Who did you talk to first on site?


Silke Hansen


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Do you have any pattern you follow in terms of who you talk to first when you are trying to do an assessment of a case?

Answer:
Oh, I probably do without realizing it. If it's a request for assistance, I will generally talk to the person or group that made the request first, just to find out why they made the request and what is going on. So, if it is a police department that wants assistance or a school district that wants assistance in training or planning or something, I would talk to them first. If it's a complaint, an actual conflict between a minority community and an institution, I would probably go to the minority community first. In many cases the institution won't be available, or certainly won't acknowledge that there is an issue. So, there is no point in going there and trying to find out what the issues are, because they will tell me, "There are no issues." So I would go to the minority community first and find out what's going on, what their issues are, and what their perceptions are. Then I have that information when I go and talk to the institution or agency or the office with which the community has the dispute. Doing it the other way around just wouldn't get me any information.

Question:
How do you determine who exactly to talk to?

Answer:
If it's something that was just in the paper, and I don't know anybody there, I would start by trying to locate the organization and/or any names that were mentioned in the paper. I would try to find a way of contacting them and talking to them. If there are no organization names or specific individuals to start with, then I'd try to find out which minority organizations exist in the community in question. Then I would figure out whether I knew anyone in the community who might be able to get me connected to the actual "players". I still would prefer to start with the community perspective because that is where the conflict seems to exist and then move on to the institution. In each case, I would ask the people that I talk to, "Who else would I contact to get more information, to get a broader perspective on this?"




Martin Walsh


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Yes, they were there at that very first meeting in the chancellor's office. They had a sense of what was taking place; the woman who was in charge of student life, the vice chancellor in charge of all that area and the affirmative action officer. So we had the top people there speaking from their perspectives.



Martin Walsh


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

And so I sat down with them. Of course, they are talking about being angry; they want a prosecution; and "What can the Justice Department do about this?" and "What are you doing?" The first thing you do is to go through the spiel about here is the process. There are several avenues. "There is the internal review process by the police to do the investigation; you have the county attorney; you have the state attorney general who has jurisdiction; and you have the possible investigation by the FBI and Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice." So at least they know what their options are, what can take place and what the process is. After that, the other option is a civil case that can take place. "While that is ongoing," I tell them, "it is going to take some time. You can be recommending that and asking for this investigation or that investigation and things like that. In the meantime, I want to talk about other things that are taking place here. What is the relationship with the police department, how is it?" That starts the ball rolling as I try to elicit from them issues, concerns that now, with the attention given to the shooting, lend themselves to the dynamic of dealing with the problems and concerns in the relationship between the police and the community.

Question:
You are making an assumption about what is going on in the community?

Answer:
Yes, it's based on experience, but it is also important for CRS to try to determine whether -- it's part of the assessment process - there is a hook for us? What is the dynamic there? If in those meetings, the community leaders said, "No, we're great; the police are doing this; we have no problems, etc." than we would not proceed further. But we know from our background and all the data about communities of color, especially in the African-American community, that the general relationship between police departments and minority communities is not good. There is a lack of trust, a lack of response, access, and it's even worse between the youth and police. So protest activity by itself can lead to a lot of frustration and anger and that can lead to nothing. But, if directed, it might lead to getting at some of the issues and problems that are affecting the relationship between the police and community. It can be a springboard to doing something positive. The two things that have to be taken care of from our perspective, as I see it is, first, we need to know what can be done about the specific shooting itself and the redress systems for the shooting. So that was the first thing. We've got to clarify that and put it into perspective. It gives them a sense of direction to follow if they want to and it puts that aside because we really can't do anything about the investigation or prosecution. Then it gets into analyzing and assessing what else is taking place in that community that, with the attention given to this, that maybe we can help both the police and the community to deal with it. Anger is there. So what we are trying to do is get that tension directed into some effective type of response. That's the process of talking with community leaders. In that information gathering they start talking about some of the problems, issues and concerns. After that meeting I had a meeting with the chief coming up and the superintendent and country supervisor. So I got enough information there and said to the community leaders, "Well, in general would you like to pursue this and deal with some of these problems if we can get the chief and the county authorities to address some of these issues?" And they said, "Yes." So I went back and met with the chief. When he told me the shooting was a justifiable police action, I said, "Well you know, there are a lot of other things the community is concerned about," and I mentioned several. He was defensive saying, "Oh, we are doing this, we're doing that." Then I used the argument from our experience in other places and said, "You know, we recommend meeting face-to-face with the community leaders. We can facilitate the meeting, so you can have discussions with the community right there about these issues. We think it would be helpful." He agreed, and most often, I think, police chiefs do agree to meet with community leaders on police-type conflicts.

Question:
You scheduled your first meeting with the community group.

Answer:
Yeah.

Question:
Is that typical? Do you tell the other party that you're going to meet with the others first or that you have met with them?

Answer:
It all depends upon the individual circumstances of the conflict. In some of these cases, when there is no overt conflict, I often meet with the community first. But when there is overt conflict, like the case we had here in Medford, I sent our people to the high school where there were the problems and they didn't have a chance to talk to the community first. Schools were shut down because of racial problems that occurred the previous day. I saw in the paper that the school was closed and the teachers and administrators were meeting. I wanted our people there early so that we could be offer our help to school officials and others who maybe didn't know what to do in that situation. So in that situation we met with the superintendent, principal, teachers and other school people to get a sense of what took place and the dynamics. We offered some suggestions on what the officials might consider doing and then we set up meetings with the community and students to get a better understanding of the issues and problems. But in a police conflict and meetings with the chief or administrators, the more information we have about the dynamics of the conflict, the greater the possibilities of a worthwhile meeting. I always think that in our assessment process when we're meeting face-to-face, authority figures give us little information voluntarily. It's that face-to- face meeting or negotiations that we want to have, if possible, between the authorities and the community. We're selling ourselves. We're making an assessment, getting his or her information, but we're selling a process, and uppermost in my mind is what do we really want? What process works out here the best? If there are organized groups in the community and they have issues, we want face-to-face meetings. That is the optimum. Getting people face-to-face with the issues so that they can work out agreements. The next best thing are the other alternatives where there's sometimes a fractured community. You don't even have a group out there. What are other possibilities? Sometimes we provide training or technical assistance where, basically, one group is taking the lead role in creating change.




Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Vermont and I went in and met with the Chief of Police for the town. We met with the tribal police, we met with the tribal council and we met with city council. When we met with the Chief, he had an M-16 rifle in back of his desk. He said, "Oh, you send two guys this time. Who's the bodyguard of who?" And we're concerned about why is this guy making these kinds of comments? It was kind of demeaning.



Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

That's what you did in this case?

Answer:
Yes, we met, with city hall and the police to let them know what the Korean demonstrators intentions are, what they're going to do, that we're going to be on site, that we have the leadership and we want to know who's going to be your leadership and how we can continue to communicate at all times, because we just don't know where this is going to go. After we met with the city hall police and let them know this demonstration was going to take place, we had to let the LAPD know because there are multiple jurisdictions. The other law enforcement agency that we didn't contact or develop a working relationship with was the parking enforcement police. We later had a problem with them. So we learned that we had to look at all the law enforcement agencies that were going to be involved.






Martin Walsh


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

The university officials who were present for that meeting in the morning were our first contacts. During the day Larry and I started meeting with some of the faculty as I noted above. The students were in school and not available during that time, but we wanted to get some background. So we started meeting with some of the African-American faculty, persons who knew about the issues and problems, and tried to get their background and some perspective on what was taking place.





Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

The team went in and interviewed administrators, staff and the counselors. They asked questions and kept their eyes open and developed some understanding of what was happening there. Jim had worked in the Washington DC jail system and he knew what to look for.

Question:
Did they talk to residents?

Answer:
They probably did, but I do not recall. This was to assess training needs and the appropriateness of training. The reason administrators wanted the training was to prepare staff for a major restructuring of the institution that would segregate the inmates by their job or school assignments, rather than what they had, which turned out to be largely by race. They did not isolate inmates racially, but common sense told them that the five Hispanics should be in the same cellblock. Most of the American Indians stayed out of trouble and were able to live together in the honor cell house. Blacks were lived in three cellblocks, but most were in one. whites obviously were scattered throughout.

Question:
Okay, so they didnít assess much?

Answer:
CRS conducted an assessment and found out that it would not be wise at this junction to make this major change ion the reformatory structure. Staff and inmate morale was low. The new structure would disperse and in many cases isolate inmates of color. There were policy issues and underlying management questions which needed resolution before the changes were made and the training took place.

Question:
So what did they recommend?

Answer:
I donít recall their recommendations, except that the training they wanted would not help the staff address the underlying problems that were leading to disruptive inmate behavior. So nothing further happened then. I did not know whether we would hear from then again.




Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

We went to see the superintendent and his top staff. They gave us the run of the place throughout the week the reformatory was in lock up, which is very dangerous because tensions become very high.



Nancy Ferrell


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
When you say you go to the highest point of entry, that's something that CRS requested that you do, or that was your own sort of idea?

Answer:
It was a part of the working style of Region 6, so that's the way I was trained. Whether this was agency wide, I'm not sure. Now the reason is very good. The reason is: If I go in and I work with the Vice President for Student Affairs and the Vice President for Academic Affairs, and the President is never brought into it, we can work for 6 months and come up with a really good agreement. But then the president can say, "What is this? I don't know anything about this, and we're not going to support it," so you've wasted time and you've frustrated people. The people you've been trying to help are even more frustrated now and you've probably created more conflict than you've helped resolve.







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