“Mediation in Motion” workshop gives Summit County officers tools to resolve disputes
Law enforcement officials from across Summit County gathered at the Breckenridge Police Department last Wednesday for a workshop on working things out. Titled “Mediation in Motion,” the workshop provided training for officers in finding solutions to low-level civil disputes outside of the courthouse.
“Sending someone to court is not always the answer and not always appropriate,” said Heidi McCollom, assistant Fifth Judicial district attorney. “We try to find creative solutions and avenues that will ultimately benefit the community. This is one of the pieces of outreach that we think is important.”
McCollom gave the example of two neighbors feuding over a barking dog, or shoveling snow. At a certain point in the disagreement, one or both neighbors may call the police.
“In this case, it’s not necessarily beneficial to write a ticket because you have a defendant and a victim living next to each other,” McCollom said. “We encourage the police to find a solution between the parties outside of the criminal court system, because if the case goes to the court system, neither party is going to be happy.”
In most cases, a cop would just sit down and facilitate conversation between the two parties. Mediation can also be used to resolve to noise complaints, property disputes, workplace conflicts and police complaints.
“It keeps those cases out of the court system, and saves everyone a bunch of time, resources and headache,” McCollom said.
Joe Cassa, the speaker at last Wednesday’s conference and a mediator for Community Mediation Concepts (CMC), said resolving disputes outside of court can also help police strengthen ties with their community. There’s just one catch: everyone involved must be willing to cooperate.
“The people who are in a dispute have to be willing to do this,” Cassa said. “They must have a good faith desire to resolve issues.”
In difficult cases, an outside party, such as CMC may get involved. While CMC’s services aren’t free — in the case of two neighbors, the county or city would pay about $150 — they are still considerably cheaper than court.
Steve Charbonneau, executive director of CMC, said the company took more than 650 referrals last year. For each referral, a professional mediator contacted all parties involved, and facilitated discussion until a written agreement was reached.
Cassa, a former division chief for the Wheat Ridge Police Department in Denver, has presented on mediation for more than three years. Last week, he spoke in Summit County for the first time, finishing a series hosted by the Fifth Judicial District Attorney’s office in partnership with the county to share law enforcement techniques unique to the area.
Law enforcement officials from Eagle and Clear Creek counties sheriff’s offices attended Wednesday’s workshop, as well as officers from the Breckenridge, Dillon, Silverthorne and Vail police departments.
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