MEDIATION FOR PUBLIC COMPLAINTS
Many of the public complaints the OIPRD receives about police-citizen interactions stem from misunderstanding, miscommunication or improper behavior. Although formal investigations of complaints are sometimes necessary, dealing with complaints through alternative dispute resolution, i.e., mediation, allows complainants and respondent officers to resolve the issues between them.
Mediation is a voluntary, confidential process where the respondent officer and the complainant meet with the assistance of a neutral, third-party mediator. The mediator facilitates the process, but does not take sides or lay blame. The parties share their views of what happened, discuss their concerns and play an active role to reach a mutually agreeable resolution.
Benefits of Mediation and Resolution
The potential benefits of mediation for public complainants include:
- having an opportunity to express how an officer’s conduct affected them
- direct involvement in the outcome of their complaint
- receiving an explanation or an acknowledgement from the respondent officer
- gaining a better understanding of policing
For respondent officers, the potential benefits of mediation include:
- having an opportunity to explain their actions
- gaining a better understanding of their interactions with citizens
- learning from their actions
The potential benefits for the general public and police oversight include:
- more efficient complaint processing
- greater public satisfaction with the complaints system
Two Avenues to Mediation
Informal Resolution via Mediation
, facilitated by a senior member of a police service or an OIPRD investigator, will continue to be the first kind of resolution that will be attempted. However, if this is unsuccessful, Informal Resolution via Mediation may be requested. A decision not to participate in mediation has no impact on a complainant’s or respondent officer’s rights in the complaints process, or how the complaint is dealt with in the complaints process.
Customer Service Resolution with Mediation
If a complaint cannot be resolved through CSR
, but both parties are still interested in a resolution, the police service may contact the OIPRD to request mediation.
If the OIPRD approves mediation for Informal Resolution or CSR, the OIPRD contacts an external mediation service that determines whether the case can be mediated. In some instances, the OIPRD will refer the matter to a staff mediator.
If the complaint can be mediated, the mediation service or the OIPRD staff mediator coordinates and conducts the mediation session(s) between the parties. The parties are required to sign an agreement to participate in mediation. Usually, only two or three sessions are needed.
If it is determined the case cannot be mediated, the complaint returns to the screening or investigative process.
If mediation is successful, the parties sign a mediation agreement form, which is sent to the OIPRD for review. If the OIPRD is not satisfied with the agreement, the complaint returns to the investigative or screening process. If the agreement is approved, the complaint is closed as “resolved by Informal Resolution via Mediation” or “resolved by CSR-Mediation.”
If mediation is unsuccessful, the complaint returns to the screening or investigative process.
Successful resolutions can be powerful learning opportunities that have lasting positive effects on participants. Resolutions could include:
- an acknowledgement (explanation; common understanding; apology)
- change of police officer practice
- a conversation with a senior officer
- professional development courses
The OIPRD encourages the use of community mediation as defined by the Ontario Community Mediation Coalition
. Community mediation is a facilitative and transformative model of conflict resolution that best suits the goals of the OIPRD’s mediation program. It encourages individuals in conflict to share their recognition of each other’s perspectives and provides an opportunity for both the complainant and the respondent officer to learn from their interactions. Community mediators are impartial and work in the interests of the parties involved in a conflict.
The OIPRD accesses mediation services on an “as required” basis by selecting a mediation service from the Ontario government vendor of record roster for each assignment. Mediation services are chosen based on location and availability to undertake the mediation quickly.