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Mediation in Fiscal Year 2006: Inappropriately Stopping and Wrongly Accusing

A citizen filed a complaint after being stopped for allegedly talking on her cellular telephone while driving. When she arrived for the mediation, the complainant was very upset and angry. She began by loudly accusing the officer of inappropriately stopping her and wrongly accusing her of using her cellular telephone. She explained that, at the time, she was not using the telephone and was a victim of police harassment. She went on in a loud voice and angry tone to accuse the officer of inappropriately pulling her over and giving her a ticket.
The officer responded in a similar tone. He said he was angry at being accused and attacked for just doing his job. He remembered the incident very clearly and was certain he had seen her on the telephone. Both the complainant and the officer yelled and accused each other of not telling the truth.

The mediator met privately with both the complainant and the officer. The complainant explained that she was especially distressed when the officer pulled her over because it brought back memories of a previous incident in which she was pulled over and falsely accused by a police officer. She recalled that, because of the previous incident, she became very agitated and yelled at the officer. She maintained that she was not using her telephone, and could prove it with billing records. After having the opportunity to vent for a while, the complainant acknowledged that her behavior had contributed to the escalation of the incident.

In a private meeting with the mediator, the officer explained that when he stopped the complainant he was certain that she was using her cellular telephone, and had intended to issue her only a warning. It was only after she became so angry and verbally out of control that he gave her the ticket. He could not understand why she was so enraged and believed her accusations were completely unfounded and inappropriate. When he learned of her previous experience and her explanation as to why she was so upset, he was willing to consider the situation from her perspective.

Both the complainant and the officer then talked to each other about how the situation had escalated. The complainant acknowledged that she spoke inappropriately and would make an effort to control her anger in the future. She apologized to the officer. They agreed to put the incident behind them. The officer agreed to appear in traffic court with the complainant and assist her in responding to the ticket.