Did you ever try to use the power of the Justice Department to influence the situation or level the playing field?


Leo Cardenas


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

One of the pluses and minuses of working for the US Department of Justice, particularly with anything that has the potential for violence, is that they will listen to you. Some assumptions are made that by coming from the Department of Justice, we will bring in law enforcement, or some type of adjudication. And needless to say, we do not say that we will not do these things, because if that is the only resolution, we'll go to those resources. So we're able to get a lot of information from them with that particular handle. On the other hand, if you go to the minority community and the US department of Justice is the focus, they immediately say, "You're the F.B.I.," or nowadays, "You're INS." They clam up and inevitably, someone within the group will actually make an issue of the fact that we're from the Department of Justice, so we have to overcome those things. If that is the issue, and it's visible to us that whoever has brought it up has predominated for the time being, we'll leave the meeting. Then we'll call other individuals and meet with them separately and work our way back into the dispute.



Leo Cardenas


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

We also constantly remind our people that despite the fact that we sort of pick and choose when we wanted to be the US Department of Justice and when we wanted to be CRS, that at all times we were representing the US Department of Justice and that there was no way to shed that. If it came down to it, we can say, "Well, I'm not Department of Justice, I'm actually CRS." But it's only emphasized by ourselves. If you approach it from a professional point of view, that you're working on a case and you accept the fact that initially the venting is going to be with you and that's all it is, including name-calling, then you can live with it. The other thing we always recommend, is that when the emotions get super-high, of course, call for a caucus. If it gets even worse, get to a telephone, and call the regional director, vent with me, and tell me all the things that are going wrong and I'll listen and do whatever I need to do.



Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Very often when talking to establishment officials I would start at the top with my Justice Department credentials to get their attention and worry them a bit. They seldom want the Justice Department to come into their school, police department or community. Many people with grievances do, but no public official wants anyone from the Justice Department coming in. So we don't say this is a Community Relations Service mediator governed by a confidentially clause. We say, "this is the Justice Department.Ē So, we would have to be careful in determining who to call first and let them know we are coming in.



Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

C.J. was unable to get into Flint until the next morning. It turned out that the police chief was on vacation, his assistant chief was in control and clearly couldnít control what was happening. I called the assistant chief at 4 p.m. and said, "Mr. Walker is coming to Flint and should be there this evening. If he gets there in time, heíll call you and let you know heís in town. But heíll definitely call you in the morning.Ē I knew C.J. wouldnít be there until the morning but I wanted police to think the Justice Department was on their back that night. I donít know whether it worked or not. This was a case where our first concern was getting somebody on the scene or at least to have the police chief think somebody from outside was there observing. Once we confirmed the likelihood of police violating the rights of citizens in the black community again that night, we did not need a further assessment to know we had to be there.



Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Answer:
As I said, public officials seldom want the Justice Department to come in. The school superintendent has a contract coming up in two months, he doesnít want the Justice Department in there saying to the world that he canít handle his job.

Question:
But does he tell you that he doesnít want you in there?

Answer:
Well, you can read it pretty quickly. He may not say, "stay away," but he conveys the message. Mayors of big cities seldom want the federal government intervening in local racial conflicts involving police or schools. They want to believe they have the resources to handle it. Sheriffs, as you know, are elected at the county level and not subject to the dictates of governors, state legislatures, congressmen, presidents. Sheriffs run their own fiefdoms in rural areas; they are often a political force in the county. During one period, we were having trouble gaining cooperation from sheriffs in Ohio. They did not want CRS involved, and we could make no headway. Within the year, the Justice Department, unbeknownst to us, indicted about twenty sheriffs in Ohio, for embezzlement, gambling or some other felonies. Each case was separate. No wonder they didnít want the Justice Department in their counties, even CRS. Sometimes people donít want us, but they know that they have to have us, because they have no choice. We donít need anybodyís permission to intervene. An untoward police act, people protesting, major protests in the city, the police chief doesnít have it under full control, the police commissioner or mayor had to do something. Again, he may not want us, but he knows something has to happen and maybe we can help. So he works with us. We worked in Cairo, Illinois, which is closer to Birmingham, Alabama than Chicago. Nobody in the establishment wanted us, as there was blatant discrimination going on. The city lost every case in the courts over the years, but they dragged it out. The political establishment did everything it could to resist change. It was a black/white issue, straight up. At times there was violence, at times it was more subtle. The public officials often refused to talk to us. I remember the Chicago office of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, wanted to hold a meeting down there, so we worked with them. It was a request they made in conjunction with local black leaders and I couldnít say no. So we scheduled a meeting, and the governorís office sent some people in. City officials, the county officials, the sheriffís office all refused to show up. They knew we were sitting around a table. And there I am, and thereís the Civil Rights Commission, which also has no enforcement power. The governorís people flew in on a private plane. But the other chairs were empty because they just wouldnít come. So no, they didnít want us.






Martin Walsh


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Now because of being with Justice, I think we can get to first base. Very few if any people, I can't recall anyone, outright say, "No, I am not going to meet with you."



Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

So we go in and intervene and say, "Wait a minute. Stop! What are you doing?" We could tell by his behavior that he was a non-compromising skill kind of guy who was going to get his way, or else. I said, "I want to see your supervisor." So we had to flash our DOJ identification, tell him who we are, tell them what we're about and say, "We need to see your supervisor. You don't need to talk to these people."





Bob Ensley


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

But you've got to realize that this is their problem and the only lasting resolution will be one that the people who live in the community agree to. We can say this is what the Department of Justice has decided to do, but it's only going to hold for so long as we're there. But if they come to an agreement on their own and begin to realize this is their problem, then you can feel a little more comfortable with leaving and saying, "I'll be back."



Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

I can't just go up and say, "Hey, I'm from the government and I'm here to help you," you know that old line. When you walk into a sheriff's office let's say, you walk differently. Wear my other boots, the ones that make a sound, they're more like semi cowboy boots, wear my suit, pinstripe probably, blue tie, walk in there like you belong. Take a different position, ask some tough questions, but in a very friendly manner, and at some point they'll know you're not there to investigate them. You're not there to prosecute them, you're not there to do them harm so that they have to watch out and look out and be careful what they tell you. The more comfortable they feel with you, the more they'll tell you. That's the only way to help them because you have to understand their reality. Their reality from their point of view. That's the only way you can understand them, to try to help them resolve their own problems.



Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

I've been asked to stay, for example, at a reservation once. It was the agency of the opposition leaders that felt that our presence there was hindering what he wanted to do. But according to the opposition what had been happening was a lot of violence and criminal acts committed against the opposition, so they felt that our presence would maybe stabilize the situation and curb those violent acts against them. So the leader of the opposition felt that our presence there was right. We told the leader we were trying to help, and we'd be consulting with him on a regular basis so he would know what we were doing, and how our presence there would be benefiting everybody. We kind of left it at that. I wouldn't have agreed if we'd been insistent and some definitive action had been taken to remove us from there. Then we would have him talk to our authorities and see what was the best thing to do. And it might have been that it was those particular CRS people there that he didn't like. We could send another team. But no, it went well, perhaps maybe he engaged in other activities that were more pressing to him.





Angel Alderete


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

With the Youth Authority and the Department of Corrections, my hand was equal to theirs. I could kind of carry that, even though they would tell me, "Oh, you think you're a baby."



Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

The Hispanic lawyer showed up and he didn't want to work with us, he didn't want us involved. I sat down with him, said, "Look, you don't like the present administration, and there's some things I don't like about the administration myself. The political winds in Washington change every four years. It goes in one direction, then another, and yet the people are still here. You're still here and I'm still here, so why don't you and I work together to help these people here the best that we can help them in this current situation? Let the administration do whatever, I know you have strong feelings about that, but let's think about these people here. Let's see how you can help them and I can help them and maybe we can help them even more if we both work together." So we did that and they and the D.A. finally worked a deal where they got a new prosecutor.



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]

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.






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