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Boston Police Reach Mediation Deal with Harvard Law School for Civilian Complaints

Wednesday, May, 6, 2015

The Boston Police Department has entered into a new agreement with Harvard Law School for the school to provide mediation services for civilian complaints against the police. The hope is that the new mediation system will remove the burden from the police force’s Internal Affairs Division (IAD), which is currently overwhelmed with citizen complaints, many of which are over minor problems such as rudeness or crude language on the part of officers. The new mediation program would handle these minor problems while IAD would continue to handle more serious complaints against the police.


The mediation plan has broad support within the police force and the unions representing the police. Mediation programs in other large metropolitan police departments have been shown to be effective across the board: Easing the backlog of complaints in Internal Affairs departments, erasing tensions and mistrust between police and the community at large, and between the department and the city itself. Boston has been seeking a mediation arrangement since last year.


Mediators will be enlisted from the pool of Harvard Law School students as well as local residents who have completed training in alternative dispute resolution (ADR). This training will be provided by the mediation program itself at no charge to the citizens.


Boston Police receive about 300 complaints a year from citizens. Most center on the behavior of officers, with citizens complaining of aggressive attitude, bad language, and disrespect when engaged in traffic stops, arrests, or other scenarios. Because mediation would require the accused officers to face the citizens involved in a controlled environment, it’s often very effective in resolving conflicts that otherwise might fester and cause a disruption between the community and the police.