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The LAPD has gotten the green light to launch an experimental mediation program that would bring officers face-to-face with people who have accused them of racial profiling.
Signaling a desire (and pressure) for change, LA's Police Commission unanimously approved the Los Angeles Police Department's three-year pilot program.
The goal, according to the LAPD, is to have officers and their accusers "stand in each other's shoes" -- but will it work?
Repairing a Racist Legacy
Racial profiling by law enforcement violates the Constitution. Typically, racial profiling complaints occur after a traffic or pedestrian stop, when the officer is accused of singling out a person solely because of his or her race.
The LAPD is still haunted by its infamous Rodney King legacy, and continues to be besieged by allegations of racial profiling and excessive force.
Department records show that in at least several thousand cases spanning many years, no officer has been found guilty of racial profiling in internal LAPD investigations, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The goal of the mediation sessions is to increase transparency, help officers and accusers see each other eye-to-eye, and begin to repair the department's relationship with minority communities in the nation's second-largest city.
Getting a Fresh Start
So how does mediation work? Generally speaking, mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution in which two parties meet out of court to resolve their disagreement with the help of a neutral third party, called the mediator.
For the LAPD's pilot program, participation will be voluntary for both sides, and volunteers trained by city officials will serve as neutral mediators during the sessions, reports the Times.
The mediation program will be used in standard profiling cases, in which there are no allegations of physical abuse, racial insults or other serious misconduct, according to the LAPD.
If an officer completes a mediation session in good faith, the department's internal investigation into the allegations against the officer will be closed. However, officers with two prior complaints in the previous year will not be eligible.
Though this may be the first you've heard of "law enforcement mediation," San Francisco has actually had a long-running police/citizen mediation program, established in 1995. You can read more about San Francisco's program in this report by the SFPD's Office of Citizen Complaints.