How did you determine your own role (e.g., to act as an advisor, conciliator or a mediator)?


Angel Alderete


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
How did you determine what your role was going to be? I'm hearing that you sort of switched hats. Sometimes you were an advisor, sometimes you were a conciliator, sometimes you were a mediator. How did you determine what your role was going to be?

Answer:
Well, the mediation gets you into an agreement with the sheriff and the citizens to go farther. It's a launching pad for further progress. I got together more with the community people. So getting together the community people, I was an advisor, a guy they would bounce ideas off of. I was also the guy that they would chastise sometimes for not being assertive enough -- sitting back, listening to the sheriff make his total case, and sometimes making some comments that they didn't agree with. I would choose not to say, "Hey. Wait a minute. What you just said..." and that kind of stuff. So I would get chastised for that. Not in an angry way, they were just reminding me that they saw that I hadn't done that and they wanted to know why.

Question:
So they saw you as their spokesman?

Answer:
No. Not as a spokesman. They saw me as a facilitator. The Native American community, and especially the African American community would never let me be a spokesman for them. They can speak for themselves. And they would invite the sheriff. This was all happening after we formulated the agreement that they would meet on a monthly schedule. When they would meet in the African American community center, with a given group, and the sheriff was there, it was their thing. I didn't have to be there, although I was invited. Sometimes I wasn't able to make it. I probably was invited all of the time. The sheriff would go, and they would get rid of him, and then he'd come back. He understood, though, that with Native Americans or African Americans, their concern was to improve things among them, between them; it wasn't so much just to rattle his head with angry words and that type of thing.




Leo Cardenas


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

That is one of the greatest services that we, CRS, can provide to a community group. We train our conciliators and mediators to actually carry easels, or have some place to write so everybody can look at the same thing. In a lot of cases we will initially do the writing, because we of course know the language. We will do the writing on those issues, and then in a very timely manner, we'll ask one of them, "Why don't you continue this while I take a break?" Eventually they can take ownership. People in dispute come together with a lot of emotions, and while they have all of the skills, talents, and intelligence to participate they can only provide a certain amount of time to a community dispute. It's not their bread and butter. Their reputations might be at stake or they can even say their children's futures are at stake. They can only give a certain amount of time and effort and so their involvement lasts only the time that the meeting lasts. They don't go home and get on a computer and start working on it. The school system on the other hand, the school superintendent assigns someone to work on the case. The committee doesn't have that, and so keeping them together, keeping them focused, and being realistic as to how long they can keep together becomes our task. We do that. It's actually their task, but we focus a lot as to how to keep together and who's going to do what and when. It's not that the leadership doesn't have the ability and capability, but they don't have the resources for long-term projects. Any disputes that we're working with, to us, is a very short-term project. We're looking at resolving it within two or three days. We're looking at resolving it with one meeting and they never look at it that way. It's also important to note that a lot of the disputes that we handle are in smaller communities, say a community of three thousand. We get there, and we're introduced and we give our spiel and then they get up and start telling us of all the ills of that community for the last ten to twenty years. Then we'll say, "Well, could we ask the leaders to assign someone to work with us tomorrow?" One person will meet with us and we have fulfilled their goal which was for someone in authority to listen to their complaints because no one has done it before. We happen to be from the US Department of Justice. We happen to have someone who knows how to listen, and that's it. We'll come back later and ask the city, "Well, whatever happened to that case? There were forty people there and you had a list of fifteen items. I can't get a hold of anybody, nobody will answer my calls." We have fulfilled our mission and we have provided a service to that community. That's all that's going to happen. They'll never admit to it, but that's all they wanted, someone to listen to them.



Leo Cardenas


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Do you see the role of CRS as being an advocate for the minority community?

Answer:
Only by the fact that our mandate states that services will be provided by CRS in racial disputes. If there was violence in the street and the issues were not racial, then this government would have formed a CRS-like organization that would have served everybody. We solve disputes through law enforcement, we solve them through education and through all of these other systems that serve our society. It is only when there is a community- wide racial dispute that an organization such as CRS has the mandate to respond. And government officials obviously don't see it as that high of a priority because you only have 41 offices throughout the country.




Bob Ensley


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

how did you determine your role?

Answer:
Many times, I didn't. There wasn't any role at the time. I would just stay around and sometimes a week or so after getting into an area, I would finally decide what role, if any, that we had. There were some instances in which there wasn't any role for us. We'd just decide, "Well we don't need to be here at this time, because there's no definite role for us." Sometimes people are working towards some sort of solution, and you're just going to interfere with what progress has already been made. So it's something that you feel your way through.




Will Reed


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

"What am I going to do here? I may be a resource person." That's when you determine your role. My role was not to be a mediator in that situation. My role was to be able to provide them with as many resources as I could to help them put their package together. I had determined that this was the role that I needed to play. And I didn't want anybody else coming in there either, as a matter of fact. I wouldn't let anybody else come in to that situation from CRS -- especially certain personalities because I know damn well they'll screw everything up and run people out, or the people would run them out. One way or the other. When you have a case that you're in charge of, you're in charge. And people just can't get off the airplane and come in there and say, "Okay, well stand aside, I'm the big cheese here." I never let that happen in twenty five, thirty years. I never let that happen. And then after people knew how ornery I was, they knew not to even try. And I'm serious as a heart attack, because all of us had respect for each other and we basically knew when to come in and when not to come in, and what to say and what not to say to each other as comrades. We basically understood that and that's why we function so well out there. I'd never go into Manny Salinas' case and jump in there not knowing what in the heck's going on. Because I know he'd go, "What are you doing?" And that's that simple. I don't care if he did read the book ["Getting to Yes"] or any of the rest of that stuff. We didn't do that. We respected each other. And then once we began to talk about it, the next thing you know, we ended up developing strategies on how we would work together. And that almost always happened. It's one thing about CRS people: they have internal respect for one another to the point where we always ended up developing strategies with each other, not against each other. And then the next thing you know, somebody had a piece of this, somebody had a piece of that and it was a group activity. That's what we did. Like Wounded Knee. At Wounded Knee, each person had a role, and few, if any, individuals out of twenty or thirty of us running around up there, were not respecting the role of another person. And we debriefed each other at night and discussed what was going on, and made the assignments for the next day.



Will Reed


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Was there one person who acted as a coordinator of the whole thing?

Answer:
Well you had a coordinator, you had somebody who would sit down and would discuss how to put this together, and they'd get your opinion about it, and then we'd all come together and decide on the approach to take. Somebody would lay it out. Like for example, Dick Salem would say, "Why don't we try this, and John, you take this and Jack, you do this, and Bill, you take this, and Bob, you do that." And that's the way we kind of moved it along, always respecting one another's talents and abilities to get a certain thing done. CRS was known as sort of a maverick operation, simply because we didn't function just according to the book as to how things would go. Not to disrespect the books, but it was better this way because we had to develop specific strategy based on each individual situation.

Question:
Did you ever negotiate your role with the parties? Did you determine your role yourself or did you work with them to determine what role you would play?

Answer:
That's a good question. It would depend on the parties. If there were parties who were sophisticated enough to want to discuss with you your role and how to advance your role or improve your role or how to play down your role or whatever, then you'd do that. They were a pretty sophisticated lot. And every now and then, you had a leader in a certain group that you respected enough that you could do that with. Like Alice, we got to know each other, so we'd sit down and she'd say, "Why don't' you play the big, good guy and I'll play the old bitch." She was good at saying that. Well, it got down to times when there were people over the years that you worked with a lot, and you got to know that you could trust them and they were easy to cooperate with. You knew they were going to do the right thing. And if they felt you were going to do the right thing, things went pretty easily.




Will Reed


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

She began to tell me about the problems they were having. So I looked at the situation and said, "My role here would be to see if I can keep the police from beating up on the Indian people. I would go meet then with the sheriff and everybody else. And the sheriff was a black man. And he was half Indian and half black. But he was strictly for law and order. And there were a few times when Indians did get clubbed up pretty bad. A couple of them were in the hospital. I went to the hospital to visit them.



Nancy Ferrell


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Well, once again going back to the University, tell me about the dynamics at the table?

Answer:
I was the facilitator. They each had an opportunity to express their opinions about what we needed to be dealing with, as far as bringing the issues out to the table, and then validating that with everybody, because we couldn't deal with everything. Prioritizing those issues and building a consensus around the table about what issues we were going to deal with, so from the very beginning I was teaching them what I do. The next time an issue came up, they had been through the process and I had basically facilitated, but coached and modeled that behavior as we went along. The main thing is keeping the environment safe for everybody, so that nobody was diminished and that was always one of my ground rules. They were obviously able to create other ground rules that they felt like were important once we validated the issues and began hammering out responses to it.




Nancy Ferrell


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
You mentioned coaching. Did you coach everybody together, or did you coach some groups individually?

Answer:
In the initial contacts, part of that would occur with the individual groups, talking to them about what's going to happen. Certainly you have some rage, certainly you have some interest in sharing that feeling that you have. But what is it going to get you? You need to be very clear about what your concerns are and they need to be definable. They need to be stated in a way that they can be resolved. Saying you're angry at the administration because they're not responding to you, doesn't tell the administration anything and there's nothing they can do to respond to that. So coaching them to really clarify what their concern is. That's definable, something you can respond to. Not being treated fairly in student government is a valid concern, but what does that mean? You can't be elected because it's always at large, so you can't have representation at student government, that's specific. So I coached them in being prepared to sit at the table. I think that's always a big part of it. Not diminishing someone, is making sure they are prepared for what's going to happen. If you put somebody there and they're not ready, then they feel like they've been put down by the other parties that can talk more easily. The other party is more prepared with the response, then you haven't done them any favors. My coaching there would be getting them ready to come to the table and feel confident. The student had as much power at that table as the vice president of student affairs. There was no power and no rank. And that was part of my process, my responsibility. And everybody had to agree to that, the tenured faculty included. They had no more influence on the group than a student did.

Question:
Did you do any coaching of the faculty or the administration?

Answer:
Yes, the same kind of thing. Sometimes from a different perspective of being able to hear and listen to the students or listen to the other group without becoming defensive. It was that whole issue of helping people understand that being defensive is not helpful and it doesn't help resolve problems. It just entrenches people. So the coaching may be different, sometimes not. Generally it was more from that side of, you do have the power, but what's going to happen to you if you don't have the students. What's going to happen to you if the community believes that you are this kind of institution. You're more likely to be appealing to their public relations image than anything. Coaching them in that sense would be more geared toward listening and not being defensive. It was hard for an administration or an institutional mind set to listen to things that they believe to be completely contrary to what they were doing. They believed that they were doing the right thing. For somebody to attack them with the opposite, it was hard for them to hear that. I could coach them in saying that community or the student's perception is that they're treated unfairly. Now if that's not true, don't you have an interest in helping them understand why that's not true? If it is true, then you should have an interest in helping them figure out how to change that. So either way there's a response. I never went in and tried to get an institution to say they were wrong. That would just be wasting time for one thing, and I didn't have to get them to say that. The only thing I had to get them to say was that things could be better. That's another one of those little keys, that if you go into an institution, or a minority group for that matter, and say, "Your system is deplorable, and if law enforcement people came in here they'd take you to court and everything's terrible." If you go in there like that, why should they listen to you? Why should they come to the table with you? But if you go in there and say, "this is what the community believes, this is how they feel about it, now if that's not correct, then you have an opportunity to help correct that perception. But even if some of it's correct, can your institution do better?" I've never had anybody say they couldn't do any better. And it's amazing what that one little thing will do for any kind of mediation. If you try to make the respondent say, "I was wrong," then it's a hurdle you may never get over. But if you can get them to say, "Well sure, we can all do better," then I can help you. So that was the dance to me. It's moving with them, where they are, and not trying to drag them somewhere. You dance them into the place where you want them to be, but if you don't keep the rhythm, then you're pulling and dragging, and they're not ever there in good faith.




Martin Walsh


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

In listening to them, I noted that there were many other issues: no Spanish-speaking officers, kids having to come out and interpret for them, and other matters. So, I said, "Why don't we have the attorney general's representative work with you on all these incidents about misconduct, harassment, and violation of your civil rights, and I will work with you on some of the other issues." That's how I broke it down and basically we really had to guide them from prosecution to seeing the possibilities of other things being done. In that way you as a conciliator/mediator are interpreting some of the things you are hearing. You are saying, "There appear to be other issues than just the prosecution that can be addressed in another forum in which maybe we can assist you with the police department if you're willing to sit down and deal with these things." It's like I said before, people want that prosecution, but what CRS has to offer is addressing other issues in a different way, that is, by mediation.



Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

And your role during those demonstrations?

Answer:
It was to be right there as a liaison. When they said we're going to be here from this point to this point, we were there at that point to make sure that we were going to be there for that liaison between the leadership and the police. Constantly serving as liaison to diffuse anything that may come up. And things came up all the time. Fundamentally, our role is to insure that the first amendment rights of any American to speak freely and to demonstrate are protected. CRS by maintaining open communications lines open is able to diffuse tensions and mediation conflicts that may arise.






Silke Hansen


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Did you see your role changing during this particular case? You mentioned being a facilitator?

Answer:
Not really. When we were doing some of the telephonic things, a major role ended up being a scribe. But of course, what we would do is focus on a particular aspect of the negotiations and then put together suggested language based on what we think we heard. Then we'd send that out to everybody and get the input and revise it and so on. But I think it's all part of that mediation process. There are about 30 or 40 different roles mediators play, and to some extent, I suspect we probably played them all at one time or another. Sometimes we were the scapegoat, sometimes the reality tester. But it was fairly consistently sort of a mediator/facilitator role throughout this case.

Question:
How did you decide when to bring the parties together?

Answer:
Usually, as a result of the telephonic shuttle diplomacy we had made significant progress in a certain area and were ready to go on to another part. I would summarize and confirm that everybody was seeing the same thing at the same time in the same room, confirming what we have accomplished. Then I would lay the ground work for where are we going next, and begin the process of deciding how we approach that. We probably met face to face every month or so and frequently we set a tentative date for when they might be able to do it again. Because this is not a group you could get together on a week's notice.

Question:
So you're doing a whole bunch of telephone work in between?

Answer:
Yes.




Silke Hansen


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

I was involved in arranging for, and then actually conducting mediation between a group of Korean businessmen and the federal, state, and private agencies and organizations that were in Los Angeles for disaster response. That included FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Administration), the California version of FEMA, the Red Cross, Administration and others. A lot of that ended up being almost like a cultural training, because a big part of the concern of the Korean business people was that they weren't familiar with American culture. For instance they didn't have a clue as to what to do with the dry beans they were being given for food assistance. If they were going to be getting food assistance, they needed things they were familiar with. So we got the Red Cross to look for more fresh vegetables and rice. In some cases it was just a matter of looking at the physical layout of the disaster relief center it was called the DAC Disaster Application Center. I looked at the layout and considered how that lead to or avoided confrontations between inpatient people who needed help. Sometimes we ended up just playing a role in rearranging the furniture in a way that made it more conducive to having people being served at various sides at the same time, rather than having long lines which made people lose patience. There was a real sense all along on the part of the Korean victim community that they were not being understood, that the severity of their situation wasn't being dually acknowledged and they could not understand why nobody was taking responsibility for the fact that they, through no fault of their own, had suffered all of these losses. They couldn't figure out why nobody had resigned yet -- you know, out of shame, for having allowed this to happen. And the other piece which was major, particularly early on, was that they did not believe that they were receiving protection from the police or national guard for their businesses. So they ended up forming their own protection force a young adult team which was heavily armed and spent nights patrolling streets of Korean businesses to make sure that they weren't vandalized, attacked, or destroyed. As they began to go through the process of applying for assistance at the DAC, and then waiting for a response, and looking for help, there was a lot of impatience. Language was a big problem. They were threatening big demonstrations in front of the DAC at first, and later on they did have demonstrations at City Hall. It took awhile to get mediation going. When we were trying to arrange it, there were one or two Koreans who wanted to speak for everyone. We tried to explain that while it wasn't that we didn't trust them, and we were sure they were honorable people, we couldn't take their word for what the entire Korean community wants. We insisted that we have more participation from the Koreans. There were a couple of business associations we got to participate and we had the leader of this Korean young adult team which was doing the protecting service. There were a couple who were clearly sort of elders within the Korean community, too. The entire process had to be bilingual, so I had to have a translator, because I don't speak any Korean at all. These were all day sessions, and we ended up going on for three days. I could never persuade any translator to come back for a second time because they were so worn out, so totally exhausted after one day. So there was no way I could persuade them to come back again. Part of what happened is that some of the Korean victim party who spoke at least some English, so if the translator didn't get it just right, they would jump in and say "No," so this poor person had a very, very difficult time with it. The other challenging thing was that almost everybody at the table on both sides were men, and here I was, a woman, taking charge of the process. But I did it, and it was fascinating, just because of the dynamics of what was going on, some of the interactions among parties. Never mind the actual negotiations between the parties. I ended up becoming very close to that leader of that adult group. He calls me "Mom." I'm his American mother. So we ended up being a very close link into that particular community. They really they were concerned that they receive protection. They would've much preferred that L.A. police do it, so later on, we managed to arrange for some meetings between some of them and law enforcement on how to coordinate security services in these neighborhoods It didn't become a full time vigilante group working in the community, but it was certainly challenging.

Question:
Did you provide technical assistance to both sides?

Answer:
Yes. I always provide technical assistance to both sides. Now sometimes, the technical assistance required by an establishment side, just for the purpose of kind of grouping them, they require less assistance than the minority community. But I make sure that I offer pre-mediation training and preparation to everybody who's going to be involved. In this case, there was actually relatively little preparation for each. Partly because of the immediacy. I think some people thought they were just coming to a meeting. But I made sure that we kind of put it into a mediation session rather than a free-for-all conversation, because it was the only way to accomplish what we needed to and, well, I'm a mediator, and that's what I do. But I really thought in this particular setting -- we must have had at least thirty people in the room that we needed mediation. We had many response agencies maybe about twenty people, and six, maybe eight Korean representatives. So we had to have some kind of a structured process so this discussion could actually take place. Part of what came out of that is that, after all the broad issues were addressed, was there were then sort of splinter mediations, if you will, or splinter meetings. And the one that comes particularly to mind was with the Small Business Administration. Besides FEMA, SBA ended up being one of the major sources for financial assistance. They had an excellent director there on-site who really bent over backwards to understand and meet the needs and be flexible. He was one of the least bureaucratic bureaucrats. So that made a big difference. They helped out with business loans, because it was mostly businesses that were destroyed during that time. We helped facilitate the Koreans applications, helping them to apply by giving them technical assistance to make the application process easier.

Question:
So the negotiations were basically over what kind of assistance was going to be provided and how and when?

Answer:
Yes. And what the procedures would be for making that happen. A lot of it was even just how you get access to some of the leadership of some of those agencies if you know there's a particular issue in your community that isn't being responded to. And in some cases, the time line was a problem, because when people apply for a loan they'll get an answer within a month. But these folks were looking for an answer next week. So how do you handle some of those emergency situations? In some cases, it was just a matter of really clarifying what the procedures are and what has to be done to have to go through that.




Silke Hansen


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
You mentioned at one point that the majority of cases don't go to mediation. What determines whether a case is appropriate for mediation or not?

Answer:
Well, for a start, you need parties that are identifiable enough so you can say "These are the sides." Sometimes that is not clear. Sometimes there is tension in the community, but it is hard to define who, exactly, the opposing parties are. Second, you need specific issues that are clearly-definable. One of the things that's difficult to mediate is, for example, if there is a court case and a community believes that even bringing the case to court was an injustice, or the disposition of it is not fair. Usually you can't mediate that. So in that case, I would look for ways to bring some healing, some communication, some positive interaction among members of the minority and the majority community. I'd just try to begin to get some common interests, some common goals to deal with race relations in that community in general, without going through a formal mediation process. Now, I'm one of those people who starts off every case initially by saying to myself, "Okay, how can I bring this to mediation?" It helps me from day one, minute one to have an agenda in my mind. As I'm working toward that, it may become clear fairly quickly that the case is not going to go to mediation, and that's fine. But if I start out thinking that it might go to mediation, I have a perspective to work from when I approach the parties. If that doesn't work, then I ask myself, "Is there some training we can do? What other kinds of assistance can we provide? Are there some documents I can give them, or maybe I can just facilitate some meetings?" or whatever. But usually, unless I am asked specifically to come in for some other purpose, I'll assume we're trying to initiate mediation. Remember the case I was talking about earlier, about tax day? In that case I was asked to come to facilitate the meeting. I ended up facilitating another one similar to that about a month later in the same community. And there were some great things that came out of that, so it was a very rewarding and beneficial event. But that would be an example of where I didn't attempt to go toward mediation, even though there were some pretty good outcomes that arose from that particular situation.




Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

So I move out of the mediation and move into a conciliation mode, and I look at what I can offer to try and lay to rest some of the other conflicts that are taking place within that school environment. I told the superintendent, I wanted to go to the school and meet with the principal, and observe that school. I want to make sure that the school is a safe environment for the African-American students and the other youth, because I don't know what's going on.



Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

So that was your alert?

Answer:
That was my alert. I was the team leader for the Korean liaison. I had a team of three other people who were stationed temporarily in Los Angeles for the Rodney King incident.




Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Actually, when we got to the table, I sat at the head of the table and I framed the mediation process right then and there, and opened the door to the key spokesman of the Koreans to start them off. Then the mayor responded.

Question:
The mayor was comfortable with you at the head of table?

Answer:
Yeah, he didn't want to be there at all, but he didn't want to be in the middle of it either. He wanted somebody else to be at the head of it. So I could see the politics that he was playing.




Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

I thought they needed to get into some substantive kind of dialogue on possibilities. That was my personal opinion. It wasn't something that I conveyed because I didn't think it was my place to do that. They got what they felt they wanted and it was concurred on by the participants. It seemed to have worked. I haven't had any problems in that community subsequently. That's where a mediator doesn't own the agreement. We bring a process and we facilitate it for them and they've got to own it. I just didn't think it was my place.





Angel Alderete


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

And since my boss was in Washington, whatever I told him in writing, he agreed to. So all I had to do was tell him, "Here's what I'm going to do," and he would say fine.



Angel Alderete


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
So what role -- beyond helping with the planning -- did CRS play? Did you facilitate the meetings?

Answer:
I facilitated all of the planning meetings and all of the training meetings, and then went to the director and told him, "Here's what we can provide for you. We can provide the money to get you trained -- that is, the transportation per diem, to the training site, as long as you're willing to provide the fees for training your team." He said that was fine. So then we paid for their way and the Department of Corrections paid for their training. I was also there at the training. I participated as a correctional officer and also provided some of the input that George couldn't provide in terms of CRS's interests. CRS's interests were that this program had to go beyond today.




Angel Alderete


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

we went to Miami, the 1972 Republican and Democratic Convention. We weren't invited. We went because we felt we could help. So we went down there and that's when we got in a horrible situation with that preacher that was in Nixon's outfit. To his credit, the director of CRS refused to abide by Nixon's request -- actually, I don't know if it was a request or order -- that we do spy work for them. You know, "spy on these people and then give the information directly to me." He refused, even with Nixon's people there, so that was to his glory, I think. But as a result, in 1973, we got chopped by more than half. I think there's a correlation. If it happens, you respond to it by the seat of your pants. No planning. Well, we'd plan to be there, and that kind of thing, but you mostly were out there listening, and if you felt something was about to happen, then you got back with the staff, you got together and you talked about it, and you developed something. When we heard that Cesar Chavez was coming from Texas with his Texas group to meet with the Florida group and then march, we found out that the march was going to intersect at one point with a Cuban march that was going on at the same time. In some ways, the UFW Red and black flag sort of matches with the Cuban group's flag, whatever flag he waved, and they were going to criss-cross and we were afraid that if that were to happen, there'd be a tremendous problem. So what my boss then did, he went to the city folk and we went to the UFW people together and somebody else went to the Cubans. I don't remember exactly how it went, but the end result was -- and this was a very simple thing -- they just changed their routes a little. Everybody agreed to it, and there wasn't a fight. Maybe there wouldn't have been one anyway, but at least you prevented that possibility.



Leo Cardenas


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

I personally did not. I was simply introduced as someone who had experience in the media. My title at the time was Media Specialist, so I came in as a so-called expert, having expertise from the inside of the media and having expertise as a manager.



Leo Cardenas


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

So in this particular case, you were simply the media specialist?

Answer:
The media specialist, and eventually the so-called expert. They saw me as the expert who could bring the media side to the table and be a full participant. Up to that time, while there was participation, the community group was very skeptical about their participation and whether it would lead anywhere or not.




Leo Cardenas


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

How would you determine what your role would be in any case? Did the parties involved shape your role or did you already come in and say, "I am conciliator," or, "I am mediator," or, "I am regional director?"

Answer:
I think it's a combination of everything that's in the scene, including its history, its leadership, the timing of it, the type of response, and resources. Clearly, when a dispute has occurred publicly and words have been exchanged, people are not talking to each other. People already feel that they are in a corner and that they're fighting back, so they're almost like a caged animal. They're clawing rather than listening or reasoning. So we come in and begin to talk to them about how they got inside that cage in the first place, and how we can get them out of there. Then the venting happens. They're venting with us and against us. If we're meeting with a Hispanic group, and they're angry, it doesn't matter to them that I'm a Hispanic. But sometimes I'm able to use certain words and phrases and I'll intermix English and Spanish. This will sometimes bring down the tensions and bring some humor to the situation. So they'll vent all of this stuff in various emotions, and we want them to do that. Once they go through that process, then we can begin to talk. "Well, what type of issues do you have?" And before you know it, "Here. Here's this paper, here's this letter, here's a history. Remember I was talking about this and that?" And the venting is out of the picture and they begin to think in a different way, begin to put it in a different perspective. All we've done is sit down and listen and hopefully asked the right questions to begin to move. The eventual question is, "How can I help you? If I go and meet with the school superintendent, what can I tell them?"




Bob Hughes


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

So did you see your role changing, case by case? Would you consider yourself to have the same role consistently?

Answer:
It's the similarity of issues and parties. With the Puget Sound Tribal fishing cases, my role became fairly consistent there, because on the tribal side, in a number of those cases, I was working with the same people. The fishery's chairperson, the fishery's patrol of the tribe. There was a different set of people on the community side, that is the residents side, in those issues. So basically, a very similar approach was made, and the tribal officials knew what to expect from me and had a successful experience in other cases, so I would probably play a very similar role.

Question:
If you had to characterize the role that you played in a case, would you characterize it as a conciliator, mediator, or a combination of both?

Answer:
Well, it'd be according to the case. Sometimes it was as a mediator, and sometimes as a conciliator. Some cases simply weren't appropriate for mediation. From 1984 on, I was doing less and less mediation and more and more conciliation, because of an area that I began to specialize in that was crucial.




Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Did your role ever change from case to case, or did you primarily have the same role in each case?

Answer:
The same role with different approaches maybe. But I'm always the outsider, I never tell anybody what to do, they're responsible for what they do or don't do. I can be of assistance to them if they let me.




Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

The question was did your role change from case to case?

Answer:
No, based on the circumstances, my approach might change, but not the role. I'm always on the outside, I'm trying to help them help themselves.




Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Then after the meeting, we analyze the situation. How did it work? Did we get what we wanted? Did we get more than we wanted? Where does that lead us to now? Then we go to the next one and analyze that, and put it all together, because at some point we have to determine what are we going to do. We know how the community sees it, we know what they think would work, we know what role they want to play, but then what do we want to do about it?

Question:
CRS?

Answer:
Yeah, CRS because we have to quickly, and I would say in any community within the first day, we have to pretty much know what we're going to be doing. Of course it depends on the circumstance, but quickly you have to know what they want.




Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

I know in Guantanamo, Cuba, at the camps, when the military guards were sweeping the camps for contraband, homemade knives and things that they had made. The military would go in to "sweep" the tents. One time there was a request for us to go with them when they did that, but we refused. Because the Cuban refugees would be seeing us as the military, or an arm of the military. So we had to keep our neutrality. So we negotiated with them, you all go in, and maybe after you go in and if you get out, if there's something still brewing, then we'll go in. But it'll be us representing ourselves. That's the only way it could work. When you go into those camps, there's no military around when we're inside. So we have to establish a relationship with whoever's leading or whoever's in the camp. But the military then saw the benefits of doing it the way we wanted to do it. Because we said if we go with you, then we can't even help you anymore. But they saw the benefits of us being there, and we made sure that they understood our role. Also the persons inside the camps knew our role. You do this through discussion and dialogue. We refused what they wanted us to do. They saw that it was to everyone's benefit that we don't do what they were asking us to do.

Question:
What did the people inside the camp see your role as being?

Answer:
Helpful, that we were a resource that they could use and that our presence there was helpful to them.




Manuel Salinas


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Other than trying to lead them in their discussions to make them a little bit more fruitful, because they would get off on a tangent sometimes, or somebody would get upset or mad, so we'd have to bring it back to whatever we were talking about. That I did because when the El Comite first started, they wanted me to sit almost as chairman. But I told them "I don't want to be the chairman, you pick the chairman or the president, and that person is the one who should lead it, I will assist your president, but I won't chair the meeting."

Question:
Would you ever choose to do that, or is that outside of CRS' role?

Answer:
No, I think you could do it, but I've never had an occasion where I would chair it. I always want to identify a person in the community, even though that person may not take a real active role initially, because remember it might be hazy for that person. Then I might do more than what I should early on, but later on the community person selected to chair will do a better job and will improve. But I'd rather not, because it's too easy to make a mistake. You don't know the power forces within the group. Even though the group is there, you don't know that X, Y, and Z do not agree, and so therefore you might play into a situation that you didn't expect. So I think that would make it more difficult. If there's frictions within the group that you don't know, they'll show up and you played into that process. It's better to be away from that process.




Will Reed


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Yes, we did. After all, you know, we were a part of the Justice Department so we could do what we wanted. On those rare occasions where that happened, there might have been more groups or individuals who didn't want you there, but they didn't express it. So they sort of went along with things. It was pretty much like somebody saying, "The FBI's coming. Nobody turns down the Justice Department. They don't say, "We don't want you here." Very few people will do that. But the times when that happened, you found that you just went in anyway and determined whether or not there was a role for you to play. And if there was a role for you to play, you began to play it.



Will Reed


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Did you ever sit down with the party to help you figure out what your strategy would be, or was this solely with other CRS workers?

Answer:
No. It depended on what you thought the situation might be -- who you could trust. People you could work with. Sometimes you developed strategy with somebody that wasn't part of the agency but who might have been, for example, another agency, a sister agency, contemporaries or what have you. You might find yourself developing some strategy with the police department. You might find yourself discussing strategy with a community action director. You might find yourself discussing strategy with anybody that you felt fit into the scheme of things to the point where they could make a contribution and where you were comfortable with their input. And that happens lots of times when you are in the field. Especially if you are out there and you are by yourself. And if you're by yourself, you're trying to figure out who you're going to work with. Who's amicable to this situation? Who's hostile to the situation? That's how -- getting back to the other question you asked me -- that's how you tried to figure out what you were going to do when you knew that, clearly, somebody didn't want you around. You tried to determine whether or not you were going to be playing the enemy, or playing the friend. And then a lot of times, some of the foes came around and decide to work with you after all. Often the foes came around. I know in my situation, I had lots of foes who came around because they came to the conclusion that the work you might have been doing at the time was something that they could buy into, or something that they perceived as worth while. You had to let that happen. You couldn't go in forcing yourself on anybody. I don't care who you were with, whether you were with Justice Department, FBI, anybody. People know when you are a phony. Lots of these people out in the field who are fighting for an issue are more sophisticated than you are, or as sophisticated. So you never go in with the idea that since you are a trained mediator, that you're going to be able to snow somebody about your level of expertise or competence or anything else. The key to all of this is being yourself. People will see that, for the most part. And when they do see that, they're more willing to trust you. But when you go in and try to let them think that you have some special knowledge, which you may have, it won't work. They're going to have to conclude that you have that special knowledge on their own. You can't convey the message to them that, "Oh. I'm special." Because all that does is turn them off. And in hostile situations, the last thing you need is to have people turned off out here in the streets. But once they feel that you might be of substance, then they're willing to take a chance on you. And that's how all this stuff happens. I don't care who said what. This is how all this stuff happens. People have to feel some kind of degree of confidence in you that you can help them. Now in some instances, there are individuals who are not going to fall for you because they don't want to see you. There are those people out there who don't want to see any progress made, we just can't assume in going into a situation that everybody wants to work this out and that everybody wants to "come to yes". They don't want to.




Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Who decides what they need, do you or do they?

Answer:
We always start with what the group says it needs. It would be nice to sit here and say they tell us and we respond, but the reality is when you do enough of these for enough years you can sort of pretty well see what’s needed and what’s happening and you can lead the community group into knowing what it needs very often. One simple thing is helping a group understand it needs a good agenda if is going into negotiations, with or without a mediator. That grievances should be presented in a way that they can be responded to. If the agenda is fire the school superintendent, or fire the police chief, you know that's not likely to be achievable. You encourage them to shape an agenda that puts that at the bottom and started with some of the substantive changes they want to see. So you put the achievable at the other at the top of the agenda and push "fire the police chief” to the bottom. When they make enough progress at the top and middle of the agenda, they realize that you don’t have to fire the police chief, if he’ll abide by what you’ve agreed to up above on the agenda. So that’s empowering, helping the group understand the negotiation process. And you’re leading the group that way, certainly. You’re saying, "I know what’s best for this group in this negotiation.” I’ve never seen a group when we suggest resources that are available that wouldn’t be eager to accept them, if they were serious about resolving problems. Sometimes it was a consultant we identified who could help them, someone who had resolved a similar problem in another community, or an expert in policing or schools. We could pay plane fare and honorarium. "We’ll pay this guy’s plane fare to come over to talk to you and sit down with you.” In one case, I brought three Hispanic parents from Chicago into Washington DC to meet with the Civil Rights Division (CRD) during Chicago’s school desegregation suit. There they had a chance to meet with the attorneys who were working with the city and putting a plan together. So they felt they had their voices heard in Washington. That is providing technical assistance -- knowing that’s what the group wanted in that case. It was hard to tell whether anyone was listening, but the community members felt they had their voices heard. Now that’s another way of building credibility for ourselves. Before that, trust levels were really low. There was at a big public meeting and CRD had asked me to go; the US attorney had asked me to go. Nobody else in the Justice Department wanted to go near it. So what I brought to that public meeting was the idea that we would pay the fares for three people in your group to go to Washington to talk to the Civil Rights Division and be sure their voices were heard. There was so much skepticism that somebody raised their hand from the audience and asked, "Are you going to pay our plane fare back too?”




Nancy Ferrell


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
When you were meeting with the groups and hearing what their issues were, did it appear that the issues that you felt were most important were the same as what the groups felt was most important?

Answer:
I'm not sure. One of the things I tried not to do was to put value on it from my perspective. When I did my first case on my own in Oklahoma, I went into a small community, and it was a police situation. Allegations of excessive force. I have always had pretty strong opinions. If somebody hired me as an arbitrator I would do a pretty good job, because I know the answer. So my first instinct when I went into this community was listening to the stories, then thinking I know what the answer is, I know who's telling the truth and I know who's lying. I thought, now how can I deal with this process that requires me to be neutral in terms of outcome, with any integrity, if I have such strong feelings about the parties and their interests? I knew that if I didn't make that leap, I couldn't do it, because my integrity would be in question. It would obviously show, but just personally I couldn't do it. Because I feel that strongly about being honest about where I am. What I came to believe and be absolutely committed to was that regardless of my personal advocacy or personal interest in a particular position, what I had to offer with that advocacy was a tenth or less of what I could offer them as a process person. Bringing a process to them, to help them come to their own solution. So my advocacy or my bias for myself in a particular position was insignificant compared to what I could offer as a person with a process that worked. It was the ability to take in everyone's interest and the ability to say with integrity to that police chief, that I have as much responsibility to protect the interest of this department as I do the interest of the community. No less, no more. If I'm doing my job, I'll be protecting the interests of both and the outcome is better than anything I could do as an advocate for either. And I believe that. I really came to believe that the process that CRS uses has infinite value for communities and individuals, and my advocacy role or my biases were of no value to them, so I could easily set them aside.




Silke Hansen


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Frequently, you have two parties in a conflict and there's been a lot of talk and a lot of alleged communication, but just because people are talking, doesn't mean that they're communicating. So part of the role that we, as mediators, play, is making sure that if people are talking, that the other side is listening and understanding. In a setting like this, I think that was as crucial as any case that we've worked in.





Angel Alderete


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

At least we provided the institution with an alternative to forcing control, then that's a gain for them; that's what we had hoped for, and it worked.



Angel Alderete


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

My responsibility -- and that of some of the other CRS people as well -- was to gather small groups of interested, savvy facilitators and begin discussing this matter with community folks, and then develop ideas about what ought to happen. In other words, here's a group that's meeting and discussing "the problem." If you discuss it here, you're doing it in a vacuum. But if each member goes out and gathers other people to talk about it, then you begin to sense what's really happening. It's very unreal to say, "Alright, everybody in L.A. county, let's get together and talk."



Leo Cardenas


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

After you made that first contact with the group and talked with them, did you still find it necessary to have one of those two people there?

Answer:
There was more formality to the process than I was used to. First of all, I was used to working by myself, and not as a team member. At the meetings that I attended here in Denver, particularly with the community groups and with the media, our conciliators would open the meetings and would initially conduct them with some rules of order and with an agenda. These meetings generally lasted no more than an hour and a half. And then after that, sometimes we would meet with someone and have a meal and/or a drink individually.




Leo Cardenas


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

The agency was able to identify other minorities who at the time were just starting in the media, but had actually hosted minority programming. Another example was that we were able to bring some minority writers to the meetings and explain the benefits of minority programs, and that minorities would listen to such programs. So we were able to work with the minority group, and eventually, they were able to show that the type of proposals that were on the table were realistic -- that it would be a benefit to everyone.



Leo Cardenas


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

but think in terms of if you were regional director now, and you heard that there was some violence happening on an Indian reservation. What role can CRS play to try to stop the violence? What do you do to try to calm things down?

Answer:
Initially we did a telephone assessment as to the nature of the violence, the nature of the dispute, certainly the parties, who are the parties, in a lot of the cases we have already established relationships with them. And in a lot of cases, we get to the scene, because we do have relationships with them and can talk to them.

Question:
With both sides?

Answer:
With both sides. Yes.




Leo Cardenas


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

What happens if you look at the assessment and you can't come up with the win-win; it really looks like a win-lose? What do you do?

Answer:
Generally, we'll try to exit ourselves as politely as we can. If a mediator has been on the scene, a mediator's reputation is at stake, so he'll come to me as the regional director, and then I will make the call. I'll say to the school superintendent and to the leadership, "Based on our assessment, and our workload," I'll even use that, "It'll be awhile before we can get back into your community."




Bob Hughes


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

This was a sharp contrast to the kinds of mediation that I was doing. Here, my task was to organize. I became a community organizer in order to have a bona fide, representative party composed of persons who would represent the interests of the people on the island.



Ernest Jones


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Let me back you up a minute, because as I'm listening to you telling this story it seems to me that you were working on behalf of the law enforcement side as opposed to the minority community which is, if I understand correctly the tradition of CRS. CRS usually works with the minority community?

Answer:
That's not correct.

Question:
No?

Answer:
No. We work in the minority community, we work with the minority, but we are a neutral agency. We don't advocate working for the minority community. Some people think we do, but that's not correct.

Question:
Okay, so when you are brought in, you say you hear about the Los Angles riots, your main point of contact was the law enforcement and when you're getting together with the law enforcement agency do you have their interest in mind solely? Are you communicating with the minority community at the same time?

Answer:
You're looking at this wrong. It's none of the above. It's not a question of having anybody's interest in mind; it's a matter of identifying what our role should be within this particular case.

Question:
How do you establish what your role is going to be without knowing the interest of the parties?

Answer:
We don't.

Question:
So you go in and you know what your role is, right? Before you even talk to the parties involved in these cases??

Answer:
Well, yes and no. Once you've been doing this for a number of years, over time you develop a like fifth sense, sixth sense, seventh sense, or whatever sense it would be where you can kind of read what's going on and based on past experience you can almost foretell what you're going to hear people say and what you're going to be doing. So that plays into it. The other aspect is that we have a mandate and it says this is what you're supposed to do so you know in a very generic sense what your role is going to be to a large degree and you talk to the parties to kind of flush that out.

Question:
And I guess what I'm asking or trying to get clarification on is that sometimes CRS looks at a situation and says that they need to be there. Do you do this without an invitation? Is that correct?

Answer:
Yeah.

Question:
Okay. So those times where you are invited into a situation you sort of have to find out what's going on right? Okay, so explain to me how you don't consider the interest of the parties involved.

Answer:
What I heard you saying was that we took their interest to be more important then the others. That's what I heard you say. You know you go in and find out what both sides want and then you determine a method by which you might be able to help them achieve their goals collectively, together. You don't do that by saying I'm on this side or I'm on that side.




Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

It depends on how prepared you are to take whatever might happen, ordinances, crowds.



Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

what was your role?

Answer:
First I wanted to see how the community was reacting to it, and estimate if something going to happen in reaction to the killing. And I found out all kinds of things, all points of view, I tried to talk to everybody that wanted to talk to me. Persons were calling me, or I would ask them to talk to me. I found that the community was really working together in the beginning, and following the lead of the family Mr. and Mrs. Berg that they didn't want any demonstrations, no picketing, and no rallies. They wanted to handle this in a dignified manner, in a Christian manner. So for the most part the leadership followed that lead. It was unique, more than I've seen anywhere were the different elements in the community working together, religious community, political leaders, the community organization, they all saw that it was to their benefit to come and work together. I did have them analyze some of the circumstances. I had them look at other communities with a similar situation, what was relevant to Jasper that they could be doing. And what they could expect, since there was a stage set, media, and worldwide attention, that they could expect other people from the outside, or maybe inside coming in to use that stage. When that happened, they were prepared for that. When I mentioned other communities, when the Klan was coming or somebody else was coming, they had counter demonstrations, and some communities didn't have anything, so they chose for themselves after analysis, that it was best for them not to do anything. Just maintain a calm and not react to the people coming in. So we followed their lead, we really tried to maintain that cooperation. One of the issues that they mentioned were problems that had been there historically. Then we helped analyze with them what some of those things were that they could be doing to address that. Which was the better path? After many meetings everybody had a role to play in the creation of the Mayor's Task Force 2000, and we gave them technical assistance in that.




Ozell Sutton


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

But I would also like to ask you if you would help us understand the difference between functioning as a regional director and as a field worker. So we'll start there and we'll move back to Memphis.

Answer:
There's a world of difference, of course. A regional director supervises the way a person performs. There are occasions when a regional director performs, but that's not too often. Even when he goes out in the field, the field has a tendency to defer to him or to her. In most situations. That's the basic difference, a regional director assigns and supervises, while a field person performs.




Ozell Sutton


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
So what did you see your role as, while you were participating in this?

Answer:
At first I didn't see a role of readiness for the resolution of the problem. I saw my role as "preventing violence and major conflict between the parties, until you can move through that stage to a stage where resolution can be made". I wasn't trying, at first, to solve the problem of the city refusing to give to the sanitation workers check off -that was the problem. I didn't see that as my role at first. My role was to prevent violence.




Will Reed


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Then that was the function of the mediator? To be able to come up with this agreement with both parties together? That was your job, right, to come to agreement?

Answer:
Yes.







Copyright © 2000-2007
by Conflict Management Initiatives and the Conflict Information Consortium at the University of Colorado