Talk about building trust when you have an exceptionally
emotional or tense situation. Do you behave any differently and how do you deal with those
tensions during that time?
I think that how you deal with those are probably going to be the same way you deal with
them in a non-tense time, but with an acceleration; perhaps the problem solving has to go more
quickly. I remember one time when there was a major civil disorder in Lawrence, MA and our
people were in the day before. There were two nights of civil disorder. After the first night --
and CRS staff came in the next day -- CRS recommend several things that the city should be
doing. The city didn't accept the recommendations and there was another evening of civil
disorder. So I came in the next day and met with the mayor and police chief and said to them,
"These type of issues and problems don't have to continue. There are ways of trying to deal with
this that have been effective in other places." All I did was really repeat some of the
recommendations our conciliator made to them with the heightened sense of, "This has worked
elsewhere and can work here." I don't know whether they rejected the
advice when the other CRS staff person told them the same thing the day before because he was
an African American. They finally did all the things that we recommended. The day before they
had not. Two things I think happened. The problems continued and there was a sense that their
rejection of our recommendations did not work for them. Maybe the fact that I was a white
person stating it to them helped them accept our recommendations. I was more
directive because we had already made a number of suggestions of how the authorities could
bring in the community as a partner, from the issue of the curfew, bringing in community patrols,
the matter of an information and rumor control center, and other things that worked in these type
of situations. It was a matter of someone being directive and telling them, "If we want to avoid
any more nights of violence, let's get these things moving now and get them started or otherwise
we can continue this cycle of violence."
How about communication with the protesters, were there any
strategies for reducing the volatility?
We have a protocol and policy on what to do when violence is
occurring. Basically, it is to reach out to the community. We want to get our major course of
action there. Our goal is to reduce the violence on the street and get the issues into some other
type of venue where the people are talking and are planning meetings with one another to reduce
the violence or eliminate it and get it off the street. One of the strategies we employ for that is
getting the community leaders patrolling their own streets. We talked to the community and they
were willing to do this the night before. The first part of our response to civil disorder, before we
sit down and start dealing with the problems, is that we've got to eliminate the violence in the
streets and people getting hurt. So the community was willing to do its part. In some places they
wear yellow hats. We had them wearing shirts to identify themselves as they went out into the
streets to end the disorder and violence. The authorities accepted it and
the rumor control the second night.
Could you talk about Rumor Control Centers?
That is where there have been civil disorders. One of the ingredients of civil disorders
always is that misinformation is going around. There's a lot of fear; there's a lot of people
picking up bits and pieces of information and spreading it. Rumors come out and most of the
time they're very destructive. The police pick up things like, "Carloads of Hispanics are coming
up from Boston." This was in Lawrence. There are all these type of rumors. How do you
control that and get the correct information out both to the authorities and to the community?
What we recommend very strongly is setting up a rumor control and information center so that
information can be filtered and rumors can be investigated and properly handled. People are told
to call the police or whoever is doing the verification process. There's a whole protocol of how
to set it up and how to do it and to assure that there is a centralized type of information center
that basically is there to end the rumors and to dispense proper information to the public and the
Who generally manages that?
Our recommendation has been that they get a person from the city, usually from the Mayor's
communication center, to be in charge of the center and the people who answer the calls can be a
cross section of persons from the community. A centralized number is issued so that persons
hearing rumors or wanting reliable information are urged to call the rumor control and
information center. The team at the center checks out each rumor with the proper authorities and
provides the accurate information both to those calling and to the public through the media.
How do the people know that this kind of thing is set up and created?
Through the media, especially the electronic media, television, radio and the press.
You talked about being seen as a resource when you were talking
about building trust. You talked about communications and you talked about being seen as a
resource. Do you want to elaborate on that a little bit - what you do to be seen as a resource?
I think, especially with the authorities, we don't go in with one
strategy and one canned plan that can work. Looking at the issues, the CRS person has more
information from the community that usually wants to get access, get these problems resolved
and they have all these issues with the authorities. What you're really doing is processing
information. You're starting to get that response back on how far the authorities are willing to go
and what they're willing to do. CRS is able to cite how we were able, in similar situations, to
provide various types of services. "We had this case we mediated where they had a similar type
of conflict, people sat down, they came up with this." Or, "In the next city we trained the police
officers, we had a community forum, we had the police and the community working together on
it, or the police changed their protocols on use of force. They got to an accreditation process so
they started building community trust." In each one of those cited experiences, we're describing
CRS' efforts and the type of services we provided in that type of conflict.
That was why right from the beginning when we set up the
conflict resolution program back in 1970-1971, we pulled together all the types of experiences
we had as an agency and codified them so that we had a more uniform and proven process. Then
we buttressed that by referencing in writing, "We did this in X city or Y city." Even though the
individual mediator or conciliator has not had all that experience or gone through that particular
conflict, he or she can cite what the agency has done or what we're doing. The more current the
experiences or examples of CRS effectiveness, the better impact they have on both authorities
and the community. We're basically saying that to authority figures who often,
especially when they are in the midst of a civil disorder --we often call this a paralysis of inaction
--don't know what to do. Here, someone comes in and says, "In this civil disorder, here's what
they did in X city or Y city and it works. Here's the thing on the curfew, here's some of the pros
and cons?" It's all codified in our thinking, and that's what we try to do, pull it together so that the
mediator is not totally relying upon his or her experiences but those of colleagues and
Is that an available document or just an internal document, the codifying of those
I think it's an internal document; it's the Management of Civil Disorders.
Do you ever use as a resource, for example, a police chief from
another community who has had successful experiences?
Not usually at the time of a civil disorder. Maybe in the mediation stage afterwards, but not
in the height of the problem. Usually it's our people in there trying to get to first base, getting the
process going. Often, we will refer them to another chief or a superintendent of schools or
someone who has gone through that experience. To have them in there immediately, no, but as
part of the resolution, yes. We've used police chiefs as consultants in such issues as civilian
oversight, complaint processes, hate crimes policies and procedures; and, in addition, we have
used other citizens as resources. But I don't think any of that will work until we get the people
accepting our services and then we can do a lot.
What do you do when you can't break that barrier and someone
says they don't want you in this case, or one of the parties says we just don't want to deal with
you." Have you had that experience?
I think the hardest thing is less that they are verbalizing that they don't want you in and more
the other battle where you can see that they don't want you in and they want to put you off. I
think that's the more frequent thing. They will say, "We can handle this," or, "It was an isolated
incident." The techniques that I always use are that I don't like to allow them to make a decision
for us. I don't want to give them the opportunity of "Yes, you can come in," or "No, you can't
come in." I try to put it in a way, "Related to this incident, I'm going to be in your community
talking to some people and I'd like to meet with you." So basically, it's not, "Well I can refuse
you," as much as you don't give them an opportunity to say "No." But then in the meetings with
them, often their reluctance level goes up and down the scale. We try to get as much movement
as we can from them and that's why I say in some situations we'll get a conciliation approach
rather than a mediation approach.
What's the difference between a conciliation approach and a
I guess in our conversation here, even though we are changing the languages within CRS to
include mediation across the board, when I try to differentiate between conciliation and
mediation; mediation is the formal or informal process of people dealing with one another across
the table. It's a negotiation and problem-solving process involving the parties communicating
with one another. Most of the time directly, sometimes indirectly. Conciliation is everything
else. It can be the training that did not go through both parties; it could be technical assistance
that is provided in a situation. Much of our prevention work is conciliation because we don't
necessarily bring the parties together.
Are you saying it's anything happening before the parties began to sit down to talk?
Well, we try to differentiate the assessment process from conciliation or mediation even
though they run together very often. I distinguish the assessment as all activity that leads up to
our making a decision as to what we are going to do. That usually entails acceptance by at least
one of the parties. Everything after the assessment is the conciliation process or the face-to-face
or problem solving process which we call mediation.
Let's go back to the assessment. When does it actually start?
I think it starts right away with the first phone call that you're making. You have the alert.
In fact you can start with the alert if a person calls it into us. If a person calls into us, a
community group or superintendent of schools and says this is what's happening and I would like
your help, then the incident is the alert itself. Obtaining the details and the cooperation of the
parties is the assessment process.
You talked about working with a community group that was cohesive and you said there are
other situations where you work with them in another way because they are not as cohesive.
How do you make that assessment as to the community's state of readiness to move ahead in
different ways and address the problem?
I think a lot of it is trying to see if there is a community group.
There is a problem of a shooting death of a Salvadoran that I am in the process of doing an
assessment on right now. I'm trying to find out who is the community? Who's the leadership? Is
this an issue to the community?
Is there always a community?
When we can't find one, we're really not going to do much other than conciliation, probably
with the police or other authorities. That's when we may be getting into some training or
technical assistance. We're probably not going to be able to go further than that because we can't
bring anyone else to the table. You get bits and pieces, but there is no group.There was an article
in the paper of an African-American reporter who was stopped by the police while interviewing a
person along side the road. The article written by the reporter stated that the police stopped him
and it was racial profiling. The policeman said, and this was in the article, that he stopped them
because a motorist passing by reported that the reporter had a gun. That was in the paper. It took
place in a small community, but I didn't know if there was any type of community organization
there. So I called the NAACP, which we had worked with and asked, "What do you think of
this? Do you have any problems? They said, "Oh, yeah, that's a problem!" "What can we do
about it?" I asked. "Are there any community organizations or groups that you're working with
down there?" He said he would check it out. It ended up there was really nobody, other than the
reporter, in that community who was interested in dealing with that issue. We did not have a
local community group dealing with this issue. In the subsequent meetings on this issue, the
community was just the NAACP and the reporter. So, it's who is
taking the leadership; who are the real players in these incidents. Sometimes we go by who
comes forward and is willing to address the problem. I remember one of the problems with
which I was involved in my hometown of Wellesley, MA. One of the cases there was with Dee
Brown, a basketball player with the Boston Celtics. He was stopped as the alleged bank robber
who robbed a bank in Wellesley the day before. It led to a celebrated case in the paper. There
was a lot of publicity. Into that process came a public meeting which the selectmen held in
Wellesley at which the issue of the police treatment of him was discussed. The police were
defending their procedures. But the major issue that came out of the meeting was that other
members of the African-American community came forward and said that they had been stopped
driving through Wellesley. The issue was racial profiling even though we didn't call it that then.
There was a real problem. From that meeting, one leader reached out and helped convene a
group of African Americans, some who testified. They became the community group. Was
everyone reached out to? No, not necessarily. But, I always think you want someone who might
be on the negotiating team. If you want to make some progress, I think the best way is through
the mediation process and getting the community involved. But sometimes you don't know
whether that group is representative of the community. There was no election and there was no
formal group formed. I suggested that they call themselves something,
so they called themselves the Wellesley African-American Committee (WAAC).
They dealt with a number of problems, not only with the police but a number of other issues like
schools in Wellesley.
In that case, you were helping the community develop a state of
readiness and really coaching and helping to strengthen them.
Helping them to address the issues. The issues were out there. There was a
meeting; there were problems between the police and the community; but before you could get
into an agenda to deal with it, there had to be someone who would be representing the
community's concerns. That was a suggestion on my part. "Why don't you call a meeting of
some of the leaders and persons who are concerned with this issue and I'll talk to them about the
process that we can provide." They had a meeting and I came and talked about our process.
If they wanted to deal with these issues, here are some of the things that have
developed that are related to it. We were not going to deal with the specifics of Dee Brown and
whether he was going to be compensated or not, but all these other issues that emerged in our
discussions. It was a part of a process, just like when there is a group in the paper that is
protesting and you meet with them. The question often is: are they a
representative group or do they need to involve other people, especially if we have already talked
to other persons. We can make suggestions like the NAACP is concerned about this and so
When the minority community is organized around perceived
injustices and they make demands do you do anything to reach out to majority groups that might
feel they would be adversely affected by the demands of the minority community?
Probably in most of our cases the ones that are most directly affected would be police
unions in some of the police-community type conflicts. Sometimes they have come back and
raised questions about what has not occurred. In fact, that's one of our initiatives right now.
Related to police-community relations, we are trying to bring about a partnership between police
chiefs, the union and the community. We really believe that the union should be at the table. In
a lot of places the unions and the chiefs are still in such a state of conflict that they don't want to
get together. But for real progress to take place we strongly believe that the unions and the chiefs
have to be working together, especially related to race relations. They can have differences about
some other types of things, but we've done several of these types of programs where we are
urging the partnership through the proactive process. I can't say that we ever had a mediation
case -- this region hasn't had one -- in which the unions are a party along with the chief in the
mediation process. Hopefully in the future there will be.
How do you know when the parties are ready to come to the table
for formal mediation?
The most important thing, I think, is that they have a listing of issues and demands that can
be the meat and potatoes for the mediation. An unproductive process, and maybe that's part of
the conciliation approach, occurs in some communities when we get together a cross section of
leaders, both officials and the community, to have some open forums. We've conducted open
forums, but we wanted to have the forums lead to setting up more continuous and on going type
of meetings. The problem of a general meeting -- it's good in some ways, it can ventilate, get the
issues out in the open --- but most of the time it doesn't lead to anything concrete. The next stage
is getting them into, "What do you want? What are the major issues and what do you want from
that? What are your recommended remedies? What's going to be put on the table?"
Do you influence what goes on the agendas? You mentioned one
example where people forgot to put an overriding issue on an agenda. Do you help them shape
Well, most cases I'd say, you might use the terminology of coaching, but I think it's more a
sense of feeding back to them what you heard in the assessment process. Sometimes they haven't
done this before, so it's a matter of clarifying the issues.
Do the parties ever ask you to do anything that you are unable to
Yes, often what the community wants is prosecution. In a police case, they want someone
fired, they want someone prosecuted, things like that. Often that starts the process. This
development often occurs whenever there is a highly publicized incident such as a police
shooting of a minority youth under disputed circumstances and people have already made a
conclusion that they want something done. It fits a pattern. There was another case CRS was
involved in where there was a whole series of problems of racial/ethnic harassment and forms of
discrimination by the police department and the community was low keyed. I forget the exact
incident that finally precipitated our being called, but the community leaders invited us and the
state attorney general's office to come to a meeting. We went and sat down with the community
leaders. What they wanted was the prosecution of these officers. They started talking about all
these incidents that had taken place. Some of them had been referred to the state attorneys office
or the district attorney and nothing had been done. What they wanted was prosecution.
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.
Have you ever found yourself in a position where it was difficult
to maintain a neutral stance?
I've never had a problem with impartiality. I don't believe we're neutral because I think we
have a responsibility related to the civil rights that people have. We don't get into any problem
with what we're basically attempting to do, to use our process so people's civil rights are being
protected. We never really take any position. The law has been allegedly violated.
Discrimination has taken place or is alleged but it's not up to us to make a finding of
discrimination. So it frees us from making those type of judgments. The process we provide is
neutral. What we provide is neutral in that sense, but it's within a framework of civil rights laws.
Have you ever found yourself serving as a scapegoat or doing
things to help the parties save face?
We talk about that, about being able to go in there and, I'm trying to think of specific
incidents where the authorities will basically say, "The Department of Justice has asked us to do
this, they came in, and in effect, they suggested or told us to do this." So yeah, it comes out. We
tell them "There is no problem with that. You can say, the Justice Department thinks you should
do this." I think sometimes it comes about, especially when you're talking about the Sunshine
laws where you can't sit down with the deliberating body without all the people being there. But
we get around it one way or the other.
Does the confidentiality requirement create a problem for you?
Have you ever found a situation where you found it necessary to violate the confidentiality in a
case or matter?
I never had a criminal matter come up in my sessions or anything like that. I think
confidentiality has been part of the process of gaining the acceptance and confidence of people.
Do they accept it when you tell them you will hold what they say in confidence?
I think so. Part of it is they're accepting you and the ground rules. Sometimes it's part of the
selling or marketing process. I must say that it usually is not a big issue. I have not seen that as a
problem. I think there is a greater acceptance in the latter part of my career for the whole process
of community mediation than there was in the beginning. There were many more barriers to
what we were trying to do and how we were doing it. It's more the environment really.
How about situations where a party is proposing an agenda that
includes something that you view as a possibly intractable issue. How do you address a party
relating to that?
Often times it comes up in the initial discussion. "We want to fire the police chief." "We
want the superintendent fired."
How do you deal with that?
I try to finesse it in different ways by saying, for example, "If we are going to be dealing
with the police chief," or the mayor or supervisor, or whoever it is, "let's deal with these issues
and the issue of whether the police chief is going to stay or not will be up to the administrator. In
the meantime, he is the chief. Do you want to deal with these problems or do you want to wait
until someone makes a decision?" Other times I say, "What's the reality of this? There appears
to be a lot of support for the chief from the city council. How feasible is this?" I think most of
the time community leaders are astute enough. It will be on the agenda, but after that it is the
mediator's job to get to the next step. The message is out there. The mayor might say, "Chief
John has done a good job over the years?" There is a conversation about it and they get it. It's not
one of those things that is usually going to end up as something that is going to be negotiated.
And on the other hand if one party says "That's non-negotiable, I refuse to discuss it?
What I try to do is to get it where it doesn't become an intractable issue. "You can get your
message across. You have already said this. You can use a different forum for it, but in the
meantime if we are going to go forward and make any progress on these issues, are you willing to
let that impair us?" Usually they make decisions to pull back or get the message out. I think
everything can be discussed. They want it out there, but I must say that I have yet to have any
mediation situation where it just stopped everything. Clarifying it, getting people to talk about it
beforehand, realizing the environment, giving a reality check and doing all the things related to it
help to finesse it one way or the other.
Are there situations where parties come to the table and do not
bargain in good faith?
We had a couple. There was a major one here in Boston in which we could not get to a
final resolution. The biggest problem was HUD (Department of Housing and Urban
Development). It was a federal case and we gave it back to the court. They kept running around
in circles. It was a great mediation case, but they were a critical party to the resolution.
So, when you get to that kind of an impasse...
If the parties are not willing, can't get permission from Washington and are just wasting our
time, you really don't want to mediate these things.
In organizing an agenda do you have any criteria that determines
what should come first, last, and come in the middle?
Well, like in the UMass case that we talked about, matters of immediate importance had to
be addressed first. They basically agreed to what was important and what steps could take place.
They were on the same page on security and safety and it was a matter of fine tuning and getting
some of these training programs through. The mediator has a
major influence on the progress or management of the mediation process. It's what you see in a
thing and what can help move the process forward. It's people getting to this confidence level
where they're making progress on issues, where they aren't so far apart, where the communication
process and problem solving are working.
Will you comment on building trust between the parties?
I think that's one of the critical things that the mediator has to do and I think getting the
parties to be willing to sit down is the first step. Once you get people to sit down, with the
proper facilitation people get to realize that the others are not that bad. Even in some of the
worst situations of chiefs of police and community distrust, where some very negative things
were said about the chiefs, once they start meeting with the people, hearing their complaints,
hearing their stories and hearing them out, they change and progress can be made.
Do you have an example?
The one in Chelsea. The chief had all kinds of problems. At first he didn't want to go into
this process. But the type of relationship that he built with the community group was very
positive, with the Hispanic leadership and some of their allies. It was a major change of his
perspective. Also in the example that I gave at UMass in Amherst. An excellent relationship
developed there. The chancellor and the students ended up talking to one another and phoning
one another. The student leader could call and talk to the chancellor without having to
go through the secretary. It's in building relations. I think that's what
we've always said. If our effort is really to be successful, the parties have to be willing to sit
down and work through things and to use you as the mediator. If they aren't satisfied with one
another, with their relationship at the end, I don't think we've really been successful. They may
do things under duress, but if that relationship hasn't been developed, and communication and
trust between the parties isn't good -- and I know of some cases we've had a sign off, but it was
just getting through the process?then the mediation process has, in my mind, been a failure. I'm
thankful that I haven't been in a case where we really didn't do the job. The whole idea of sitting
down, I think, is an excellent process. It works out. I've seen it time after time. If they're not
acting in good faith and keep stalling, then we have to break it off. In the communities where
authorities and community leaders are going to be dealing with one another in the future, the
mayors, superintendents of schools and police chiefs often just never had the opportunity to do
that kind of communication that develops in the mediation process.
You said that the two most difficult groups were police and
university presidents. Do you have ideas on how to deal with them effectively?
I think the hardest ones are the university presidents. Some really believe that they are a
resource to the country and to the world. How dare anyone else provide assistance and be the
resource. Some of them are like that. I don't know of any strategy of getting through to them
other than trying to convince them that we can help them and using some of our past successes
with other university presidents. With police, I think it's more the lack
of an entry skill. With police, there is a reluctance to get involved. There is a defensiveness,
especially when it's related to an incident of alleged misconduct. When you are on the phone
following a shooting, for example, they will justify it. If you don't use proper entry, they want to
cut you off. So it's a matter of being able to develop an entry strategy. The bottom line
of the strategy is if there's an incident, you at least want to have a face-to-face meeting with the
chief, unless it's something where we're just doing a cursory check and only want to touch base
with the chief. But if we want to be involved, we want to be able to set up that meeting with the
chief. The important thing on that is not to let them have an opportunity to deny the meeting.
That's the first thing you want to be able to do. Entry is to get that meeting, and to get it there are
several things you might do. If you already have a relationship with the chief, you're going to get
it. As we get older at CRS, we're experiencing better relations with
police. The support is coming from the IACP (International Association of Chiefs of Police), and
other national police organizations.
What do you attribute that to?
I think what we did was reach out to police chiefs and their organizations and more and
more brought them into the process where they did not see us as a civil rights enforcement arm.
They have a lot of problems at the Civil Rights Division, the patterns and practice section and the
like. So it was a matter of education, outreach, communication with them. I think recruiting
people on our staff who came from a police background helped. And then I think it's also a
matter of what message about CRS goes around the police community. The image of CRS has
changed with police over the years. In the early times of major civil disorders and very negative
feelings about the police in minority communities, a number of our field people were very abrupt
in dealing with police. There wasn't the comfort level. There was really a distance between us
and law enforcement and I think law enforcement was very responsive to what was happening in
civil rights and race relations. They did not feel comfortable in dealing with communities and
problem-solving. It was a 'we against them' attitude and mind-set. So there's an historical
sequence about the relationship between law enforcement and CRS over the years.
But basically, the entry process of making sure that we can
meet face-to-face with the chief is important or we cannot proceed further. If you have a
relationship, good. If you don't, you say, "Chief, I want to sit down
with you about this incident. I am going to be in the city tomorrow. How's your schedule?" It's
harder for them to say, "No, I don't want to meet with you." Often the chief will say, "What do
you want to talk about?" You indicate you want to talk about "how you feel about what's
happening, to get your point of view." So you put him at ease and you make it more difficult for
the chief not to want to set up a meeting. So that's getting to first base, or half way to first.
You're not out of the ball game. The important thing in meeting with the chief is to
have more information and a plan of action. The conciliation/mediation process can terminate
there at the first meeting if you don't have further information and a plan of action as to what we
think we can do related to the problem. The chief will very seldom come forward with a
recommendation, especially if it's not someone who has called us for assistance. He'll seldom
come forward with a suggestion, "Well here's how you can help." The mediator needs to have
more information because you've already met with the community, so it's going to be more than
just the shooting that took place and his justification for it, or whatever the incident is, or "we're
still investigating" type of response. We want to get beyond that as to what are some of the
issues, what are some of the problems there, and how can we be of help.
What do you do in situations where community protests serve
several functions for the community organizations, and they don't want to stop the protests?
I haven't run into any of that myself. I know out in California, in the Taisha Miller case
where police shot her through the car window, the community wanted to continue protest
activities because, I think, they were dissatisfied with the internal investigation, or dissatisfied
with the Justice Department's decision not to intervene. I don't know the full extent of what our
approach to them was, but there were continuous protests. Our job, what they did out there was
to facilitate the protests, was to keep the protests from being violent. So it was working with the
police and the community to assure peaceful protests. I don't know what the end result was.
Have you run into any cases where you felt you should withdraw
from moving toward the table because the community felt its interests were better served by
staying in the streets or doing other things?
Two high profile situations in our region were the shooting death of this off duty
African-American sergeant by a police officer in Providence, and there was a shooting death in
Hartford, Connecticut, related to a young African American who was 13 years old, by the police.
Both of these places had protest activities. In neither case did we get to the table. In Providence
-- Larry Turner handled it -- our basic response was related to the violence in the streets. There
were demonstrations at City Hall, there were people talking to one another, there were open
discussions related to what could take place. One of the community
demands was that during these other investigations the state attorney general hire an independent
prosecutor to look into this shooting. Larry Turner talked to the attorney general and
there were meetings with the community. The attorney general was determined that he would
keep it in his office and have one of his assistants do the investigation. There was unrest. The
governor set up a blue ribbon commission. We kept the lines open, but we never ended up in
mediation. The mayor ended up convening a blue ribbon commission also. The police chief
eventually retired, and there are lawsuits pending. Much of the tension was directed toward
waiting for the investigation to take place and the results to be announced. We were not able to process that into mediation. There were other activities which
involved CRS that took place. We helped the governor's blue ribbon commission looking at
community relations around the state. We lowered our goals and objectives into keeping the
peace, keeping communications open, making sure people understood the reason for the U.S.
Attorney not taking the case for investigation. That was a conciliation approach. I didn't handle
it. The conciliation approach is often not conducted at the highest level. It doesn't lead to
development of relationships between the authorities and community leaders. The continuing
conflict and unresolved differences are probably going to have to be revisited some other time.
In Hartford, there was a shooting death of an African-American youth by a Hartford
police officer. As a result, we were heavily involved in a number of activities. The chief asked
for our help in addressing some of the internal issues in the department because the chief said we
do have racial problems in this department. He directed his attention to issues within the
department and community forums outside the department. The police came to the open forums.
The chief then resigned. The dynamics of the conflict really never lent themselves to a mediation
process. There were other issues that came up. There was a court agreement that had not been
carried out. CRS participated in a number of meetings regarding this agreement. Nothing
positive came back from city officials related to opening discussions about the agreement. The
community leaders finally went to court again to make sure that it was reaffirmed and restated.
The process didn't allow itself to evolve into mediation and we were not able to process the
tensions and issues into a mediation process. With the police chief resigning, there wasn't an
appropriate leader to meet with the community.
Do you see media coverage of your work as an asset or a
I think the media has been a major asset in the work we do.
The first thing they do is uncover the problems. By uncovering the problems, CRS has an
opportunity to deal with them. If they are not publicized, we may not know about them.
Secondly, it puts a lot of pressure on the actors, the players, the parties, to at least respond to
what the media say.
How about the coverage of CRS?
I think it's helped us. First they uncover the problem, then their attention is directed to the
problems. When the media say the Justice Department is coming in, everyone is on notice that
we are there dealing with the matter. Most of the time they have been very responsive. They
call. In my dealings with them, they have been very active and positive. They get the message
out. Sometimes it's up to us how we want to steer that information.
Do you ever try to use the media as an ally?
Oh sure, absolutely. They call us to find out what's happening. Here in Boston for
example, from '74 to the '80s we developed excellent relations with the media.
Your life in those years was built around the Boston school
desegregation case. Maybe you want to comment on that.
I think the Boston case was an anomaly in many ways. Most of the cities going through
desegregation bought into the concept of avoiding violence as good and valid. CRS put out a publication, "Desegregation Without Turmoil" in the mid '70s. That was
our approach. In the South we developed "Project 81." CRS did that in 1969 when we sent teams
to communities throughout the South to assist them with the desegregation process when the
Supreme Court said in 1969, "Desegregate now." We recruited a number of new staff members
and sent a number of teams to the South. This infusion of new staff helped build our agency
while CRS helped the desegregation process to take place with a minimum of resistance and
violence. In the North, before I came up here to Boston, CRS had assisted Prince Georges
County to implement the court-ordered desegregation of their schools without problems. There
was a lot of political opposition, but we reached out to the opposition, reasoned with them, and
said, "You may be against school desegregation; but if you resist, someone's going to get hurt.
You don't want to have that." We helped build the environment around that common
thread-avoid violence. The ideology might not have been there in that they didn't think it was the
proper process. But most of the communities, like Prince Georges County, accepted CRS's
approach of avoiding violence. They accepted CRS assistance and we helped them implement
the desegregation process, by and large, without violence or turmoil. There were a
number of school desegregation cases, similar to Prince Georges County that CRS worked on.
Then Boston comes up and it was really anarchy here in Boston because the authorities walked
away from carrying out the desegregation order.
You were working at the elbow of Judge Garrity, right?
Yeah. When I was in Washington, we used the methodology that we had done in Prince
Georges County, in the South, and elsewhere. Get the people involved, work it out, avoid
violence. But in Boston there was a lot of resistance and the authorities, school officials and
police, didn't do the proper planning. I remember Ed McClure went to see Judge Garrity in
August of '74.
Ed McClure was on the Boston staff.
Yes, he was a conciliation specialist here. He went over to meet with the judge, and talk
with him about whether CRS could help him. There was a lot of controversy in the sense that the
authorities in Boston weren't taking the desegregation order seriously. So the judge asked CRS
to help him work through the desegregation process, similar to what CRS had done in other
communities throughout the country. The judge issued his order and
instructed the parties to cooperate with CRS. So, throughout the whole desegregation turmoil up
here, we had two roles, our mandated conciliation/mediation of racial/ethnic conflicts and
assisting the court which was a special type of relationship. In other cities we had some types of
relationship with the courts, but it was a special one here on account of the active involvement of
the court. Otherwise the whole city would have come apart. The mayor said, "It's not
my problem. The federal courts have ordered desegregation, let them enforce it." So the judge
had to make the city a party to the desegregation process. The School Committee was adamantly
opposed to anything connected with desegregation. They would not put a plan together to
desegregate the schools as the judge had ordered. Toward the middle of August when the judge
had asked us to assist him and the city to implement the desegregation order, we sent more
conciliators to Boston. Ed Cabell came up from our New York office to help with the public
safety planning. After reviewing the plans, such as they were, he told the judge, "These guys
aren't ready for desegregation." So the judge ordered the city to come up with a contingency
plan. There was the lack of preparation, and the reason was that the city, school officials, and
others really believed what some of the leaders were saying. In Boston, "Never" was their motto
and the politicians were saying that. They honestly believed their motto, because they had
confronted the Massachusetts State Department of Education when the state courts had ordered
Boston to desegregate before. They said, "We can't do it." And they got away with it. They kept
postponing, coming up with reasons, and they thought they could get away with avoiding any
desegregation process. When the judge said, "You're going to do it," he imposed a plan on them
which was developed by the State Department of Education. It was a bad plan. The judge knew
it, but the court had no alternative. Regarding school desegregation after a finding of
segregation, the Supreme Court said, "You have to desegregate now. You can't keep putting it
off. There is a violation of peoples' rights." When the desegregation order came out, the judge
told the school department to come up with a plan if they didn't like the state plan and the school
committee refused. So the only plan out there was the State Department of Education plan. It
was disaster in the way it transferred students, especially pairing South Boston and Roxbury.
Did Judge Garrity bring a master in the case like some cities did?
Not at first. When CRS offered our assistance, the judge's basic
concern, and our recommendations to him, was to deal with the turmoil in the streets, try to get
the violence and turmoil under control. But in the subsequent year the full city would be under
desegregation orders. So the judge developed a new desegregation plan. We were heavily
involved with the judge in the process. He hired two desegregation experts and appointed four
For the second year?
Yes. The judge had no time before the first year of desegregation to develop a new plan.
His order to desegregate the schools in September came out in June. The plan used in the first
year of desegregation was the existing State Department of Education plan I mentioned above.
So the planning for the subsequent year was part of a major process that CRS worked with the
judge on. It was a good plan, but the opponents never accepted it.
In preparing for desegregation, did anybody involve the parents of the white kids?
Oh yes. Part of CRS efforts in 1974, prior to the court-ordered desegregation process, was
to work with the school system to develop a plan for implementing desegregation. But the
school system did not really believe that it would ever have to desegregate. They had one guy,
the associate superintendent, Charlie Leftwich, and an assistant who were ostensibly in charge of
planning for desegregation. But the superintendent and school committee did not agree with
them that they should be serious about the planning process. Our people were working with
Charlie, but he had no authority. He was wasting his time developing ideas. He talked to CRS
about all the important planning elements: information centers, rumor control, all the elements
that should be done by the school department and city. The city didn't take it seriously either. He
had some meetings with people, outreach to the white community, talking to them. He was met
with a lot of hostility. "Never here, we're not going to go through with it." He tried, but the
school committee said he didn't have any authority to do it. The school committee did not want
to do any realistic planning and the superintendent said his hands were tied.As soon as school
desegregation began under the court order, action started taking place. The judge ordered that
there be bi-racial parent councils in all the schools that were undergoing desegregation. They
would be composed of white, black, and Hispanics. After the school
department refused to voluntarily implement a number of CRS's recommendations based on CRS
experience in the South and other communities going through desegregation, CRS brought these
recommendations to the court. During the course of CRS work with the court, the judge had to
order the school department to implement a number of these measures which had been found to
be effective in communities going through desegregation across the country. Boston did not
voluntarily accept our recommendations even though in all the other communities, e.g., Denver
and Prince Georges County, the school systems and communities accepted CRS
recommendations. So that's why I say Boston was an anomaly. We basically were working with
the court to reconstruct a governing system for the schools. That's what we basically were doing.
Parent councils in the schools and the whole planning process, especially the role of the experts
and court masters, were intended to signify an outreach, as much as possible, to the reasonable
people in the city. For example, Eddie McCormick from South Boston was the former lieutenant
governor and the judge chose him to be one of the masters. The people the judge selected as
masters and court experts were of the highest caliber. It was a partnership process that the judge
wanted to do right. In CRS's role with the court, CRS was basically the helper to keep the
desegregation process moving as the judge had all the authority. In our other role, CRS was
concentrating our efforts at first on trying to stem the violence at the schools in South Boston and
then Hyde Park. We were holding the line and getting ready for the development of a plan where
we could put into action some way of healing the city. We were tasked by the court to establish
the city-wide coordinating council, a blue-ribbon body to help heal the racial strife brought about
by the desegregation process. We reached out to the universities to partner with the
schools and to the business community to partner with the schools. We reached out to the media.
A number of good changes took place: excellent programs in the schools; magnet schools;
partnerships with universities, businesses and cultural institutions; scholarships, etc. The judge
was interested in what took place at the end of the bus ride. He didn't just want to move students.
He was concerned with the education taking place. He made a number of major changes. For
example, he ordered that there would be a principal at every school. Before his order there
wasn't. There would be schools with several annexes. One principal supervising several schools.
Segregation existed throughout the school system. The system was in chaos as was the city.
What do you think are the greatest strengths that you brought to
I think it's my ability to deal with people. I think it's more people skills. I think behind the
people skills is the commitment to the cause of civil rights and the correction of injustices in the
country. I think my commitment helps to solidify the relationships I develop. As a mediator,
you're building trust with people. I think people can see through things, especially young people,
where we're coming from. I think that is part of it. I think the knowledge base is important and
my background is in sociology. I have my master's degree in sociology.
I think also important are the experiences I had when I was in Miami, setting up systems, dealing
with racial/ethnic problems and learning how to work effectively with various institutions.
When I went down to Miami, I set up a human rights commission; I was in charge of
developing the family counseling center; and I worked with the Office of Community Service
there. I was heavily involved in a lot of the problem solving in the Miami area right from the
beginning. I had the opportunity to develop new ideas at OEO (Office of Economic
When you hire, what kinds of skills are you looking for? And when you train people, what
kinds of skills are you looking to develop?
The most important thing that I look at is what's been their
history, what's their experience in dealing with race related-issues. So that's the first thing, to see
if they have any experience. I must say I look for a person who is as mature as possible: being
able to deal with a cross-section of communities, organizations, groups; that they were effective
or successful in their work. Then the second thing is do they have the people skills, do they
relate to people, and what are people saying about them. Then I get into the whole concept of
their knowledge of civil rights and commitment. I try to get a sense of where they're coming
from, their value system. From there, I think we can teach most other things. If they have been
able to deal with people of different races and been successful, they have people skills, they have
a commitment and their values are pretty much what I think they should be then I think other
things can be taught but I don't think some of those prerequisites can be taught.
At the end of the day how do you judge your success when you
consider your casework?
I'd say there are three levels. The first level probably is if we have developed a plan of
action as we should in our assessment and whether that plan was carried out and was it
successful? Basically, the assessment outlines what the limitations are because every incident or
every problem in every community is different. A good assessment is going to look into every
incident we're dealing with so it gives us a chance to set the parameters of what we're expecting
to get done. If we say we're trying to reach for the process that will have the highest impact,
which I think we agree is face-to-face negotiations and getting grievances out, then a good plan
of action will give us a road map. At the end of it, how did we do? That's the first part. The
second question is what is the impact at the end? Was an impact really made? We planned our
response. Was our planning right? Did it lead to the impact we were hoping for? There is a
third level at the end of this. What changes have taken place and what is going to be the
continuation? Are there changes of relationships, changes of institutional elements? What is
going to be the future of that community, that organization or that institution?
Can you think back to what you would consider one of your most successful mediations and
was that community different when you left?
Take the one I started with at the UMass-Amherst and the
community there. The plan of action was related to those demands, but we suggested adding
safety and the school racial/ethnic environment to the list of issues to be negotiated. I thought
that at the end, the agreement reached related to all those points. It was worked out by both
parties, their commitment to it was in good faith and they could carry it out. That was the first
stage. The second is, what type of changes. This was the first time they'd ever had something
written about the types of issues and problems they'd had in the past.
The mechanisms to continue that dialogue and feedback were there in the reports from the
Chancellor to the school newspaper. There were some
significant things that were on the table that they agreed to. The change of the makeup of the
number of students, including the faculty, the role of students of color. One of the changes was
in recruiting new faculty. The students became part of the process of hiring new faculty and
administrators and how they were recruited. There were a number of very significant things that
took place there and I thought the relationship between the parties was great at the end. I really
felt very satisfied with that. Even when the university said, last year or two years ago, "We
cannot keep our goals, our quotas," -- they thought they were going to be brought in under a court
suit -- they said, "We can't keep that, but we're going to continue to reach out to the minority
student population." There was a sense of real commitment there which I thought was good and
that we like to see in all the communities we're involved in. There was also the one in
Chelsea with the chief. One of the major changes was that the Hispanic community became a
part of the decision making process in Chelsea. They had never been a party to that. Right after
the mediation sessions, Chelsea went into receivership due to lack of money. The Latino community became a critical part of a lot of the community building that we
were also involved in subsequently in Chelsea.