Did you ever try to pressure the parties to change their approach?


Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

So after the Rodney King unrest took place and we knew that the Koreans were a big part of the civil unrest, they began to organize. You know they had their vigilante response teams, groups of young people moving off with firearms to protect the Korean stores in the African-American neighborhoods. My task with CRS was to try to de-arm the Korean community. I started working with the Korean leadership and I knew some of the Korean leadership from other case work so I began to move in and actually we met the key leader of the young men's Korean organization that was really the organizer of the response for the Korean community to all those stores. We were able to meet with them and convince them, "You've got to turn it back over to the police now. You're going to become a problem and you're going to become a victim of the police if you continue. You've got to de-arm and you've got to get out of it. They're in control now, so give it back to the police and move out of this." So we were able to do that.



Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

How do you move the parties then, toward the table, when they are apparently more inclined to stay in protest mode.

Answer:
In many of my police excessive use of force cases, I use the diagrams on where the parties are on the continuum of a traumatic incident and what the expected behaviors are that demonstrate shock, denial, anger, and blame. When you are emotionally driven and are venting you are in demonstrations and marches and so forth. When you have accepted it you are ready to say what can I do to make a difference in the long run. Particularly in excessive use of force cases. I usually go "Look, I understand that we wish that our loved one (Taisha Miller) wasn't killed, that she could still be with us. But unfortunately we need to accept that she won't and that we can't bring her back. But what do you really want to accomplish?" Inevitably communities will say, "We don't want it to happen again." "If you don't want it to happen again, what do we need to do to make a real difference. Do we need to put a system in place to make sure the police are trained right? Do we need to look at these police officers and see that they are reprimanded properly?" All the possible issues that remedy that point. When they are ready to discuss those the issues is after they come to that acceptance, then they are willing to look at the possibilities of constructive prevention on these shootings.

Question:
So you use your chart to drive that point and it works for you?

Answer:
Yes.






Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Do you as an intervenor help parties reach those conclusions or guide them as to how far to push and when to come to the table?

Answer:
In my work with CRS and the way that I look at is when the institutions are willing to come to the table in good faith, then I think the protest time is not necessary. Now I have to judge the good faith and whether the institution is sincere. I have to judge whether the institution is really coming with real willingness to make a difference or if they just want the protest to end. I think there is a fine judgment there, but I tend to move to the table and let the table be the process to break down those barriers. I don't know but I don't feel I'm guilty of misjudging the moment.






Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Do you ever try to sell a particular idea, or convince one side that they ought to do something, or is that up to the parties to do?

Answer:
I never really try to sell anything. Other than ask them to consider options, would they be willing to sit down and create a working group. But I didn't tell them they have to, or that they should, but would they consider it. It's been my experience that those working groups have worked in a lot of other places so I would ask them if they would consider it, and tell them it's worked well in town A and town B. And maybe they either know about that or know how to reach parties in town A or town B or even I may give them names and they could call to see if something like that is working for that community, which might be similar to theirs. But they decide. It's very dangerous if it gets to them doing what I say they should do. I don't know them, I don't know their community, I don't know all their history, I just know a little bit, and I don't know the skeletons hiding in their closets. In fact, I ask people to give me a warning when what I'm doing or what I'm asking them to do is not appropriate. I want them to tell me I'm going to wind up somewhere I don't want to be. I ask them up front that they please do that. Also they can ask me to leave if they think what I'm doing there is more harm to them than good. Every time we enter a situation we change the equation let's say. What we try to do is have it change positively. But if it seems like it's a negative change, they need to let me know because I don't want to be doing that. I have too much work already, I don't need to be there if I don't have to. If you think I can do some good and you think we can work together and I can help you work to get there, well then I'll continue. But if you don't think so, let me know because there are other communities out that have been begging me forever to come over there and help them out.




Nancy Ferrell


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

I think one of my propensities was to keep moving beyond their real interest. They would have to be really overt to me and say, "Go away." As long as they just danced around it and kept the door open, I just kept moving forward. Generally that worked out, although sometimes they slammed the door. I think that's one of the skills of the mediator, to understand whether or not it's mediatable. If you canít help that party see beyond the entrenched position, then it's not going to be mediated. I use it in the 40 hour mediation class. For example, one of the barriers may be authority. It's a big rock. Here's the mediator, they're the fulcrum underneath this lever. As the mediator, I'm trying to get this party off of its entrenched position in order to see the benefits of the mediation. If I can't come up with something to put on the other side, then it won't level out and it's not going to work.

Answer:
So the mediator is looking for a leverage point to move people out of their entrenched position, to get them to consider a negotiation. In family situations, children are often the point. Sometimes it's money. "How many resources are you going to use supporting that intrenched position? Are you willing to consider another option?" So you've got to find that leverage point. If you can't find it, and I don't say many things absolutely, but that's where you would have an intractable conflict. If they had found that point already, they wouldn't be there. So, all your incredible skills have to involve helping find that leverage point. It's either going to be a common interest or a personal interest. A common interest gives you the possibility of a richer mediation. A personal interest can at least get you to the table and create some sort of contractual relationship to the conflict. If you can get them toward a common interest, that's where the payoff is. That's when I try and transform those relationships by the process. But sometimes the best you can do, because of personal interest, is to get to some contractual relationship. It's better than nothing.






Angel Alderete


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

At one point, we used the old trick: "Alright, you don't want to come to an agreement? We'll see you guys." So we walked out and closed the door. Then, as we were getting ready to go tell the warden that we didn't get anywhere today, one of the sergeants come out and said, "Hey, they want to talk to you."



Werner Petterson


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
In general in this case, when parties would make demands that you felt or they felt were intractable, how were those resolved? How did you deal with those?

Answer:
We had them because as we tried to apply this solution or this approach, there were many times we came to real impasses because we had to reach a goal that took awhile to get and the point got pretty close and this approach really became a mathematical solution. We got arguing about numbers. Finally we went back-and-forth, back-and-forth, and it wasn't going anywhere -- I finally became an arbitrator. I said, "okay, we've been going back-and-forth on this and I'm going to suggest that you decide to think about this and let me know." Well, one side accepted this and the other rejected it. I said, "I guess we can't get anywhere, so I'm going home."

Question:
Were you really going to go home?

Answer:
Oh, yes I was headed to the airport. Maybe it was like a Friday or something, I don't know, but I had called and left messages at their office. I think it was at the airport that I got a call from one of the sides that panicked when they saw that I was going home. We got together again and after some more discussions we reached an agreement. For that I give to credit to my boss. He always impressed on me that sometimes as a mediator people get to the point that they so rely on you for answers. I guess in this situation by getting involved as an arbitrator I had really taken on that role. So when it appeared that I was walking out it fell back on them. I think what had happened is the two negotiating teams had talked and said we can't just let this collapse and that's why the one fellow called me and said we need to talk some more. I think that something had been said between the parties before the call came to me. They realized that they weren't going to allow a number or two to get in the way of coming up with a solution. That made the difference in breaking an impasse.




Manuel Salinas


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Do you have to lean toward the minority group more if you're dealing with somebody in the majority, a police chief or another authority figure, who isn't as forthcoming, who's more dogmatic and set in his ways? Do you have to take that stronger advocacy position then?

Answer:
I don't know whether it's stronger, but I definitely would work more with that particular department or individuals to show them that in the long run they can resolve the issue, if they cooperate. I would push them harder. Much harder. But I would also provide resources that might be helpful to them. I'd try to convince them. You can't push some of these people too easily, but you just have to be able to provide resources for them, in other words you push but you provide resources at the same time. I think that they can see the value to it. If they can see the value in what you're saying, I think that you'll make some headway. If they can't see value, they just won't assess it, and then you're stuck. You lose.







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