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Mediation in Fiscal Year 2005: Inappropriate Language, Disrespectful Tone, Harassment

A citizen filed a complaint against an officer alleging that the officer used inappropriate language and a disrespectful tone when speaking to the citizen, and harassed the citizen.  The complainant, a single mother with three young children, was seeking aid and advice from an officer at the local MPD district station to help with her troubled teenage daughter.  Over the past year, her daughter had become increasingly difficult to manage.  She had run away, been frequently absent from school, been involved with a dangerous crowd, and was generally disrespectful and rebellious.  The complainant had gone to the district station as a resource before.  One officer in particular had been of great help to her and had even spent time talking with her daughter, explaining the potential consequences of her actions, and had even had her write an essay about her behavior.  Because of the special attention and assistance she received, the complainant had very positive feelings about MPD officers and the officers at the district station.

In the incident that was the subject of the mediation, the complainant went to the district station seeking help after having a particularly difficult time with her daughter.  When she got to the station, she explained what was happening with her daughter and asked the officer at the front desk, who was the subject of the complaint and the officer involved in the mediation, for assistance.  The officer offered to refer her to Child Protective Services and gave her the phone number.  The complainant explained the help she had received in the past and that she needed more immediate help.  Because of the stress of the situation, the complainant and the officer were unable to communicate effectively with one another.  The officer tried to explain routine police procedure in these types of cases and the complainant tried to describe the type of help she was accustomed to receiving.  Both parties left the situation feeling frustrated and the complainant felt she had been treated disrespectfully and harassed by the officer.

During the mediation session, the parties explained their recollections of the incident.  Once the officer realized that the complainant thought that the assistance she had previously received was “normal police procedure,” the officer understood the source of their miscommunication and was able to explain to the complainant that she was not used to interacting with citizens on such a personal level and that her training was to make referrals to agencies specializing in caring for children.  The officer apologized for her behavior and acknowledged how frustrated the complainant must have been during their interaction.  The complainant was able to express that she was just seeking help and wanted to be treated in a respectful manner.  Both parties were pleased with the result and agreed to treat each other with respect in any future interactions.