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Mediation in Fiscal Year 2008: Language and Behavior

A woman filed a complaint against an officer who was assigned to her son’s high school. In her complaint, she stated that she had come to the school to discuss a matter with the principal. A member of the staff stopped her at the door and an argument ensued. Although the staff member told her to leave, she refused and proceeded up a staircase. The staff member called the officer, who then yelled at her to stop and threatened to arrest her and take her to jail. She argued with the officer, but she finally left the school grounds. She then filed a complaint about the officer’s language and behavior, which she thought were demeaning and threatening.

At the mediation, the complainant described the incident and explained that she went to the school because personnel had confiscated property from her son. The complainant was trying to find out where she could retrieve the property and was not able to get any information from the staff member. For this reason, when the officer arrived at the staff member’s behest, she was angry. The officer listened and expressed sympathy for her frustration with school personnel. He explained that, uppermost in his mind, he was required to stop her from going into the building without permission. That is why he spoke in such strong terms. The complainant and officer discussed how her behavior and language helped to escalate the incident.

The complainant expressed appreciation for the officer’s work at the school. The officer noted that he knew her son and that the boy was a good student who did not cause trouble. Both agreed that things had escalated unnecessarily. Each of them apologized to the other for contributing to the conflict. They agreed that it would not happen again. The officer offered to meet the complainant at the police station where the property was stored and assist her in getting it back.

When they left, they expressed appreciation for the opportunity to meet in mediation, to deal with the incident in a productive way, and to repair their relationship. The officer said he had been dreading the meeting because he expected the complainant to be irrational and angry. He was pleasantly surprised that they were able to have a productive conversation and resolve the issue.