In that process we learned that there are these Korean victims' associations formed where
they are all vying for leadership. There was a great deal of turmoil in between the different
groups of Korean leadership trying to consolidate their power and status. The reason was
because money was coming from Korea to try to offset some of their problems. They wanted to
be power brokers. There is a great deal of that within the Korean community, of what is your
status in the community, and if you can be the controller of millions of dollars coming in relief,
you gain a great deal of status and cooperation and benefit. So all of a sudden we had these
organizations vying for this leadership of the Korean Relief Fund. There was a lot of politics
taking place within the Korean community.
You had learned the politics of the community, the culture of the
community over a period of time?
I can't say I've ever learned it because it is a lot more complex than I could have ever
imagined, but I was privy to a lot of meetings and explanations as to what was going on. They
used me a lot too, to be candid with you, because once the Justice Department comes in and they
would say something in Korean and everybody would go, "Oh!" I knew I was being touted as a
representative of the government coming in here. I could never get clear stories from everybody.
But they gave us a lot of information; there was a lot of trust and cooperation formed eventually.
The older generation was looking at the Korean money. The younger generation was looking at
how the United States was going to try to restore their community. Some of the young people
felt that -- in Korea I guess when there is a disaster, the government will compensate you and
make you whole, you just lay out what your damages are and the government will compensate
you. They felt that the city had that role for them. They didn't even know what the federal role
was, they were so focused on the city that they refused to be open to other resourcesWe knew the
leaders and he was a very cagey guy, but at the same time I think he used us, but he gave us
enough information to let us know what was going on. He knew that we would at least insure
their safety, because we were playing that liaison between law enforcement, between city hall,
the protection service agencies of the city government. So they would give us just enough
information so that they felt they were being protected, at the same time they were getting their
voice heard. That's when they told me, "Here's our next game plan." And I go, "What are you
going to do now?" It was, 'Well, we're going to march around city hall." I was at one
of these victim association meetings, and he says, "Steve come over here, I want to tell you what
we're going to do next." And I go, "Oh no, what?" And they say, "We're going to march," and
sure enough they could turn out 300 to 500 people, at any event they wanted to.
So that was your alert?
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.
What did you do?
Well we knew a demonstration was going to take place. Since we know the leadership of
the Korean community and felt we had a fairly good handle on them, we decided to meet with
That's what you did in this case?
Yes, we met, with city hall and the police to let them know what
the Korean demonstrators intentions are, what they're going to do, that we're going to be on site,
that we have the leadership and we want to know who's going to be your leadership and how we
can continue to communicate at all times, because we just don't know where this is going to go.
After we met with the city hall police and let them know this demonstration was going to take
place, we had to let the LAPD know because there are multiple jurisdictions. The other law
enforcement agency that we didn't contact or develop a working relationship with was the
parking enforcement police. We later had a problem with them. So we learned that we had to
look at all the law enforcement agencies that were going to be involved.
So once we touch base and let
everybody know what's going on, we position ourselves as the liaison from the leadership to all
these other entities. We're constantly talking to the leadership as to, "where are you going to be,
how are you going to set it up, what's the organizational plan, how many people," as much as we
can get because having all the parties know is diffusing. It's the unknown that hurts you in these
situations. As long as we say, "We're going to share this with the police, they need to know
because if they don't know, they're going to over react, they're going to put more police out there,
they're going to be upset because they put more police than necessary, or other scenarios. "We
try to give them all a picture of what's to be expected and what our role as liaisons and mediators
will be during the demonstrations. That's the position that we normally always take.
And usually, in all the demonstrations that I control, I always try to
assign somebody to the leaders of the organization, almost like a shadow, because you know if
anything comes up, he's going to make the decisions. All the information is going to flow
through the leader, so having a conduit; you can keep the pulse of that demonstration. We
always try to have eye contact with them, if not a shadow, depending on what they will allow us
to do. We also, if we can, try to position somebody in a command center, or whatever the
counter-operation is, or at least have him know who that liaison is. In this situation
we only had four people, so we really didn't have enough to station people away. We all needed
to be marching with the 500 people because you have other elements around City Hall. You
have, of course, workers, but you also have some clients and homeless out there.. So there's all
these potential levels for altercation and conflict.
As you were preparing, were you working with the Mayor's
people to encourage them to meet?
We had already passed on the request and explained to them what they wanted to do, but
we were getting no response. The mayor had a Korean worker on his
staff, and she was our liaison for a lot of our pre-negotiations with the mayor. She was a key
person who really helped us into the Korean community from the very beginning.
But the mayor wouldn't move on it?
He just didn't feel that he wanted to face that animosity and the blame and the anger. He
didn't think there was going to be any real benefit from it. That was his position at the time.
I think he, we, all under-estimated the Korean community.
Being of Asian-American ancestry, I don't think the Chinese and other demonstrators had the
kind of vigor that the Korean community had. But I think people never realized the loss the
Korean community suffered. There were families that were devastated. What most people never
understood about the Korean community is that people who had come here had pooled their
money together as families, and bought businesses, and had an obligation to pay back to that
family, organization, or friends. Then they took the collateral from their business and bought
another place. So they were spread very thin in a lot of situations. Once one place burned down
or was damaged it had a significant effect. It has this domino effect on many of the families in
the Korean community. It was really devastating. We had a number of Koreans leave the
country and say, 'Forget it, I'm out of here, I'm going back to Korea.' They just could not ever
dream of becoming whole. So when you face that kind of devastation, there is definitely a sense
of hopelessness and in some ways, it was therapeutic to march and demonstrate. They didn't
have any problems getting people out because at least it gave them a focus and a direction and
some hope. So these demonstrations were vigorous. They didn't stop.
And your role during those demonstrations?
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.
The Koreans had a pickup system. They would bring these vans in, and hundreds of people
would line up to get into the vans to go back to Korea town. It seemed to not be a problem, but
then some of the bus drivers started complaining that they're blocking the way. So the law
enforcement parkers decided to come in and give tickets. Well, the Koreans already felt hurt;
they had already lost too much. They said, "We're not paying tickets!" and several Koreans
began to tear the tickets up right in front of the officers. One of the law enforcement parking
officers went berserk on us. He started calling, cussing, and arguing with these people. He
called for backup, and all these midget cars come in from parking service like it was a
showdown. And I'm going, "I can't believe this." 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." We waited for the supervisor, Meanwhile all these cars are flying in on
us. It could have gone crazy right there and then. We finally get a supervisor and explain to him
what's going on, and he says, "Okay, don't worry about it, drop the ticket. Let me get my guys
out of here first." I said, "Okay, please." It just takes somebody with a level head that
understands the dynamics that will say, "Look, you guys are being inconsistent. You let them
park here for several days, and now you're enforcing parking restrictions all of a sudden. We
gotta work this out. This wasn't fair to the Koreans." So we were able to negotiate a different
route and work all that out.
And that was typical of what you were doing?
Yes, it was conflict after conflict all the time.
How long did the demonstrations continue?
Well, we didn't make the whole 30 days, I know that. I remember getting to the 15th day
and saying, "These people are obstinate, this is amazing." I just didn't think that it would be
sustained. Around the 17th day I think they decided, "We can march all these days, but they
don't get it." That's when they decided to go into the building. It was interesting because they
kind of played with the doors, to see what the reaction was going to be. They'd stay around the
doors until bottles were thrown on them. They would hang on these doors, then start marching
again. The police would always meet you right at the door and say, you can't go through here.
The police were adamant, they were not going in. I think one day they found a back door, or
some way to get in, and they went right into the city hall. Now we had
300 people right in the middle of city hall, blocking the whole main floor, demanding to see the
mayor. I told the sergeant, they're coming in. And he says, "Wait, wait, hold them off." I go, "I
can't. They've asked for this meeting." So now they are panicking, and willing to do more all of
a sudden. The message came out from the mayor's office that he would meet with a delegation.
"Figure out who they want, how many people. He will meet with you this afternoon, but you
have to clear out." So we convey the message and we negotiate all this. I don't think they trusted
the mayor. I think we stayed there. The mayor said, "Okay, let's move the meeting up, get your
people." So now we're helping them. "So, who are you going to get? You only get so many
people." " No, no, we want more people." And it was all right there on the floor of City Hall, all
The mayor set the limit?
The mayor set a limit. They tried to raise the limit. They cleared the floor. I think this was
a little bit of a compromise. We got a few more people in, and they made their selection and they
went in. Then it was a matter of, "Let's go over the agenda. What are you going to talk about?
We've got to get some framework to this. It was amazing to me.
Did you bring that to their attention?
Oh yeah. I pulled all those ideas together. 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.
The mayor was comfortable with you at the head of table?
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.
What amazed me at the table was that the Koreans, I
thought, didn't raise all the issues. I had to remind them of some of the other issues. I had to say,
"Aren't you going to talk about this issue?" I knew they weren't going to have that many
opportunities. If you didn't get it on the table, then they're going to want to come back.
It behooved everybody, I thought. I didn't want to be an advocate, but I certainly didn't want to
leave the table without their issues being addressed. Otherwise we might have to revisit this
whole scenario again.
Were you able to do this without appearing to be an advocate?
Or were you an advocate? Was that okay?
I don't think I appeared to be an advocate because I didn't speak for them. I basically
reminded them that we had an agenda and there were issues that "you" wanted to bring up. "If
you don't talk about it now, you won't have a chance." That type of approach. I don't think
anybody perceived me as being an advocate. We didn't get a
written agreement. It was more of a conciliation. They had to hear from the mayor exactly what
powers he had and what his intentions were, and what he could and could not do. The mayor, as
politically as he could, said, "We're not the vehicle for relieving you of your problems. The
proper vehicle is the federal government. We have the Federal Emergency Management Agency
here that will be looking at all those issues, and looking at what your damages are and trying to
rectify with you. He didn't say they were loans, he said, "They're the vehicle." I looked at the
Korean community and they go, 'You don't do that?" We had told them all along that there were
these different ways of doing that, but until they heard it from the mayor, they weren't going to
accept it. They thought the city had some obligation too. The city did tell them what they could
do and what they were working on, and what kind of business support they were going to give
and so forth. They needed to hear all that. So that was a point of clarification.
When you respond to volatile situations, are you ever asked to
do things that you can't do?
Yeah. They want me to go get the mayor. They expect us to, and in most mediations they
want to get their point of view across and they want us to be an advocate for them. We have to
explain to them why that's inappropriate for us to do, and what our role is. "Our role is to try and bring both of you together and to work with you to see how you can
come up to some kind of agreement to resolve your issue. We're not going to take your issue and
fight it for you, that's not our role. What information you share with me, sometimes I share with
the other side, and if there's something you don't want me to, you need to tell me, because that's a
big part of bringing you both together to resolve it. You guys own the problem."
Did that confidentiality you promised them ever create a
problem? Were you always able to stick to it?
To my knowledge, I have. I don't know when I've broken confidentiality. When I talk
about confidentiality, you know we have press conferences after some of our mediations. All I'm
saying is that, we don't talk about specifics, or what's discussed in the mediation.
But you've never had a problem telling a party, receiving something in confidence, that you
then feel you need to share with the other party?
I may feel that it's the right thing to do, but I have not stepped over that bounds, unless they
have given me permission or unless they've conveyed it, I don't think I've ever violated that
When you're in your office and you are alerted to a conflict in a
community, how do you tend to respond?
What I do is, I look at the source of the referral and I try to dissect who do I need to talk to,
depending on the kind of case. If it's an excessive use of force case,
I'm looking for who is the spokesperson for the complainant. Usually it is the NAACP, CORE,
SCLC, sometimes some community spokespersons evolve. So I'm looking for linkages to the
complainant side. My next step is to move out on to the scene and to begin an
assessment to determine what the issues are and whether there is an appropriate role for CRS.
Is that where you start?
Well, I'm looking at analyzing the conflict to figure out where
or who to contact next. I'm going to look at all sides. What police department, who do I know
that knows whom. In Long Beach, I've had such a long association, I've known the last three
chiefs, I even think I know the up and coming chief. I have several advisors in the minority
advisory committees that I've worked with over the years, and I've worked with the community
relations division. So I'll start with the Community Relations Division, and figure out, who's in
charge of it, who's doing it. Then I'll hone in on the police side. But the community
side is harder to evolve if you don't have a clear organization that's championing the issue.
And it isn't automatically in our jurisdiction unless there is some kind
of party that represents the complainant. If it's an individual shooting, and there's no organization
behind it, it's not jurisdictional to us if it's just an 'individual' complaint. I have to evaluate that
immediately as I go along. So that's a big part of our assessment. One, is it racial? And two, is
there a party involved? There have been times when I have conversed with an individual family
and said, "you know, it's really not jurisdictional to us, unless you get an organization to work
with you, I can't work with you directly." And they make a decision as to if they're going to
involve NAACP, or some organization to work with them so that we have a legitimate party
involved. After I assess that, and determine where to go, I
usually call the complainant first, and do my analysis, and try to get that face to face meeting.
While I'm getting ready to have that face to face or have that meeting set up, I will call the other
side whether it be police, corporation, school institution, university, whatever the other party is.
I will call the leadership and say, "I'm from CRS of the U.S.
Department Justice, I'm a federal mediator, I'm attempting to assess a possible race related
conflict in an effort to reduce or resolve it. I'm in touch with the other parties, you need to be
aware of that. I want to meet with you at some time also. So I want to let both parties know that
we are there, and that my intentions are to meet with each of them. I
usually meet with the complainant party first, because the institutions often don't know what the
real issues are. They don't know who the complainants are or what they're planning to
do. They often look to CRS in some form to help clarify what's out there. So if I go to the
institution first and meet with them, I don't get that much. If you meet with the complainant, you
get the details of the levels of mistreatment, the full allegations, the level of temperament, the
coalition of organizations. You get a flavor of what the protesting body is about. The
institutions usually very much appreciate understanding all those dynamics. So that's why I
usually go from the complainant side to the institutional side.
Are you ever asked not to tell the other party that you're coming
Well, they probably have said that to me, but I say "I can't, I've already done that. I'm
coming in to try to resolve the conflict, I've got to work with both sides."
Do you ever get asked not to come in?
I'm sure somebody has told me that (laughing). The BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) calls
me sometimes, I work with the BIA on Native-American issues. They'll call me sometimes and
say, Steve we've got these two tribes and two contingents of families that are vying for the
leadership of this tribe. It's gotten really violent, we've had shootings over tribal governance,
housing, employment, and other kind of stuff. One place, was the Roundtable Rancheria. I went
into Roundtable right after they had a shooting. The entrenchment and the level of tension
between the two tribal factions was heavy. They told me over the phone, "We don't want you in
here. You're just another government agency." I try to explain that we're not the BIA, because
some of the tribes have a total dislike for the BIA. When I explain I'm with the Department of
Justice, that I'm a federal mediator and that I've come to help resolve their disputes, sometimes
they let you in, and sometimes they don't. And that's fine. I mean, if they don't want you in, they
don't want you in. I don't think I could expect to force myself into every situation.
Have you ever managed a case over the phone and not gone
onsite and yet provided some assistance?
Yes, because during the civil unrest when I was working with the Korean community,
I got a call about a riot in a school in Long Beach. The principal says,
"Steve, I need you now." I said, "I can't come now. I'm tied up." And she said, "But we've just
had a riot, this racial group and that racial group fought on campus during lunch and I don't know
what to do. We've suspended so many, but the students are coming back soon. We've still got a
lot of tension." I actually prescribed a strategy over the phone to the principal. We
talked every evening about where we were. I tell this story all the time because it's amazing. I
talk about it in terms of how we can trust kids and when they give their word they mean it. When
problems occur, we've got to figure out ways to really empower students to be a part of the
solution. What I told this principal was, "Do you know the players, do
you know the real players that were involved in this altercation?" She said, "Yes, between the
counselors and security, we know who the players are." I said, "Okay, bring them in, one by one.
Tell them, you need their help. Tell them 'I want to make sure that we bring this school back
together, and I need your help. Will you help me?' You're the principal of the school." And she
said, "Oh yeah, just bring them in one by one?" I said, "Yes, see if you can get them to support
you." "What happens if they don't?" she asked. "Keep them on suspension."So I called her that
evening and she said, "Steve, every one of them gave their word. It's amazing, these are great
kids." I said, "Yeah, they are. Have you never met them before?' She said, "Now what do I do?"
I said, 'Ok, they're keeping their word, they're helping to keep things calm?" She said, "Yeah
they are, but I don't think I can just leave it like this." I said, "Now that they've made a
commitment to you, you can bring them together as a group. So bring the Samoan kids in.
Remind them they've already made their commitment, that they've individually given their word
so that peer pressure doesn't take them to another level. Then talk to them about how we need
you all to control not only yourselves as individuals, but also others to help diffuse the tension
here. Then bring in the other group and do the same thing." So she talked to them and she said,
"They all agree, we're all on the same page. Things are still okay." I said, "You still
have some kids on suspension?" "Well, they're coming in," she said, "they're giving me their
word." I said, "Ok, you're moving along. Now, you need to decide when, but at some point we
can bring them together and we can get them to figure out what the issues are, and to problem
solve it and come to some solution on this. Are you comfortable with that?" This is about a
week into it. She says, "Well, they've kept their word so far, and I've gotten to know them, and I
know the leadership pretty well and they really are working with me." I said, "Then you're ready,
bring them together. Let's go."So I did it all on the phone over a series of a week. She and a
couple of counselors worked through that whole process with the kids. We did it by phone.
There's just no way I could have been there.
Thinking of communities where you go in unknown, as
opposed to those that you know so well after all these years, how do you identify the underlying
issues in a conflict when you intervene?
I'm trying to get a good example of that. I'm sure I made a lot of faux pas on a lot of the
Native American stuff. But you're thrown in. You have BIA to call, and you talk to them over
the phone and you say, let's see if we can come to the table and you get a commitment from both
parties and your land on the reservation. Now you're meeting with them. You have somebody
arranging for one group and somebody arranging for the other group, and you're going in cold.
Usually I'm flying to some place, and then drive forever to some rural reservation. It's not
something where I can go in, warm myself up, and really build a relationship before, and come
back and forth several times to conduct a mediation. It's almost like we've talked on the phone,
and we're ready to go. We're almost there, but I want to meet with you alone first before we
actually try to see if we can get to the table. Maybe not today, but maybe tomorrow, certainly not
more than a day or two. So, I'll sit on the reservation for a couple days and see whether we can
get this thing to move. That's about as cold as I've gotten.
Do you find the issues that brought you in are the most
important ones you have to deal with?
I think the issues that they convey to me usually are key issues, but oftentimes nuances
come in that nobody shared, and you don't learn about those until you come on site. It only
comes through in your private meetings with the parties, and your discussions with individuals.
Then in a couple of cases I've had sheriffs escort me for my personal safety and to give me some
background. Then, they tell me, "Do you realize what had taken place here? What's the history
of this tribe? What the families are like? These guys are felons." And all these things come out
when you're just dropped in there and you're on the site. So it's really just becoming a sponge.
To me it's like, you're going through the setting, and you sit down with people, and you try to
observe and absorb as much as you can. You're just probing, you're reading peoples' behaviors,
you're reading their styles, their trust levels, and you're hearing the messages. Then you go to the
other side, and they're talking about the same issues, but it looks like a whole different world. As
the mediator, you're kind of stifled because you have these broad differences of views on the
same relative issue in history of these parties. So it becomes valuable to get other peoples views.
For example when the sheriff as an outsider says, "Well this is the way I see it." I'm hearing from
different people in the area to kind of get a flavor for what the parties may be withholding, and
the way they slanted things, versus the other party. The perspectives of somebody neutral who
may have seen the same history and experiences and seen the tensions arise between the parties
are invaluable. I just feel like I'm a sponge, and I'm trying to find some sense of the truth there
somewhere, because I'm not going to get it from the parties. I know it because they're coming in
from such biased perspectives. I often use what I call the Forced
Field Analysis, where you look at the issues and you look at them by rank order, and you kind of
line the issues up juxtaposed to each other by rank. Then you really take to heart the opinions of
those people that you felt were neutral and very objective about the disputed issues to try to see if
you can bleed some truth and logic into the sequence and the viewpoints of the parties' positions.
So that's the way I approach it. It's very intuitive, but at the same time I'm relying on as many of
the neutral perspectives that I can get because I think that objectivity lends some credence to
some of the very biased views of people involved in the conflict. That's the best I can do in those
kinds of cold situations. Sometimes you need time to bleed out the truth by getting to more
levels, in-depth levels. Too often, we just don't have the time to do that, so I have to
take that intuitive position and then attempt to work through it. When you get to the table, the
biases work themselves out. When somebody makes a demand or an allegation about an
injustice, the other side could counter it. The truth kind of works its way out, just by saying, "I
don't understand how you can make that allegation, because I see it this way. Can you see the
other person's point of view? Does it sound the same? There is some miscommunication here,
and I want to see how we can sort this out. Can anybody state that again or reframe this so I can
get it?" I'll play dumb and bleed it out until they shake loose and we get some concurrence or
interpretation of what in fact took place, and can begin to find a solution. I think it's a very
intuitive process.I think it's important to find other neutrals.
How do you identify them [neutrals]?
Well, in any of these groups that we work with, there's a range of personalities on any side.
You have the adamant positions, they're wrong, I'm right, I'm going to get my piece. Then you
have the hangers-on who don't see it at the same level of compassion and anger, and they tend to
be more objective. I look for these people because they are very important in preparing for the
mediation process. In our mediations, we usually have 5 to 7 people on either side. If you
diagram the personalities that sit at the table, I kind of hone in on who I can depend on in really
being my aides and will assist me, who are the ones that are basically just position bargainers,
and which are the ones that I can count on really giving me a more objective insight. So,
working with the personalities and the positions of the parties themselves is important in
knowing who to go to, who to ask questions, who to diagnose the problems and issues with and
who might give you a possible solution, etc. Even within the parties you can find diverse views
and position to help the mediation process.
When you come into a case, does your own race or ethnicity
play a role?
Well, being of Asian ancestry, I think it has really been an asset in a lot of ways. I'll tell
you why. With Native Americans, they respect Asians because we have a strong family values
and a high regard for education. When I talk to Native Americans, they say, "Oh, your people
believe in family and elders. They hold a high respect and reverence for families and elders."
There's a click there. They can identify with that. When I work with Latino community, they
tend to be more passive and they tend to have strong family convictions, and they respect that of
the Asian population. When I work with African-American communities -- I used to live in
South Central -- often I fall into Black dialect very naturally. When I tell them I grew up in
South Central, and where I grew up and what church I went to and all that, it takes a lot of
tension and distrust out of the relationship. Asian Americans are accepted as minorities that have
experienced prejudice, and that opens doors for me in race related mediation.
When I work with Asians, they probably distrust me the
most. I remember one case when I was dealing with African Americans and Koreans.
I met with a former African American Vietnam Veteran, and he
looked at me like, "What are you doing here." So I explained that I was with CRS and I'm a
federal mediator, and I've read about the dispute you have here, and understand there are several
complaints with regards to this Korean swap meet. Really, my role is to try and bring you and
the owner of the swap meet together and see if we can come to some resolution other than
violence. Then I started talking about where I grew up, what things I had experienced when I
was young, and I said, If you have any discomfort with me as an Asian American, that's no
problem, we can always get you another mediator. He says, "No, you're okay with me."
And I remember at the table, one of the things I did on that
particular case, knowing that both Koreans and African Americans value religion and have very
strong Christian ethic in both communities. I naturally picked a neutral church in the community
to be the place for our mediation. It really took the thunder out of a great deal of the animosity.
But at the table, we had a big language problem.
The Koreans has such strong accents, I couldn't understand them. The
African Americans couldn't understand them. We had one African American who worked in the
swap meet who was our translator. It was just amazing. The candor of the
discussions and the open realizations that African-Americans went through and that Koreans
went through and their thankfulness that they shared their real feelings as people about why
Koreans followed African Americans around in stores, why the Koreans look angry and then now
to smile and other nuances that they didn't understand. What one culture felt was a better
alternative to a real demeaning and discourteousness act, was found to be a taboo or idiotic thing
to do in another culture. I had an easel and I wrote the agreements that they came up with, I
wrote them out because we knew language was a real barrier so we wrote out everything that they
concurred on. Then I went and asked the Korean community if they understood each issue and
proposed resolution, and would ask, "Are there any questions?" I went through tediously
pointing out exactly what the exchange was, what the agreement was piece by piece.
But I think race has not been a problem for me because I
grew up in a multi-racial community and I think I have strong interpersonal skills and for that
reason it hasn't really come up. In particular, communities often say we like your people because
I know they are really looking at me as a cultural person.
Do you help parties prioritize their issues?
Do I help them prioritize their issues or do I take their issues and put them in priority
Help put them in priority order. How ever you want to define it. Help them prepare to
come to the table.
What I think I really do is I listen to them and I take their priorities as they give them to me,
as I see them. I analyze them against the other parties' priority issues
and then when I write the issues down I try to manipulate them so we work from the easiest to
the hardest. At that point, I share the issue with each of the parties one at a time and gain their
concurrence. The parties are also given a chance to add or delete issues. I generally do that all
the time because I want them invested in the process before we get to the real hard ones. I've had
situations where I've put hard ones on the front end and we couldn't get through them and there
wasn't enough good will established to get through that issue. I've always found if I
put the easiest issues up front that by the time we hit the lower issues they are either never going
to get there, or they would feel that they've invested so much that they would work through the
more difficult. So I've always used that approach.
What about issues that maybe they couch as non-negotiable or
that you think to be non-workable. Would you help them to reframe them?
I'll give you one story; I do a lot of Native American stuff I guess. I was working with the
Irvine Corporation on the Newport Channel Island Development Project. I was working with the
Gabrielleno Indians and we had a whole agenda of issues. Right off the bat the Native
Americans looked at this particular mound and said, "This is a sacred mound and you shouldn't
build here." The developer looked at the Native Americans and said, "Wait a minute. That's not
negotiable. That's why we're here. Period. This is a million dollar operation and the only reason
we are building here is because of this view looking over the Bay to Catalina. This is not
negotiable." Now, what do I do? So I look at the Native Americans and say, "What do you
think?" They got it. It's not negotiable. They had a whole list of stuff, so they dismissed it. It's
not for me to say, "Well why don't you negotiate half of that mound?" I understood exactly what
they were saying. The other thing that I need to convey to you about
negotiation in these kinds of cases is there is law behind mediations for historical sites and
Native American repatriation. The law says that when remains are found that they need to call
the Native American Heritage Commission and they need to call a coroner. The coroner then
makes the determination that these remains are Native American and calls the Native American
Heritage Commission to determine who the most likely descendants are. Then the most likely
descendants have the right and must be consulted with in remedying any process in the treatment
of remains. That's what the law says, but it's permissive law. Its not "shall," but "may."
So I know legally that the corporations technically could dismiss the Native
Americans complaints so that's why if I was to try to press the developer -- I wouldn't do it
because it's not for me to do -- but if the Native Americans feel they could press the developer
they may more then likely hit a stone wall and lose cooperation on other matters. Really, the
corporations are doing this somewhat at good will and for public relations purposes by and large.
They could comply with the law by doing very little. I've always felt that the law was too weak
in that sense. I guess there have been times when reframing, caucusing, or just clarifying what
and why something is non-negotiable has helped to move the parties.
Did I ever finish that question about compromise and
demonstrations? That was the thing that stands out to me when I think about the Riverside
situation. How long did they need to protest to leverage the system to respond versus would the
system respond differently if they didn't do a year of demonstrations?
How do you determine, when working with a group, how to influence leadership and the
appropriateness of it as well?
Yes. I'm a true believer that eventually we are going to have to get to the table if we are
really going to make a change. I think as soon as we move from anger and blame, we're ready.
As long as we aren't so emotionally driven we can't do something constructive, then we are ready
to move progressively to some kind of dialogue on these issues.
How do you move the parties then, toward the table, when they
are apparently more inclined to stay in protest mode.
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.
So you use your chart to drive that point and it works for you?
What about the flip side of that. Have you ever had a situation
where you felt the government or responding party was coming to the table in bad faith and the
protest really did need to continue?
I think I've been in situations where the institution was only willing to give up a minimum.
They had a position and they were willing to come to the table, but they weren't really reflecting
on that decision in any real constructive way and possibly more protests would have changed the
attitudes that were possibly insincere or insensitive. I think there have been situations where I've
seen that kind of behavior, but its hard to assume continued protest would have changed the
outcome. If groups are going to sway bad faith negotiators it takes more than protest. But that
could happen in the opposite way too, I'll give you an example. I had a
case where beatings took place on television, just like Rodney King, and the Hispanic community
was very upset. There were demonstrations and marches. We finally got the Hispanic
community to sit down with the county sheriffs. The county sheriffs felt they were in for a
shellacking. Yet the community asked for nothing. I thought we had a real open situation where
the community could ask for a number of mechanisms and strategies to avoid that kind of
beating, poor police protocol, and use of force. Yet, when I got the parties together I wasn't able
to clear out the issues. They knew what they wanted, they said, and I was trying to get them into
the meeting. But when they came to the table they just asked for an advisory committee to the
sheriff 's department as a mechanism for long-term discussions. They didn't want any precise
preventions for that kind of act. It really surprised me and kind of flabbergasted me because the
institution was willing to give much more then what was asked. That was the opposite of your
hypothesis. You can get it either way. Prepared parties for mediation is so important.
When that happened did you work with the community to help
them understand that they could be asking for more?
You know, I didn't know if I would overstep my bounds in that situation. I thought it was
incumbent among the community to decide what it wanted. The opportunities were there. They
needed to say what they wanted and needed and I felt that if I prompted anything it would be
perceived that I had lost my neutrality and I was pulling stuff on the table in front of the county
sheriffs. I felt they had a much stronger position then they recognized.
Could that be shared in preparing them to come to the table?
I thought I was dealing with a fairly sophisticated group and I didn't think I needed to do
that, but it wasn't something I openly shared with them.
Then the sophistication of the group becomes an important factor in how much assistance
you feel a need to provide.
Yes. We had university professors in that group and I thought they could champion and
knew that community and I didn't feel that I needed to do much more with them, but I guess they
weren't street-wise in that situation. 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.
Now, in another case -- I'm just trying to give you
all the dynamics of this -- I had a case where a police department collaborated with the INS to do
a series of sweeps in a community on undocumented immigrants. They had done so many
sweeps that they unknowingly swept in Mexican-American citizens, maybe 35 or 40 of them.
They then faced a $35,000,000 suit. I met with both parties and I could have taken them to the
table, but I told the Latino leadership, "I'm going to remove myself from the mediation because
this type of violation is going to occur again until you get some kind of principle in law that
prevents it. I think you have something to get the attention of the institutions. If you mediate
this situation, there won't be any standard by which to terminate this kind of discrimination and I
think something needs to be put on the books." I left them with that. You know, you mediate an
agreement and that town has the agreement, but they were in the position to really put something
in the legal system, in the courts that could sustain some guidance when dealing with
undocumented immigrants and sweeps that effect U.S. citizens. At 35 million I thought they
would get the attention of a lot of cities and a lot of agencies and I thought it was important to let
the case go forward. Little did I know that they would settle this case for a meager $400,000.
For me I said, "We could have mediated that!" I didn't know where the lawyers were coming
from. Again, it's a judgment call that a mediator makes and I didn't want to get in the way of
something that I thought was very precedent setting for the Nation and for their community.
Those are the kinds of judgments a mediator can get into. A year later, the New Jersey State
Police publicly admitted to profiling against African Americans.
So in that case you decide to withdraw even though they were ready and willing to go
forward with mediation?
Yeah. It wasn't exactly there, but I felt I had a good chance. Who knows?
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
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
Have you ever felt so strongly about an issue or situation that
you felt you couldn't be impartial?
No, I tend to be a very reflective person. I tend to be able to
distance myself from my personal feelings and the issues, so far in my career. I know there's
certain issues like excessive use of force that I have some biases opinions about. I certainly do
have biases and very strong convictions about what I feel to be repeated misjudgments. You get
to a point where you feel something more significant has to be done. I'm constantly talking to
CRS people about what are some of these other mechanisms. I do feel a sense of emotionalism,
but I don't let that cloud what I'm doing with mediation. Just because I have my biases and my
emotional feelings that I should not lay my feelings on anybody else. You get my drift? I mean I
do have very strong emotions about some issues of our school systems and what they don't give
in terms of equity or quality education and yet I can't lay my judgments on the parties and their
disputes in mediation. I don't think my objectivity has been compromised so far.
Are there things that you do to manage the party's perceptions
of your neutrality?
Besides telling them? I think it's very important to give equal time, to demonstrate equal
interest, to facilitate and to not get caught up in judgments. All of those kinds of things I think I
have to manage to avoid getting caught up or being perceived as bias in any way. I do a lot of
pulling out ideas from people, but letting them own it. I try to stay out of it as much as possible,
I think that's the only answer I can give you.
Have you ever been accused of being partial, not objective?
How do you deal with that?
Defensively. I try to clarify where I was coming from. If they claim that they felt I made a
statement that seemed to be a biased or an advocacy position for one of the parties, I explain
what I said, why I said it and why I don't think it was intended to be in that vain. Usually that
clarifies it. It may sound defensive, I don't know. That's in the eye of the beholder and they
haven't told me yet. I think it's important that I justify and explain where it's coming from and
feel free to say that if it's perceived as bias, that's your perception of it, but I don't think that I
violated my neutrality.
How do you see your role in regard to the fairness of the
settlement, in terms of what you think to be fair?
Well, I don't get into that. When we reach the final mediation, I say "Okay, I'm going to
write this up, I'm going to send it to you. I want you to look at the terms of the agreement, and to
make sure that you can live with it, follow it, do it, and then we'll come together and sign it. I'm
going to give you a couple of days to look at it then we'll reconvene." So, I want to be sure that
we took time, and let them have the last word and let them be able to look at it and conclude
"This works, this works for me. I can live up to it. It's a good agreement." Sometimes they say,
"We need to come back together." I say, "Fine, let's come back together." So, I don't want
anybody to feel jammed, but I want them to look at it with the time and the opportunity to look at
what are the consequences of this agreement, are there things you don't want to happen, can you
live up to this agreement, is it meaningful for you, does it accomplish what you thought it needed
to accomplish? Then they will come to the signing and we will do that jointly. I think that's
the way I handle it. We don't all have that luxury though.
Do you have techniques you use for reducing tensions between
Sometimes they get hot and I have to watch the parties and see what level of tolerance one
has of each group. I read the behaviors and decide whether to ask them to calm down.
Sometimes I call for timeouts and ask for caucuses. There have been
times where I've said, "Wait a minute, we need to review why we're here and what tone and
ground rules we've agreed to abide by. If I sense some discomfort by some of the people, I'll say,
"By the behavior of the individuals there seems to be a need to take some of that tone out of
here," or "Could we take a time out?" At that time I can meet with individuals to draw out that
person and speak to that person directly and say, "You know you're creating a level of hostility.
Do we want to move forward in working towards a solution? We're not going to cut
you out of getting your voice and what you want to accomplish, but the tone is going to possibly
harden the other side, so it depends what you want to accomplish here. Think about that as you
convey your issues. You could be passionate, but don't get to the point where you're so
aggressive that it harms the process." I think those are the kinds of techniques that I have used.
How do you deal with parties if you
sense they're only giving lip service at the table and aren't serious about making concessions or
Well, one way is to go to the opposite party and say, "Did you hear that? What did it mean
to you? What did you hear them say and whether you felt if that was a good suggestion and how
do you feel about that?" And let them speak for themselves rather than me getting into it. I may
caucus and say, "They gave up a lot more than you gave up, are you going to meet them half way
or what?" I may caucus and say something like that. But I think it's better if the parties hear it.
There have been times when I say, "What did you think about that?" and they say,
"That sounds all right with me." I go, whoa, what am I dealing with? That's a whole other alert
that I've got to say. Now as a mediator, I think we are looking at the agreements and saying "Do
we really give something in value and do we come up with a good agreement? You know an
agreement that will really resolve the problems or will it just be a temporary Band-Aid that will
come back at us?" So that's where I think we have to beg the question sometimes and maybe
prod a little bit in terms of well, let me paraphrase what I think he said and say it in such a way
that it's slightly demeaning and see whether we can prompt an understanding of why it might be a
very artificial kind of offer. But I think the party has to see it themselves. I think we'd get into
danger if I were to say, "I think that's a nothing statement you made."
You talked about how you build trust with the parties. How
about building trust between the parties?
Well, I think agreement is that process. The other
thing I wanted to mention about tension is I think it's always good to bring humor. I have a very
light humor. They always say something that you can play off on that you can stay within the
context and still be light enough but bring enough humor to defuse some of that tension. I think
humor is a very valuable tool. Some people know how to use it and some people don't. It's
tricky, I know, because you can get hurt with humor sometimes, but I found humor to be a very
meaningful way to relieve tension and a valuable one.
Do you have any examples or guidelines for humor?
Well, now you're asking me. I can't tell jokes, I can't remember. Maybe, the things that
you play off on are things you hear and the misinterpretations we have and using yourself as the
vehicle for humor versus any of the parties. But, everybody will say something and then they'll
know it's a miscommunication or it's a faux pas of some type and you catch it and you go "Did
you hear that one?" Just a light playoff on words sometimes can relieve a lot of tension. When
you see the parties warming up in that vein of a little humor sometimes, it gets a whole lot of
invigorated faith in the other person's ability to recognize that the other party is just another
human being with needs and interest just like me.
Do you deal with power disparities in bringing parties together?
That's why I think our pre-mediation process is so valuable
because we need to, in our own way, have the parties believing that they're going to have a fair
shake at the table and that they come to the table with leverage as equals. Certainly
when you're the institution and you have all the power and you have a complainant, there's no
way to say, "You're all equal." In the same token, you're not armless as a complainant and you
have options. We need to level the playing field as we come in and we need to build and
organize and at least get them to understand that their issues are valid. They have a right to
bring these issues forward and that they should expect some give and some take. It's not a one
way street and they have the right to that. In that sense, empower them to come to the table as
equals. I think sometimes, particularly with community
organizations, we have to spend some time in the pre-mediation preparing them for that. That
sense of empowerment and valuing their position in their ability to expect some take as well as
some give. (Interview is interrupted by a cell phone call for Mr. Thom. He takes the
call and then talks about it)
Can we pause a moment. This guy runs an office of one of our
senators and I periodically brief him on what tensions are out here and what some of the
dynamics are so that they can anticipate. They wanted to know what legislation and what
learnings they could get out of the police shooting of Tiasha Miller. The patterns that we were
seeing were that we were just following the second generation of President Clinton's police
hiring and they were hiring faster than they could train. They are also facing a lot of early
retirements, so they had people who were in charge of training who only had five years
experience in police work. So you have the candle burning at both ends. If you look at some of
the recent shootings, officers with only 1 to 3 years of experience have been involved in these
shootings. You remember one officer was on probation and other officer who broke her car
window, I think was only a first year police officer. So, you have kids that are being thrown into
very tense situations with limited sophistication and experience to know how to handle them.
I've talked to the senator's office about what intervention things we can lend to the mix to try to
avoid these kinds of situations. There are always patterns to all of this and you've just got to
diagnose it and try to figure out what you need to do. These options can help. That's why CRS is planning to train police officers in mediation as a possible tool for
Tell us about that police officer training.
We've decided as an agency to train police officers in mediation. We talked to police
departments and looked at the pattern of their training. In terms of tactics and use of firearms
and all the mechanisms how to use the nunchucks and how to use the beanbags rifles and how to
use all of that. About 70% of the training of police officers coming into the academy are in those
tactical techniques. About 30% are in how to relate to people, how to communicate better, how
to get people to voluntarily cooperate, all those kinds of people skill tactics. Then we've had
officer experts tell us that if you look at the amount of use of policing tools, that 97% of the time
you're using your presence and communication and about 3% of the time you're using any tactics,
techniques or weapons, and that the training that is provided to police officers is backwards. We
need to give officers more interpersonal skills and techniques on the front end. Police officers
see problems first in our society, so why wouldn't we give police officers mediation skills to
diffuse tension on the front end? The history of racial tension and policing relations in the 1965
and 1992 Los Angeles riots points to a need for proactive tools to address community disputes.
When people of color feel unheard , uncared for, and helpless violence becomes a viable
alternative. We also say that having mediation skills is really for police safety, because every
time you go to a situation, and they're used to problem solving, they tell disputants what to do,
they say, "Look, you go away for a few hours and cool off and you stay here and don't bother him
any more. Don't get into any more trouble, that's it. Got it?" And everybody goes, but when
they get back together, a police officer will more than likely have to return. They didn't solve
anything and the cause of the conflict is still there. What I'm saying is,
"Every time you have to return to a repeated conflict, you're allowing the problem to escalate.
Somebody's going to get hurt or somebody's going to get killed and sometimes police are going
to walk in the middle of it, and they're going to be the target." And that's true,
particularly in long term emotional disputes that have been allowed to fester. Another thing we
have found is that -- I've done a lot of police training lately in mediation -- we find two patterns.
One is that police are often trained to take control and to tell people what to do, and after they tell
people what to do, they just want to leave. Where we think we need to focus for police officers
is you've got to give some of the power to the parties to learn to come up with solutions, because
that's the empowerment. If disputants can come up with options to their problems, they have
choices and they make decisions, and if you make decisions, you have power to overcome
obstacles. You are not helpless. Then police need to learn how to get a good closure. You need
to have some way to say, "Look, do you agree to this, do you agree to that? If you can both live
up to your word then we could avoid this dispute in the future. Can you do that ? At the same
time the officer has taught the disputants how to solve problems. Do you think you can do this
by yourself next time?"
Are police departments buying in to what you are describing?
Yes and no. Well, of the ones that I've done, I've got one police department that says "We
want you to train three times next year. We want you to get all of our police officers as soon as
they come out of the academy." You can tell, they see the value of mediation right away. They
recognize how powerful it is, what it can do for their police officers, particularly on the front end.
The old guys that I was training were saying, "This is great training, but I've been in the field so
long, now I've learned to do these things. I use a lot of these techniques. Who doesn't have these
skills and who doesn't have the experience are our new officers and we need to get them trained
on mediation earlier in their careers." So, I think, to me that says that they recognize the value of
it and then something needs to be done. I've been asked to train eight times for the California
State School Resource Officer Association. They see the value of it, they recognize that it's a
valuable tool, and they're anxious to join us as partners of trainer-trainer, because we will
eventually do a trainer-trainer program. I've done other police departments. Some are just
looking for the post-training, the post credits (the accreditation) and some are looking for a
certification, which we're not planning to give. That's going to be left to the States. That's an
interesting problem, dilemma that we have, but when I've talked to people about certification for
mediators, you know the states have been fighting over who should certify and everybody wants
to be the power broker. Some people said that it would be great to have federal certification to
just solve all the problems, but now I think there's some reluctance to get us in a position where
we were certifying it from the federal level involved. So, we probably won't get into that at
all.)We're getting excellent evaluations from the police trainings. It's full of role plays. It's a real
tight package. It's 16 hours on the basics and a practicum and then an advanced where we pick
up all of the nuances of the experience and where they're going.
Some cultures have indigenous types of mediation. I wonder if
you ever use any elements of those traditional types of mediation?
I'm familiar with what probably is the most overt type of mediation that's more indigenous
to any group. I've trained under a guy from Hawaii. He was an amazing guy but he uses a lot of
shuttle diplomacy because of the Asian hesitancies to participate in face-to-face conflict. But I
don't want to compromise that. In those cases, you do a lot of private meetings before you bring
them together and you even move the agenda, but at some point you've got to come together. I
feel strongly that you have to do that to reach where you can come together. That's probably the
only one. All the mediations that I've been involved in are so multi-ethnic, so western
predominantly. I haven't been into any international things where I would feel required cultural
variance . Even though we may work with some first generation, like Vietnamese mediation, we
usually work with the one-and-a-half generation because of the language barrier. Unfortunately,
too often when we work with some of the different ethnic, indigenous populations we're really
dealing with a western hybrid because of the language barrier and so they become the brokers for
the traditionalists in the mediation process. So I haven't had to use various techniques other than
being very sensitive to the time factors that Native Americans act out, the reticence of the Native
American at the table. Some of these general guidelines that I'm aware of I think we want to be
sensitive to, we want to move it at a pace that they're comfortable with. I don't recall any thing
more unique than that in the situations I've had. Were you thinking of something particular?
I remember a mediator some years ago saying in the Asian community where he was
working the parties often wanted the mediators to commit themselves to staying with the case
after the resolution was reached. They felt the mediator had an obligation to the remain attached
to the case.
If I was in that case, I would say, "There are time constraints on me, but at the same time
my objective is to empower you and I want to give you the mechanisms and the tools to work
through this and hopefully you won't need me but I certainly would have no problems
communicating with you and assisting you if you needed further assistance." But I have not
experienced that request personally.
Have there been occasions where you've helped parties save face
either by becoming a scapegoat yourself or in some other way?
Well, I think we are always saving face out there. The whole process is a face saving
process in a sense because we're allowing people to speak and empower themselves, to get their
points across and not to be dismissed. I think that's face saving in its own right. I will take the
heat for something. I've admitted that I may have misunderstood or that maybe, "I pulled you
together too soon." I have to accept that the timing, the organizing, the convening, the statements
that I make or even, the way I said could be offensive. I'm sure I've gotten into situations where
I've embarrassed somebody. I remember we had a Head Start mediation and there was just too
much heat going on in this session. I think I attempted to move it with some humor and there
was some objection to my humor. I sensed it and said that maybe that was inappropriate at the
time and I want to apologize for that, but that doesn't dismiss my intentions to help resolve your
problems. If somebody said something that they felt they'd lost their honor in some way, and I
picked up on that person's reticence, I could easily, and I'm trying to think of a situation where
I've done this, I think we would need to be able to graciously say that's okay and we know you
didn't intend to embarrass any one or yeah, I do that myself. I don't
have any problems trying to help somebody get through the process by equalizing the playing
field and maintain.
What do you do when you see a
conflict within one of the parties?
Every once in a while you listen to the same party negotiate and they're talking about
different things and that's a cue that something's wrong over there. Sometimes you see these
expressions like, "What are we talking about?" When I see that kind of disruption within a party,
usually that's time for a caucus. "I'll meet with both sides and make sure everything's okay. I try
and give them about the same time. I might say, "Let me give you an example of what I heard
you say. I didn't know where you guys are coming from. Do you need to pull this together?
Let's look at this issue again and make sure that you're together on what you're asking for and
why you're doing that? Is there a reason? Are we talking about two different issues, Are we
talking about the same issue? I didn't know?" Of course we try to frame it so there's a
spokesperson for each group so we can get them to conduit their information. That's theoretical.
We start off that way saying who's going to be the spokesperson for this group so we get a leader.
Inevitably, participants chime in on the discussion and so once in a while you need to reestablish
the leadership role so that we have a funnel for whose really going to speak on the key points so
that we know who has control over the secondary chime in and then make sure that they
collectively agree on where the party is going. I think again it's a regrouping. The other
technique that I use often is just to summarize. "Let me summarize what I hear you guys are
saying," and pull it together for them in front of the other party so that we all get, and correct me
if I'm wrong.
How about conflicts before you get to the table, when you see factions within a coalition?
We talk all the issues out. I've had situations where I've had groups of the same
organization, all parents, all taking different stances and trying to say, "Wait, wait, wait. Do you
want to negotiate all things? What are your principle issues?" It's pretty much like the
Native-American tribelets because you end up having to get some kind of consensus of what you
are really asking and what is of value to you. If you don't, then you can't go to the table at all
because it's just chaos.