- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 2, 2014

ST. LOUIS (AP) - A novel program in St. Louis is helping police and members of the public find ways to resolve minor disputes.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch (https://bit.ly/1s7c2pn ) reported that police are operating a pilot program that seeks to more easily resolve complaints such as whether an officer was rude, displayed a bad attitude or was speeding unnecessarily. Police say the program has resolved 15 complaints since it began in October 2011.

The program uses face-to-face meetings as a safe and confidential alternative to formal inquiries.

Lt. Scott Gardner, a police internal affairs commander, says the goal is to improve the relationship between the community and police officers.

“It brings people to the table,” Gardner said.

The program gives the public a chance to explain why they are angry. For police, it allows officers to resolve complaints quietly and avoid blotches on their personnel records.

Both sides must consent to the mediation. The officer and accuser talk through their differences, monitored by a mediator.

The program, which began under former chief Dan Isom, has never received funding to become a permanent process.

In Denver, some 360 conflicts have been resolved through mediation since 2006. Denver police Sgt. John Bronson, a union representative, said mediation has allowed officers to avoid internal investigations and reduce monthly legal bills.

Other cities with established programs include New York, San Francisco, Kansas City, Mo., Washington, Denver, Portland, Ore., and Austin, Texas.

Samuel Walker, a retired University of Nebraska-Omaha criminal justice professor who co-authored a 2002 study for the Justice Department, said mediation for minor complaints is cheaper because it doesn’t take up as much time conducting interviews or collecting evidence.

“A lot of victims just want to express their point of view to tell (police) how upset they are,” Walker said. “People who have done mediation say it’s just magic. The two sides get to see each other as people, rather than stereotypes.”

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