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Fiscal Year 2002 Mediation: Inappropriate Language and Intimidating and Harassing Manner

The citizen filed a complaint stating that the officer used inappropriate language and acted in an intimidating and harassing manner during a traffic stop. In his complaint, the citizen stated that while attempting to parallel park on a major street in the city, he noticed an officer waving his arms and shouting. The citizen alleged that the officer approached his car visibly upset and proceeded to shine a flashlight in his face. After the citizen initially questioned why he was stopped and why he needed to hand over his license, the officer threatened to take the citizen to jail. When the citizen attempted to exit his vehicle, he noticed the officer putting his hand where his gun was on his hip.

During the mediation, it quickly became apparent that the citizen, a Hispanic male, felt that he was being mistreated by the dark-skinned officer, in part because of his ethnicity. He could not understand why the officer would not answer his questions. As the mediation unfolded, the officer had an opportunity to explain police procedure and the necessary steps an officer takes during a late evening traffic stop. The officer stated that it is part of police procedure to shine a light inside a vehicle in order to ascertain that there are no prohibited weapons or impending danger as he approaches the car. The officer also explained that if an individual illegally exits a vehicle during a stop, an officer needs to take necessary precaution to protect himself from possible harm.

The questions and ensuing discussion during the mediation allowed both the citizen and officer to clear the air. The citizen no longer felt that he had been a target and no longer believed that the officer’s behavior was racist. The officer gained a better understanding of the citizen’s perspective and why he might have felt intimidated. In the end, both the citizen and the officer signed an agreement stating that the dispute had been successfully resolved through mediation.  Both the citizen and officer agreed that no further claims would be raised in any lawsuit or administrative proceeding arising out of the events that were the subject of the complaint and mediation.