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Mediation in Fiscal Year 2007: Harassment, Inappropriate Language/Conduct

A woman filed a complaint against an officer alleging that he harassed her and used inappropriate language or conduct against her during an incident stemming from a parking ticket that was issued to her. The citizen had temporarily parked her car in a ‘No Parking” area of the apartment complex where she resides. When she discovered the ticket, she went to the front desk and complained that someone should have called her and asked her to move her vehicle, rather than call MPD and have a ticket issued, which was the typical protocol at the building. The complainant and the concierge began to argue. The officer intervened and told the complainant that she should not speak to the concierge in that manner. A few minutes later, the complainant returned to the front desk and saw that the officer appeared to be “consoling” the concierge. The next day, the complainant found out the officer had given a statement to the building supervisor, which led the supervisor to issue a warning to the complainant that if she gets into another argument with a staff member, she could be evicted.

At the mediation, the woman and the officer each described the incident from their perspectives. The conversation reached a turning point when the complainant stated that she had been greatly upset that the officer, a black male, had seemed to be defending the concierge, a white woman, from the complainant. She added that she was a well-educated professor with a Ph.D., and that he did not know the difficulties she, an African-American woman, had faced in order to create that kind of life for herself. The officer said that, no, he did not understand what it was like for her. He then pointed out a few specific things the complainant had said and done during her argument with the concierge that the officer found inappropriate and that had “pushed his buttons.” What followed was a very thoughtful and candid discussion between the officer and the citizen about the expectations and judgments they had each experienced related to their class, gender, and cultural backgrounds.

The complainant had also been concerned about the status of her tenancy being in jeopardy on the basis of the officer’s statement to the building supervisor. She was upset because she believed the officer had exaggerated his description of her behavior – she said that although she had raised her voice, she was not out-of-control or irate, as the supervisor said the officer had reported. During the mediation, the officer showed the complainant a copy of the statement he had given to the supervisor, and the complainant was surprised to see that the officer’s description was far more neutral than she had thought. Both agreed that the supervisor had given the complainant the wrong impression about the officer’s statement.

At the end of the mediation, both the citizen and the officer stated that they viewed each other in a more positive light, and that the situation had been resolved.