The number of citizen complaints against New York City police officers that are handled through mediation reached a high of 113 in 2004, and this year they are on track to go even higher, reports the New York Times. Through August, 92 of the 5,144 complaints had been mediated. The percentage is small, but mediated cases take half as long to send to a complaint review board (115 days, on average) as investigated cases (223 days). Mediation sessions are closed, but officials allowed the Times to talk with the participants after a mediation session. What emerged was a glimpse of an unfiltered approach to resolving seemingly intractable disagreements that is not nearly as touchy-feely as it sounds. Sometimes, anger drops quickly when accuser meets the accused.
Some experts call mediation a bad deal for officers. Some are skeptical or dismissive of the process, others were surprised by how much they got from it. Mediation is not available for the most serious allegations of abuse. Christopher Dunn of the New York Civil Liberties Union said that “because mediation stops the investigation and guarantees there will be no discipline, it should be used in only the narrowest of circumstances involving the most minor of offenses.” Mediation is voluntary for both sides. Complaints against officers are not automatically withdrawn if an officer goes to mediation.