Friday, February 15, 2013

Show Respect and Empathy, Never Judgment

One of the Mediator's Tools outlined in my upcoming book, "View from the Middle of the Road:  A Mediator's Perspective" is to summon humanity with a goal of helping people who are suffering reach an end to their conflict in a way that brings them peace and closure.  This week in California we had a dramatic and tragic event when a young Police Officer, Christopher Dorner, snapped after years of conflict with his own employment situation, killing 4 innocent people.  While I certainly can't condone his violent conduct, I can see this:  Dorner had a POBRA hearing (an administrative hearing under the Police Officers Bill of Rights Act) to challenge his termination, which was based upon his allegations that a fellow officer engaged in the use of excessive force against a citizen.  The Hearing Officer found against Dorner and upheld the termination.  Dorner appealed that finding, claiming that he had been wrongfully discharged.  He lost on his Appeal.  Dorner was clearly a very talented, bright, well-trained Police Officer.  He never got over the termination from the Police force, especially since it was based upon his own reporting of another policeperson's misconduct!  He took to the Streets in rage.  As the flames were smoldering that little cabin in Big Bear, I couldn't help but wonder whether Dorner ever had a single empathetic ear during his legal struggles against the LAPD.  Though Police Officers have rights that go beyond ordinary employees, they do not usually have a mandatory mediation process where the Supervisors or Heads of Human Resources might have explained the reasons why Dorner was terminated in a way he could have understood:  or the converse, where Dorner might have expressed why this particular termination was so devastating and perhaps been transferred to a different department or given some additional training on acceptable v. unacceptable uses of force.  Whatever the outcome, this Mediator thinks that some showing of respect for a Police officer's reporting on another officer, even if it's erroneous, may have gone a long distance towards helping this troubled individual get beyond his termination and maybe save 4 or 5 lives!  It's a dramatic example, but I believe it's true:  it's so rare to have a non-judgmental, empathetic, neutral listen to both sides and offer each other's perspective.  Mediation can be an invaluable tool--even outside the litigated case.