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Mediating Citizen Complaints

Mediation is an alternative method of responding to citizen complaints against police officers. The mediation process involves the complainant and the officer meeting to discuss the incident/complaint, with a professional mediator supervising the session. Mediation sessions generally last about one hour. Neither side is expected to admit guilt or responsibility, although they may choose to do so. The point of mediation is for each of the two sides to listen to the other side and express his or her own side. “Success” is defined in terms of the listening process. Complaints that are successfully mediated are removed from the officer’s discipline file.
Samuel Walker report for the Department of Justice

  • Advocates of mediation argue that it helps to build understanding between citizens and the police.
  • Most important, it involves a direct, face-to-face meeting between the citizen who filed the complaint and the police officer, with a trained mediator present.
  • The goal is to have each side simply listen to the other side.
  • In traditional citizen complaint investigation procedures, most complaints are not sustained, and both sides typically come away dissatisfied.
  • Most citizen complaint mediation programs do not allow mediation of use of force or other serious allegations of misconduct.
  • Read the Justice Department report by Walker, Archbold and Herbst on Mediating Citizen Complaints Against Police Officers


The Denver Office of the Independent Monitor has one of the most successful mediation programs in the country.

         Read the OIM’s 2015 report on its mediation program (which includes comparative data from seven other mediation programs: mediationdenveroim2015

        Read the complete 2015 OIM Annual Report: denveroim2015-annual-report-final


Mediation and Community Dialog in Pasadena

The Pasadena, California, Police Department implemented a combined program of mediating citizen complaints and conducting a series of community dialogs designed to improve police-community relations. Read the report on this effort by the Police Assessment Resource Center (PARC): PasadenaMediation



Examples of Mediated Cases

Curious about what kind of cases are mediated, and the outcomes? Here are three examples taken from the web site of the Office of Police Complaints (OPC) in Washington, DC. Go to the OPC web site for additional information here.

Case#1: Insulting Language: mediationinsultinglanguage

Case#2: Race Discrimination: mediationracediscrim

Case #3: Hostile Behavior:  mediationhostilebehavior