.
As a result of this design, the parties involved are more likely to achieve satisfying outcomes by solving problems together and understanding where each side is coming from.
About Jennifer Knight
Jennifer Knight, Deputy Police Chief (retired) in Columbus, Ohio, is known for dynamic leadership, innovative community engagement, and excellence in the field of law enforcement. After earning her Juris Doctor, she received the National Women's Law Association Award of Excellence. Ms. Knight is a strong advocate for women in law enforcement and is a passionate community volunteer.