Did you provide information about outside resources that could help the parties in conflict?


Nancy Ferrell


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
If you came to the conclusion that they would be better off going another direction, what did you do?

Answer:
Refer. Our confidentiality wouldn't allow me to call that party or call that law enforcement group, but I could refer them. Sometimes it would happen because I didn't believe that the institution or the establishment was going to act in good faith. I would not bring people to the table if I didn't believe that.






Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

If you have a relatively unsophisticated group do you sometimes put them in touch with third parties like lawyers or activists who you think might be able to give them information that you feel you can't give them without compromising your position.

Answer:
Again, I was brokering lawyers in that particular case. These were lawyers who had already filed a $35 million dollar suit and they were the representatives of the parties and I was potentially going to mediate their lawyers and the INS and the city that would put the police in that position. So, those were the parties. Again, maybe it was a fault in the sense that I felt that the sophistication was there. You had your lawyers, you had your party, you had your class action suit. These lawyers would know the value of this case. So, again, I thought it was a more sophisticated group and would take it and set that precedence, but evidently they didn't see it or maybe the case wasn't as strong as they thought. I think we have to look at what is our role and get out of the way sometimes for the sake of valuable principles that need to be set. Sometimes mediation can be a compromise we need to get out of the way because what we do in mediation doesn't stand up in the courts and have the same precedence that sometimes the courts need, that society needs. I think we need to look at disputes from a variety of views.






Leo Cardenas


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Did you sometimes just handle things over the phone, or say, "Well, why don't you call this other agency and let them help you?"

Answer:
A lot. Every situation that we identify as a potential dispute, we go through this system we call an alert. But I suspect that we will only work and document about a third of those alerts. The others simply become statistics of what's out there and what we're able to document given the resources.




Efrain Martinez


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Who are the agencies that you most often refer people to?

Answer:
EEOC, F.B.I., U.S. Attorney, District Attorney, LULAC, NAACP, school districts, police, HUD, etc. - agencies and organizations that work with civil rights. In Houston, I'm fortunate. I've been here so long that I know all the police leadership, some from back when they were captains or lieutenants, and we work with them. I try to purposely build a relationship with those people coming up, because at some point when they make it to the top, I want to be able to maintain their relationship. Everybody's important, no matter what their position is. You don't know when you might need them or they might need you. You've gotta have that relationship and a high trust level.




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?”






Manuel Salinas


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Then you provide information and resource information that would be helpful to the group. We have a lot of that in CRS. So you provide that information. Then they feel like you are, to a degree, on our side. They know that we're on their side only to provide that information. But you don't tell them "you must do this or you must do that."



Manuel Salinas


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

We got along fine, if they needed resources for education purposes, I brought that along and we talked about it and they formed groups on that and they formed groups on employment and then they went on for their election.






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by Conflict Management Initiatives and the Conflict Information Consortium at the University of Colorado