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Mediation in Fiscal Year 2003 Mediation: Harassment and Use of Disrespectful Language

The complainant filed a complaint against an officer for harassment and use of disrespectful language. The complainant alleged that she was stopped at a traffic light near her daughter’s school when an officer asked her to pull over in an extremely rude and intimidating manner. The officer pulled her over to warn her about not wearing her seatbelt and gave her a written warning. Following the incident, the complainant wrote to the Mayor’s office to express her concern and anger regarding the officer’s behavior, which she described as verbal and physical intimidation. The Mayor’s office referred her to the Office of Citizen Complaint Review.

The complainant is an immigrant from Central America. At the mediation she explained that she felt harassed and that she was shown a lack of respect by the officer when he stopped her in her car on her way to pick up her daughter from school. The incident was frightening to her, and she wanted to address it and not let it pass without taking some action. That is why she took time off from work to participate in mediation. She explained that since coming to the United States, she has taught her daughter to respect the police in this country. She said that she had suffered greatly because of the excesses of power by law enforcement officers in her own country, and that she had come to the United States to escape abuses by the police and the military. She wanted her daughter to know that it was different in the United States, and she was concerned that the behavior of this officer would undermine her message.

Initially the officer was defensive, but, as the complainant explained her feelings, he listened and understood her concerns. After they both had the opportunity to talk about the incident and how each of them felt about it, the officer apologized to the complainant and admitted that he had had problems dealing with anger in the past. He told her that he would try to work on this problem. They agreed that the matter was resolved and signed a mediation agreement acknowledging that they had settled their issues, and that they both value professional, respectful, and educational approaches to law enforcement.