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Mediation in Fiscal Year 2003 Mediation: Harassment and Inappropriate Language

Three students at a District charter school filed complaints alleging that a group of MPD officers harassed them and used inappropriate language toward them while the officers stopped and searched the students after they left a convenience store near school. The police officers informed the students that they matched the description of people selling drugs. These complaints were referred to mediation, and OCCR and the Community Dispute Resolution Center developed a special plan for the mediation, which involved three students, school officials, and over 15 officers. The plan involved holding a number of individual meetings with the students and the officers before bringing them all together in a joint mediation session that lasted several hours.

At the start of the mediation process, the students believed that the officers should: (1) acknowledge that they have treated youth differently at the inner-city charter school than youth attending schools in more upscale neighborhoods, (2) admit to racial profiling, and (3) work with students to build a more positive relationship through a dialogue. At the outset, the officers believed that the students: (1) must do something to differentiate themselves from the neighborhood drug dealers and hoodlums because the school is located in a high-crime district with heavy drug use and frequent drive-by shootings, (2) need to work with the police to clean up the community, and (3) should follow officer instructions to defuse tensions during police stops.

The joint mediation session allowed both the students and officers to vent their frustrations and gain a better understanding of the other’s perspective. The students and the MPD sergeant in charge of the officers understood that the longstanding issues would not be resolved in one joint session. Acknowledging the need for an iterative process, the students and the sergeant agreed to set up a future meeting with the goal of forming a working group between the charter school and the police department in an effort to improve the relationship among the police, the students of the charter school, and the residents in the community surrounding the school. Satisfied with this joint commitment to cooperate in the future, the students and the sergeant signed an agreement releasing each other from any future administrative or legal claims related to the incident, and agreed that the mediation successfully resolved the issues raised in the complaints.