New Mediation Policy in Place to Handle Public Complaints Against Austin Police Officers
Wednesday, March, 27, 2013
The City of Austin, Texas has instituted a new policy regarding public accusation of police officers for such allegations as rudeness, profanity and inadequate police service. According to the new Police Department policy, the public can now utilize mediation as an alternative to initiating an internal affairs investigation of an officer who is allegedly guilty of these and similar accusations.
Austin’s Police Association President, Wayne Vincent, said in a statement, “I think it’s healthy that a police officer and a complainant sit across from each other and explain both of their perspectives.” According to the new policy, the stipulations for the mediation proceedings are that: 1) both the complainant and the officer being accused of the violation agree to mediation, 2) the complaint is external, and 3) the complaint is an accusation that is labeled by the Police Department as “Class B.” Such accusations are often violations that are less serious in nature; therefore, if the internal affairs lieutenant or commander approves mediation in place of an internal affairs investigation, mediation will be an option.
The new policy was put to use last month although details regarding the complaint and the result of the mediation proceeding are confidential. The Police Department’s and general public’s opinions in the City of Austin have been positive concerning the new policy and the City is taking measures to advertise the policy and the benefits of mediation so that everyone is aware of the option. In one such pamphlet, the advice is as follows: “Avoid temptation to blame or attack. Casting blame or antagonizing others is most likely to just make them defensive, or push them to fight back, rather than encouraging them to really listen to you and see your point of view.”
In 2012, the internal affairs department of the Austin Police Department was responsible for investigating 14 cases involving Class B complaints from the public sphere. This number has decreased significantly from 2008, which had a reported 51 cases investigated.