Crime & Justice

LAPD mediation program for residents and cops creates better understanding – when they show up

File: LAPD Chief Charlie Beck addresses the media at Police Headquarters in Los Angeles.
File: LAPD Chief Charlie Beck addresses the media at Police Headquarters in Los Angeles.
Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images

A mediation program designed to help LAPD officers and residents understand each other better is largely successful when both sides agree to meet, according to a department report to be delivered Tuesday to the Los Angeles Police Commission.

But cops and residents often choose not to engage in face-to-face mediation.

The three-year pilot program, established in 2014, sought to “influence the way employees communicate and treat people, as well as give community members a better understanding of law enforcement practices,” according to the report. Mediation was “an informal process” in which officers and the people complaining about them would meet “face-to-face with impartial mediators to discuss the alleged misconduct.”

The idea would be to reach a “mutually agreeable resolution,” instead of sending the complaint through a formal process where the department dismisses it entirely or the officer could face formal discipline. Complaints involving suspected bias and/or discourtesy – not more serious conduct like excessive use of force – were eligible.

The report found of the 363 eligible complaints, 73 resulted in meetings between officers and residents over the three-year period that ended Dec. 31. Why didn’t the two sides seek mediation more often?

Most of the time, either the officer or resident had no interest in meeting with each other.

In 2016, nearly half of officers demanded a full investigation of the complaint. Nearly a fifth of officers wanted to “avoid the other party,” according to the report.

Among residents who filed complaints in 2016, about a quarter wanted a full investigation. Another fifth said it was “too much bother” to meet with the officer.

But when the angry resident meets with the man or woman who wears a badge, mediation appears to work.

Of 185 survey responses, 155 participants were either satisfied or somewhat satisfied with the process, according to the LAPD report. And two-thirds of the officers and residents who participated said their understanding of the other party increased after mediation.

The department plans to continue the program and, as more and more officers wear body cameras, make that footage available for viewing as part of the mediation.