Is there a role for a mediator?
Well, there really is, but it's not formal mediation. What we are able to address and take a
look at is the underlying questions and the nature of the incidents the communities are
experiencing. They can't find a direct response from law enforcement or public officials. What
we are able to do is tell the community organizations what the policies are supposed to be the
kinds of information received from Washington in terms of where the Attorney General and the
FBI are heading. That is public information, but it has not been widely distributed. We are able
to provide that, understand the underlying questions, shape them in a way that they can be
received better when we are setting up meetings with local law enforcement, the FBI and U.S.
Attorneys, so that they in turn are able to understand where it is they might have to make some
adjustments, if they are going to consider them at all. It would probably be stages of shuttle
diplomacy at this time. It is like meeting with two sets of parties. It's almost like second table
negotiation. You are dealing with representatives of groups who are in turn are people bringing
their complaints to them. You're hearing complaints brought to community groups, the National
Merchants Association, the Arab American Institute. That then lets you shape what their
concerns and interests are for when you set up the meeting with the federal and city counterparts.
You then can shape what the agenda will look like so you can get better responses from federal
and state law enforcement to community concerns. The two-stage process that we are in right
now -- remember this is after our initial activity five weeks ago -- allows us to cull information
and interests and reassure the community. This functions to reduce community tension. It also
helps us develop more effective relations. The second stage, when you bring in the federal
partners and local law enforcement, is a second level of reassurance for the community and some
more direct dialogue.
This differs from the typical CRS model where CRS would receive an incident report that
would lead it to respond to a community and around that incident build a community response,
mediation, dialogue, whatever was needed.
In World Trade Center it has required us to think about it in a more systemic way. But what
we've been able to do because of this approach is take the most highlighted ones. So, for
example, because of the primary investigation in Paterson and Jersey City we were able to send a
conciliator there to do typical CRS work, bring the community together, get the faith community
involved along with some clerics, work with the chief of police, the mayor and the city council,
draw in the alliance, talk through the sets of questions, develop a strategy for working on
reducing community tensions and run a series of community meetings. Also, encourage the use
of some hand-picked officers who would be more inclined to do community policing type work,
provide some brief and quick training for them on how to handle community disputes and
responses surrounding the WTC effort or the primary investigation, and then leave that in place.
We were able to do that in Paterson and also in Jersey City.
Did you do any of that yourself?
No, I had two senior conciliators work with my guidance. We talked through exactly how
to do this and which way to take it.
So this was really a strategy for preventing daily trouble that already exists.
Right. Most of it was on the prevention end because we knew that right from the beginning,
probably because of all the work that I told you about in years past, I knew that with this kind of
national disaster, and then when it was identifies as Arab Muslim, that we'd have to take a much
more systemic approach to the prevention so that both the investigation and the recovery could
take place. We needed both to calm the community and get all the appropriate officials involved
in doing that and reassuring the community in order to reduce the number of incidents that we
would have to respond to. That was the purpose. Then, within that reduced number of incidents
that were actually criminal, or those that arose from the investigation, we could deploy
conciliators. In the absence of that we would not have been able to do it. We also have our FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) responsibilities for
What do you do there?
What we've done there is again balance the playing field. Ground Zero is about seven
blocks from our office and most of the attention around Ground Zero went to the communities of
Battery Park City and Tribeca, which are on the west side of Manhattan. Equally distant from
Ground Zero was China Town and the Lower East Side. A large degree of media and political
attention tended to be focused on the more affluent communities immediately surrounding
Ground Zero. Immediately adjacent to it were lower income populations, mostly jurisdictional
populations for CRS: differences in race, color and national origin. So CRS -- our usual
relationship is to work with FEMA because we had a responsibility to helping create the
community relations function in FEMA and participate in training of that function may years
back -- traditionally works along with FEMA to be more of its advanced arm in particular issues
that they should be taking a look at, particular problems that they are going to face in outreach,
giving them a better assessment of the communities that they are going to outreach to and what
they are going to encounter. We immediately found language and cultural issues for their
telephone lines and registration at their 800 lines. We had to help FEMA address those because
the only languages you were getting were English and Spanish. Also, they needed to have their
fliers and other materials translated into Chinese. We assisted them to determine what other
languages they would need for their flyers so people could get in touch and register. We also
helped them identify translators because they didn't have the staff available when they set up their
disaster resistance recovery center. We did the outreach through our existing network of
organizations and community groups to help them identity translators to both work with the
community relations outreach team and in human services at the disaster recovery resistance
center. Then we moved them to consider subcontracting this effort with some local umbrella
groups so they had the temporary staff needed to work with the populations they were going to be
facing. These two communities represented special challenges to FEMA, given its usual
composition and because of linguistic and economic issues. In addition to assisting FEMA in
these ways, we helped them to think through how their staff deployment. FEMA's initial concern
was pretty much at the rescue effort, as it should have been, but we noticed that a large number
of the people who were impacted by this disaster were wage earners who were in occupations
that were ancillary to or support of what happened in the financial district. So while the primary
attention was placed on getting Wall Street up and running, there were a large number of
displaced wage earners living in the outer boroughs who used to work in and around the Trade
Center. We needed to help them connect with our federal partners to work that through. We
began to reach out to the borough presidents and the community boards in the areas immediately
adjacent to Ground Zero, both in Brooklyn and Manhattan and then reaching out as far as the
borough presidents in the Bronx and Queens and their community boards, so that we could get a
better handle on how much displacement of workers had taken place and what level of disaster
relief was necessary in those areas. After our initial outreach, FEMA came along with us, to
present its programs to them so that the borough president's office would have a better sense of
what was available. We had been working pretty much with the city administration and the state
office of emergency management, but we needed to move it into the boroughs because we saw
clearly that there would be widespread and potentially disparate impact, in terms of access to
service or service delivery. This was because of the attention being placed on large businesses,
primarily financial. The need for attention to be paid to wage earners who were affected -- non
professionals who provided a tremendous amount of work between clean-up, food services,
deliveries, etc. of all kinds to that financial district -- was critical for us. We saw it as important
and so did the borough presidents' offices. In fact, they and their community outreach people
were so concerned that they asked for additional sessions with us because they are looking at
expanding the number of FEMA disaster recovery resistance centers. There is only one place in
lower Manhattan with long lines.
Like the ones we saw outside the federal building?
Yes. There are along the lines on the other street around the corner. Some of the boroughs
and the community boards are looking at how do we get these into each of the boroughs for a
short period of time. Then if they aren't necessary we can get rid of them. We can get to the
people more directly affected much more easily. They've asked to meet with us and so have
some of the clergy groups that we had met with earlier, to see about working together with
FEMA to get the services more decentralized.
Has CRS done this kind of work with FEMA before or is this something new?
We've worked with some of the natural disasters before, but working through this kind of
national disaster and in this particular way, I don't think so. FEMA has a community relations
unit that does outreach work to let people know how to get in touch, but it doesn't do the
conciliation or conflict resolution work that is occurring as special challenges are met. That's
where CRS has been very helpful to FEMA, working along with them. It has always been CRS
jurisdiction to work in partnership with FEMA. And then we go beyond FEMA's work because
we have community tension that is showing up. To us, as we looked at how we did here with our
limited resources -- and we brought in some teams from outside out region -- since day three of
FEMA's operation we were located at their site. We've been able to work through all the issues I
identified earlier and continue to help them work them through. Then we were able to quickly
identify other problems, like the lack of phone service in China Town at a time when you had
call in to get to be a part of FEMA to get your number identification. Well, if there were no
phones in China Town you couldn't even get on the phone. And once you got in there was the
language problem, which I mentioned earlier. So, we've been assisting FEMA to work through
all those kinds of things and to anticipate them in the future. Also, the way in which the police
barricades were located for the purpose of the rescue and the recovery were adversely impacting
China Town. The merchants were experiencing a 70% business loss -- 95% of the businesses --
so everybody who was marginal was gone as were a lot of others who were on the edge. So we
were able to work along with NYPD in Manhattan South and also their emergency command
center to allow some access for vehicles for food distribution businesses and others during
certain hours of the day. That's something CRS can do, but FEMA cannot. It's just not part of
their mission. We were able to work with merchants and business men and leadership locally to
at least alleviate some of their early concerns. We are continuing to work it through because
some of the business leadership from China Town has asked for an additional town meeting with
the SBA (Small Business Administration) and FEMA where they would bring in their
merchants,' lawyers' and insurance associations to talk directly with FEMA representatives even
though FEMA has had a site set up in China Town since the second or third week. This is a
larger scale interest for them to speak more directly with a broad array of leadership than the ones
around FEMA services. CRS has been asked to facilitate that. So that's an additional role that is
beyond what FEMA would usually do, but it's clearly jurisdictional for us and allows us to build
our jurisdictional work around these sets of community concerns back to FEMA for service
delivery. For the foreseeable future our work is around the road to recovery and the encouraging
community stability.I think the last area about the WTC and where we are right now is the
attention that CRS has had to pay to the impact on displaced workers. There are a large number
of them who are in the immigrant community or have immigration status questions. We work
with everyone regardless of their status, but immigration status is not a trigger for CRS. Our
jurisdiction is race, color and national origin. What has happened in the WTC disaster is that
individuals, between language difficulty and immigration questions, even if they are legally here,
have not always been able to get what they need from FEMA. So, from very early on we worked
with the New York Community Trust and the United Way of New York which had already set up
the September 11 Fund. They had determined they were going to use Safe Horizons, a
community agency we had met with, to provide relief services regardless of immigration status.
That was an important entree for people across the board, particularly in the lower income areas
in New York, and those who might have immigration status questions, to actually be able to get
some relief. Also, the Department of Justice victims' assistance money flows through the State
Crimes Victims Assistance Board. We were able to work with them and the New York State
Crimes Victims Assistance Board and Safe Horizons so that people in this immigrant community
would feel more comfortable coming forward to look for services or assistance for the recovery.
That continues to be something we pay attention to. The boroughs, surprisingly enough, are
particularly interested in that question as well. It is something that wouldn't hit at the city-wide
level or state officials, although the Attorney General for New York State has already said once
you are here you are eligible for service, that immigration status questions are something for INS
to deal with, not for local determination. Working within that framework and within CRS's
framework, what we noticed is that there was a large degree of tension in the advocacy
community around relief and recovery services for these communities. We've been working with
the advocacy community and the immigration groups around those questions with Safe Horizons
and the State Crime Victims Assistance Board. Those activities have also been supported by the
Catholic the Lutheran churches. The services have been located at Pier 94. There has been some
interest -- because of security concerns about getting into Pier 94 -- of also getting that service
decentralized. So between the requests we've been receiving from the community boards and the
borough presidents' offices and the concerns from the advocacy community and the immigration
community -- both people with legal status and those without legal status -- and our work with
the State Crimes Victims Assistance Board and Safe Horizons, CRS is in the position to try to
facilitate the communication so that service delivery can get to the points of impact where they
are most needed. I think nobody else has been in a position to do that and deal with all the cross
level of concerns that are raised with a multitude of issues ranging from language to immigration
status. We've been able to get agreements from INS because it is not undertaking raids or
indicating any additional concerns around status questions for those who have an inquiry because
they were effected by the disaster. They're able to process those inquiries without triggering the
enforcement arm at the IRS district office. We have been able to develop those relationships
pretty well here. I don't know how the rest of the country is doing, but we were able to get that
determination. Then also, to get the INS Commissioner to make statements of clarifications so
that the INS in general, from the policy level in its law enforcement would be more responsive in
a compassionate way to the recovery and relief efforts, rather then to penalize people whose
status may have been affected by the loss of a loved one.So, CRS has been able to coordinate and
facilitate an enormous amount of communication related to the recovery effort, particularly for
specialized populations like this. I don't think that any other agency would have been able to do
that. We were fortunate to both be able to have the insight to see it as something that needed to
be done, and then have the staff capability to be able to effectuate it.There is one other
component to this. We worked through channels to make INS as well as the State Department
and the Attorney General's office aware that there were some people whose status may have been
undocumented whose loved ones perished in the disaster. The numbers range into the 400-plus
that are known so far to various community-based organizations. Their loved ones and their
countries of origin are unable to claim whatever remains may be here or even the symbolic urns
that Mayor Guilianni is making available with some of the debris from the World Trade Center
site. They haven't been able to get to the consulates to get the visas to come to this country to be
able to deal with recovering the remains, or whatever symbolic remains there are of their loved
one. We were able to raise that through channels and highlight that as a focus question to
provide the advisories to the Attorney General, the INS and the state. Then we were in
attendance when the Mexican and Central American consulates were making outreach
presentations, through community organizations, on how to access the visas for this purpose.
They are not able to do very much at this time; the borders are closed because of the war effort.
It's difficult, but we've at least provided the advisories and we also clarified the ability to apply
for advanced parole provisions with INS for people to come into the country. We at least
clarified that for local groups. Other than the advisories and providing that information and
being in attendance with sets of national departments and international consulates, we've at least
crystallized the problem that people are facing. That is as far as our jurisdiction will take us.
Since September 11, have you, not withstanding the good relations and the receptivity to
CRS, had any conflicts with other agencies, organizations or key individuals where you had to
begin applying some of your conflict management techniques?
That's a good question because my description makes it sounds like everything was just easy
to do.Well, what happens is that a large number of agencies, both state and federal, law
enforcement and other, have missions that are more delineated then ours. So, it's my job to do
immigration, either in enforcement or some services, it's my job to do law enforcement, it's my
job to do the investigation of the terrorist attack, it's my job to do hate or biased crimes, it's my
job to provide services to citizens on FEMA, The broad overview of how this tragedy is
impacting a larger community, and then jurisdictional populations, doesn't fit neatly into
anybody's daily work. But it is how CRS looks at its work for reducing community tension,
preventing the escalation of tensions and, in this case, promoting community stability. We had to
take this work forward in the field. We were often in advance of our federal and local partners to
such a point that we established relationships with affected parties sooner and in more effective
ways. Then we wound up being able to assess the community tension levels in a much more
fundamental and profound way than any narrower view is able to take in. Because of the
narrower focus -- that's what their missions and charges are, it's not through any fault of their
own; but our mission and mandate being broader and focused around community tension
questions -- we were able to provide a fundamental assessment of what is taking place both for
racial and community tensions as well as community stability issues and provide that information
in a cogent way to each of the affected departments.
Did you run into overt resistance, that you had strategies to overcome?
It's, "Why is this important?" kind of resistance rather then overt resistance. When I see
what you would call overt resistance, or when we would anticipate that it could occur, what we
do is frame our response or approach in such a way that it's not going to trigger that overt
resistance. That is what we've been able to do in New York. I'm sure probably that conciliators
around the country do this as well. When you know you are going to run into it, why approach it
directly? Why not provide a value-added approach and frame the introduction or the relationship
to that agency or institution in such a way that what you're doing winds up consistent with their
Can you give us an example of how you do that?
INS, for example. On it's own it was doing it's work, but it might not have necessarily seen
the value of partnering with us when it was being approached by leadership in the Arab-Muslim
community or the South-Asian community. INS national leadership was focused in New York
on community tensions surrounding visa issues, e.g., exceeding visa time, or other inquiries
related to legal alien status or those who did not have legal status. They wouldn't necessarily
have seen the value of partnering with us in meetings with those communities to address the sets
of concerns that those communities were going to raise with INS. In our outreach to INS we
introduced that there were some individuals who might be victims of hate crimes and have
concerns around civil rights and civil liberties in addition to immigration questions. When we
framed it with INS we talked to the larger sets of concerns that the community would have and
then instead of it simply being a meeting around an individual's concern with INS we were able
to raise them as larger questions and respond to them as federal partners. This permitted INS to
show that it really did have more leniency in its policy and program work and also provided the
community leadership groups with the reassurances they needed that their other concerns around
civil rights as well as hate crimes were going to be addressed by INS and the Department of
Justice. We were able to speak to their concerns around any abuses and by doing this it goes a
tremendous distance in helping communities that are currently under siege from a wide range of
sources -- from backlash to primary investigation, to being caught up in American stereotyping,
to be wondering what was going to happen to them if they come forward to any part of
officialdom -- to feel far more reassured about their concerns, and then for us and our federal
partners to respond to their specific concerns.
How did you build credibility and trust within those communities so they would in fact feel
reassured that there was a CRS presence and it wasn't just viewed as the Department of Justice
There are several things. One, I mentioned very early that each of the state officials -- the
Attorney General offices and all of their first assistants who were going out and doing the
community meetings that started on day two -- were mentioning CRS. Even though we were not
always in attendance, our small, highly specialized agency was consistently mentioned by
high-level state officials in law enforcement. So that word filtered out. Two, in primary target
areas where enforcement efforts or backlashes were taking place, like Patterson and Jersey City
and then along Atlantic Avenue here in Brooklyn, CRS' presence was known and visibly felt.
They saw us directly do our usual conflict resolution of large-scale community tension reduction
with other public officials and law enforcement. Three, these organization in the local
Arab-Muslim community and South Asian and Sikh communities had been aware of our
attendance at meetings sponsored by their umbrella organizations or the Asian Federation or the
New York Immigration Coalition, or the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund in
both their town meetings and youth meetings. So without taking over their agendas they had
seen our presence there very strategically. In a series of activities from day two right through the
present, what occurred is that they consistently heard about CRS and when there was a big
problem they had seen us at work. So now what we're coming back to is the nature of the
shifting landscape -- and we're not at the worst of it yet, it continues with the antiterrorism bill.
There is more receptivity to CRS's direct outreach as a federal agency to each specific
community. The timing of this was key. Because of the previous activities they weren't pushed
aside by a heavy federal presence. We also permitted a natural community organization process
to take place with people that individuals and community members already trusted, their own
leadership. We assisted them building coalitions with their advocacy and umbrella groups and
we just coordinated and we continue to coordinate with the umbrella groups. Now it's to the
point where they need more responses from officials, which is the particular job that CRS is more
able to do and more uniquely skilled to do and in the position to do. They're much more ready to
receive us. This has been complimented by the work that was done in Washington headquarters
in reaching out to national Arab-Muslim, South-Asian and Sikh organizations. They did the
outreach, they provided us with the contact information with their local people, and then we, at
Ground Zero, followed up with their national field office staff and field office directors by
encouraging those field office people at the national level to come to this area and we assured
them of our willingness to meet with the community at its request. So we utilized national field
directors to come and utilize their local networks and advertise and introduce that CRS would be
interested in listening to their concerns and trying to help to shape an effective agenda to respond
to those concerns.
Have you been getting any complaints from community organizations that they aren't
getting the response that was promised or needed from other agencies?
We get some of that. That's different than the individual incidents. We get fewer individual
incidents because those are being screened in a different place. They are screened to us through
their organizations. The answer to your question is yes we are. The reason we brought forward
immigration and relief questions was that we had noticed it in our field work. But we were also
in touch with community-based organizations and, for example, the New York Immigration
Coalition. They were running up against the question of the closed boarders. How do you get
the visas? What do you do for getting people from countries of origin? How do you get relief to
people here? Since we had already done the leg work on the CRS side in those same question
areas, when we received those complaints, calls, and concerns from the New York Immigration
Coalition we were able to respond. What is the INS policy? Are there discrepancies between
what the commissioner said on October 5th vs. October 10th? How can we work these question
through? Secondly, the Arab Muslim Family Services and Support Center had been working
these questions through right from the beginning. Biased anti-crime activity, racial harassment
incidents, special protective services from the community. We knew they were working through
the Asian American Legions Defense Fund as well as their own organizations and umbrella
groups. We were able to follow that activity and have the preparatory work done with
understanding how NYPD was responding and what the FBI was doing. By the time they raised
their concerns with us as we were doing our next set of outreach through the national
organizations to them, it was a very natural relationship that had been built between our
Washington headquarters and their Washington headquarters and my solicitation of their field
personnel and knowing what was happening local on the ground here already. So by the time the
meetings happened we already had been hearing their concerns and they were willing to talk and
meet with us to develop the next set of responses.
Did you ever had to serve as an intermediary in the sense of going to another agency and
saying we received this compliant?
We're doing that right now with INS and the FBI and we have our sets of activities like that
with NYPD in terms of some of the rough treatment that some individual officers may provide.
And then we help shape the meeting between those entities and the community groups.
Exactly, exactly. We knew because New York was a little different. I've worked around the
country and New York is a little different. If you don't have something to bring to the table for
community groups and umbrella groups, you're really not needed. They don't care if you're part
of the Department of Justice or not. So what! Now we proved that the "so what" is that we can
create some access roots that they may not be able to create as readily, we can shape their
concerns in such a way so that other people can hear them -- law enforcement and public officials
-- and we can be in attendance at the meetings with local state and federal jurisdiction. We can
help facilitate those meetings and then at those meetings be in attendance to facilitate the
dialogue. There is a tremendous value to CRS because New York is highly politicized already
with tremendous amount of capability in its local organizations.
So this is giving you access?
Yes. It makes use of what, giving that we're smaller in numbers around the country and we
are always having to make choices as to what we respond to, I think what CRS has is 35, 36
years of experience so in addition to our mediation work, I think the technical assistance and
guidance that we can offer, both local organizations as well as the officials, on how to respond to
a situation, to guide appropriate response efforts so that they actually deal with the genesis of the
issues and concerns as they are experienced in the community, and the benefits that certain
response patterns can have for law enforcement and public officials taking another view of it that
CRS can help to shape. It's that kind of technical assistance and guidance that's most affected by
our experience with these situations over the decades. We've put that to work in this region since
I've been here and in this conflict in particular. I think it's a useful way to think about conflict
resolution work for CRS in the future. It maximizes what we know.
Have you run into situations where there is resistance to this kind of mediation?
What you get in terms of overt resistance is because there are parts of federal agencies,
because of their particular mission focus, or some local officials in law enforcement or elected
officials, that may not have the same values attached to issues of equity and equitable treatment
across the board. It may not have been in their experience patterns with the tremendous
demographic changes that have taken place in the last ten years. They may be overwhelmed by it
or it might not yet have shaped their views, or their way of looking at the situation and their
communities in a way that is inclusive of the populations that are currently there. And then you
have the traditional existing civil rights populations that have always had access problems and
power imbalances with the existing institutions. So at CRS what we try to do is when we see
that that's the issue, either that people's eyes haven't been opened to take a broad enough view,
there's an imbalance in the power relationships, or there are simple problems of access to
institutions, is that we try to address those as such. We will provide the access to local officials
so that the conversations can take place, promote the dialogues between the affected populations
and their public officials so that issues of concern to the affected populations can become known
to public officials and constructive responses can be shaped. Often times we'll meet with public
officials and law enforcement who may be in this more reluctant zone because literally their
communities feel overwhelmed by the change and differences that diversity brings. We'll spend
large amounts of time assisting them to see that indeed the populations have changed and how
developing outreach processes, community assessments and community relationships is critical
to other forms of law enforcement and that's it's also in their interests as well as in the interest of
community stability. We have to consistently work around that, work around those questions of
people who may not see it as clearly as we do.
To clarify, you said that they feel overwhelmed, do you mean the agencies feel
overwhelmed with the changing communities.
Yes, on some occasions that is very much the case and then you'll have an old guard in
some of these agencies that's just not equipped either linguistically or by
Were you saying you meet with them separately, at times, to discuss the problems?
Absolutely. We have to. If you do it only in a public setting first -- after you meet with the
groups that are affected or effectively disenfranchised which you need to do to find out their
concerns -- if you put them together directly with public officials immediately in some arena, all
you've done is set up the dynamics of confrontation. So what will happen is that meeting
wouldn't be depressurizing. It would be escalating and the officials who have been perceived as
non-responsive, since they don't know how to relate to these communities, will, in fact, often
times become more defensive. So it defeats the purpose to have a meeting such as that, unless
you meet first with the law enforcement officials, and their command staffs, and the public
officials involved to express the kinds of community concerns which they are aware of, but
which they don't know how to go about addressing.
Are they receptive to those meetings?
It takes a lot of listening on our part. It is similar to listening to the community groups and
their concerns. It's the same mediation techniques you have to apply when you have these
difficulties with some officials. You have to listen to their concerns a lot and you have to let
them talk about the problems that they are facing and you have to let them talk about everything
they've tried which may not have been very effective, possibly because it wasn't able to be
received by the affected communities. You have to do an enormous amount of listening so that
they feel heard and you can develop a relationship with them so that you can guide them into
how they might want to think through the facilitation skills that they have in their meetings with
affected community groups. We may be able to develop those skills in those individuals and
maybe sometimes provide some walk-through training for them so they can handle and become
more receptive to the kinds of intensity that affected communities may bring to these kinds of
meetings. So they don't act defensively, so they can receive the information and understand that
pressure groups are not just pressuring them but are pressuring them because they are the only
people who could make a change. You have to predispose public officials and law enforcement
in some cases to be able to open their viewpoints to realize that it's in everybody's interest to
work through these changes together.
Do you ever have a problem getting access to these agencies?
Let me put it this way. Since we are voluntary -- I had it in the mid-Atlantic with a major
situation in a smaller city, but a very significant one around the schools. Basically the school
committee had pushed out the first Latino superintendent in the school system and actually in
that state. That superintendent in a four-year period had managed to raise reading levels almost a
full grade in lower elementary grades. He may not have had the best community skills, but he
was clearly putting in the right amount of time educationally to change the educational degree
that you are seeing in test scores. Apparently there were some differences of view between the
school committee and the way the superintendent was working, so they pushed him out. First
they took away his staff. Then they moved his office to the basement of the local high school
and then they worked with him for an early buy out of his contract. It created enormous amounts
of community tension. The community was saying we had a good guy and now an old guard
from the city is saying we just don't want this guy because whatever reasons that they had, he
wasn't going along with the program as it ever existed before. He was actually making the
changes he was hired to do. Well that school committee chairman didn't want to meet with CRS
and there had been demonstrations in front of the community, in front of the school board
meetings at the town hall, at the city hall. CRS got involved with the local police department so
that the demonstrations, although they were not permitted, would be peaceful, some
self-marshalling, as well as the awareness of the police on how to handle this; although they had
a good response we wanted to make sure it didn't escalate any further. What these community
groups wanted -- the coalition of community groups and hundreds of people -- was some talk at
the school committee level and for the school committee to re-address/re-examine this question
of early buy out and some answers around the policies of the procedures that were utilized to buy
this guy out, or to pressure him out as they saw it. The school committee president refused to
meet with CRS. He sent the secretary of the board to talk with me and said they were happy for
the federal attention, but they declined. That created a situation with CRS. We have no coercive
authority, but you still have a community tension situation. I chose to work with the chief of
police, who was a long-time town resident, and then one of the school committee persons who
was able to work with the city council which was the appropriating authority for the school
committee budget. We were able to get some introductions to one of the school committee
members who was at an executive capacity. He was a former chief of police for that city. So at
least we could talk through what the concerns were and that person could hear them. We were
able to talk to the people at the United Way, who had some influence in terms of the local
political structure, just telling them about the concerns that were being raised by the community,
which they knew, and also that we were not able to address the situation locally. By going
through the other sets of public officials and the philanthropic community, we changed the
disposition of the school board to be more inclined to at least consider some opportunity for CRS
to play a role. Without any additional intervention, somehow or another independent of this, the
president of the school board, in his private practice, came under scrutiny for some other actions
that he may have been committing in his private practice. So, he resigned from the school board.
Through the informal conversations that took place, not directly from CRS but the people we
reached out to through the chief of police and others who were influential in the town, including
the NAACP and Latino Associations, the school committee's review prioritized having
somebody of Latino background, and also with the capacity to run effectively, to have policy
input to the school committee. Among the five finalist candidates they had for the replacement
school committee position were three Latinos. They wound up selecting a Latino person who
had community ties but was also in a local University with which they had prior experience. All
things being equal in their search for someone to deal with the community tension as well as
provide effective governance to that school district, they found someone who was appropriately
skilled and also had the appropriate language and cultural background to assist them with the
transition, given what had taken place with the previous superintendent. So you can run into
direct confrontation like that or have difficulties with people declining CRS services and utilize
other relationships to keep talking the situation through so that other influential people can
perhaps, without hearing it directly from CRS, have conversations with their counterparts and
thus affect the situation for the benefit of the community without ever having done a formal
mediation. You can get involved in the politics of the town by simply informing and providing
You intervene, but you intervene with some stealth.
Right, so that we don't raise the hackles of the local official whose already demonstrated
How did you identify the other groups that didn't contact that committee?
We had a long-term relationship with one of the inspectors in that police department. He
was aware of what was happening, because it was in the local papers on a daily basis. We said,
"Look what are we going to do? How can you help us because you've got your men tied up with
all the demonstrations that are taking place and they're not going to go away. It's one town, and
this is an opportunity for us to see what we can do together. You can have better relations
because you'll need to have better relations in this community." I just asked.
So other people helped you identify the leaders?
All you do is ask the question from a responsive source, which is what CRS used to do in
the old days in the South. They'd go into a community cold and have to find who the people of
influence were. So you start asking the people closest by. You ask the clergy who has influence.
You ask the NAACP, to see if you were able to identify some of those people of influence even if
they weren't highly visible in the public providence. Then we went and talked with them and
expressed the concern and told them what was going on. They were also able to influence the
publisher of the paper because the United Way has this little corporate committee round circle.
They were able to talk to the publisher of the paper and that also influenced the nature of the
direction that they took with the case. So in identifying the people, you need to talk to a large
number of people and what begins to happen is that a smaller subset -- that's the other part of the
underlying question -- you need to talk with a wide range of people in the community. You ask,
"Who is it that can get things done. Who do you go to get things done in this community? Who
else do you go to when those people don't work?" What happens is that you talk to community
members, church members, members of municipal departments. And you talk with the private
giving community. What begins to emerge is a small cluster of individuals and those are the
ones you want to talk with or have other people talk to. That technique and that strategy goes
way back to the beginning of CRS. They may not always be lawyers and doctors. They may be
in some places where people have coffee, in the homes. Those people of influence exist in each
place. A lot of them are unheralded and unsung, but they're there in each community and getting
your way to them is through the process I just described.
I wonder if we could go back to that particular case and talk a little bit about how you got
into it and then what your subsequent actions were.
What happened was that it was real straight forward. I saw it in a news cast that they were
planning a demonstration for that night and I just showed up. So, we deployed on site.
What sort of community was it?
It was a Puerto Rican and Latino community with changed demographics. It's an exurb,
already its own city. We deployed on site and all we did at the outset was work with the local
police just so that they were aware, if they hadn't been, and also so that they would have a more
tempered response and they'd have the appropriate officers detailed to this assignment. After the
demonstration I made contact with one of the people who worked in the human relations
commission. They hadn't had a lot of contact with CRS in that community before. So what I
asked for was a chance to get to know some of the community leadership and the others who
were concerned about this issue -- the superintendent's issue -- because it wasn't going away.
What she did, bless her heart, is she arranged a little meeting at her home with the head of the
NAACP, a couple of current school committee people who were opposed to this action, some
former school committee representatives and the Hispanic community leadership so we could
talk about what CRS did and what role we might be able to play. That was a lunch meeting at
her home. It enabled us to go through CRS' mission, activities, capabilities, and things of that
nature. That made it easier for us to work with them when they were setting up their next set of
demonstrations. I tried to get them to get the appropriate permits and if that didn't work to let the
police know that this non-sanctioned activity was going to take place. It also helped us to deal
with the other resources that they began to bring into the community from outside, like the Puerto
Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, and try to keep everybody on message without taking
away from their advocacy effort. But at least so that it wouldn't be exceedingly confrontational at
public sessions, or if it was confrontational in public sessions, which it did become, that people
would understand the posturing of a public session and still be able to have a private session
subsequent to it when they could dialogue around the resolution of the concerns. What
happened, through some basic lunch meetings at people's homes with people asking for some
help, and then arranging their organization with clergy leadership as well as community
organizations that came forward. We built that set of relationships first because the official side
is much easier, in general, for us to access. At least they'll give us the courtesy of a response
after the second phone call, if not the first, and at least some conversation even if they're not
going to entertain our services. The real credibility needs to be established in the community
setting and that takes time. You need to reach out and then you need to be there with them. The
real influence of CRS is to level the playing field. I think the leveraging of power imbalances as
part of the conflict resolution and mediation work is the key and it's key to all mediation in
general when you have power imbalances.
At what point did you decide that this was a case to stay with as you conducted your
The point at which I decided to stay with it came when they permitted me to go to the
organizing meeting for the next demonstration. We were going to just do self marshalling
techniques and introduce those kinds of skills for them to have. Some of the individuals started
talking about violence against people and property. It was clear right then that it was something
we had to pay attention to at CRS. If some people are going to advocate property damage and
personal violence, then your end is the growing mistrust for public officials and law enforcement
in that community and you're moving towards the two-step trigger process for civil disorder or
civil unrest. At least you have a contingent that's willing to move in that direction so now you
have to try to diffuse that, or at least see if there's enough to do the two-step
Define the 2-step process.
It has to do with when communities have lost faith in public officials, and law enforcement.
They've recent experiences, recent incidents that have emerged with problems of trust with both
public officials and law enforcement. You now have set the stage for a trigger incident to inspire
civil disorder or unrest. Those are the pre-existing sets of factors that CRS watches out for.
When you have both sets of them you now become more finely attuned to the possibility of a
trigger incident occurring in that community. Since that's true in large numbers of communities
with concentrations of people of color, the question becomes when they've had recent incidents
that are highlighting this distrust. That's what occurred in this community because of the pushing
out of the superintendent. So that immediately made the prioritization and the possibility for its
alert status much higher.
Was that an agency policy to look for that climate, that environment?
It had been in my prior experience, but it is in the agency work. I think there is a two-step
process in the CRS manual for conciliators set up many years ago, which has recently been
updated, but it's in there as well. I had the good fortune of when I came on board of having a
chance to look through the old stuff. These are good materials, so it had been there.
At that first meeting where you presented the CRS text, how did you get information about
People will tell you, once they've let you in and you talk about what you do. If you're
willing to talk less and listen more, people who agree will begin to tell you what the history of
that community is. There is very little probing that one actually has to do. People will tell you if
you don't present yourself as being able to solve their problem, but instead as being able to
facilitate and work along with them and for them to be able to work through their problems, and
you're a resource for that to happen as opposed to the expert that's going to tell them how to do it.
You're just getting them to make the better decisions and strategies and you're available to them,
as well as to local officials. Then, people start telling you about their community. And that's
pivotal because the understanding of previous events, racial incidents, or ethnic conflicts in that
city and how they were responded to them, gives you a much better contextualization for the
current conflict and maybe some of the reasons there is resistance to any progressive
Who knew that you were coming into town on that first visit to meet with the community
The only one I called, the first one I called was the chief of police and the inspector that
we'd had previous relations with to let him know we'd be on-site. Other than that, no one knew
because it was that fast.
Is that your practice to let the establishment community know you'd be on-site and is it your
practice to meet with the aggrieved community group first?
Yes, that's my practice. I think it's CRS practice. If possible, if we have enough time, we
try to have local contacts in the community that's aggrieved, that's making its issues known. A
lot of times, in a lot of situations we may not have those people before we start. But we already
know the conflict is taking place. We might not know the chief of police or the inspectors or the
mayors in those communities, but we know there is a mayor, a chief of police, so it's a natural
place for us to contact. It's always important to us to let local officials know that we're going to
their communities and they can be aware of our presence early. So, we do let them know. That's
pretty much standard procedure for us, and then to meet with the community groups as well as
soon as possible.
How do you determine whether you have met with all of the parties affected by the issue?
One of the things we're looking for is those people who can galvanize a community. From
the CRS perspective in addition to those who are in traditional leadership roles in the community,
we also know that public officials and law enforcement tends to have its greatest difficulties with
those who they don' yet know. Those people are often ones who are the most capable of
mobilizing their community and they're also the most outspoken. But by the very nature of their
advocacy and their confrontational tactic, the law enforcement and the public officials have the
greatest amount of difficulty having conversations with them. We need to get to know who those
people are and that's who we go after, in addition to the traditional leadership of a town whom
you might expect in community leadership to be there. We want to make sure that we can build
some bridges to those more outspoken persons simply for the sake of being able to utilize those
relationships to prevent further escalation of community tension so that we don't wind up in a
trigger incident. We also encourage public officials and law enforcement to make those contacts
with the most difficult persons in their communities. They need to be in communication with
them. Whether it's in a formal arena or not, they need to take the time and find a way to do that
because that's really where much of the grassroots action is. It takes a little bit more effort on our
part, but it's really where we try to get to in addition to everybody else for the purposes of the
peacemaking aspects of the Community Relations Service.
Talk about your work with the aggrieved community, preparing it to meet with the
establishment community or vice versa. Do you help them build a capacity to negotiate and
represent themselves at the meeting?
Yes, there's an element of capacity building. What you try to get them to do is, what's their
beef? They know what it is. We're not telling them. They know what it is. What their issue is,
what their concerns are, what their beef is. The question for them to figure out who is going to
represent those interests concerns and issues in their conversations with officials. Sometimes
large community meetings are helpful, but they have to be organized in such a way, and the
community needs to speak for itself; but its leadership or its representatives have to create the
stage for that meeting to take place. For that to happen, their representatives need to be able to
say what it is that they're concerned about in such a way that at the pre-meeting with officials that
it can be heard, and then a stage or setting can be created for those issues to be either raised by
the wider community or addressed with the larger community. So what you're really doing is
listening enough so that they get through their anger, because the first part of the activity is
enormous. I mean when CRS goes in people are very angry. A tremendous amount of the time, I
think the overwhelming majority of the time, people in the aggrieved community are very angry.
It takes a bit of courage, quite a bit. I guess it's sophistication and working in these settings,
patience, and not thinking you have an answer for people. What we do -- what I do -- is go in
there prepared to deal with a high level of anger and frustration and to listen with patience for a
long period of time, as long as it takes without making suggestions. In that process they might
ask for suggestions as how they might proceed and then I'll ask, "What's the array of options
available to you?" Once again rather than telling them how to proceed -- because then you
become just a simple advocate for their advocacy -- is helping them to explore what options they
may have available to them. Then, which ones they'd like our help with. From that kind of
meeting, we're also having a parallel set of meetings with officials so we can get their point of
view on what they see as the difficulties or the problems and often times officials see it as issues
of personality, or historical questions with inability to build bridges. Then there's another section
of officials that sees it as part of the on-going effort to build appropriate relationships and
bridges. In either case, we try to get them into the framework of building relationships and
appropriate bridges of trust and communications. We know that we're only there during the
crisis period. One of the main things that we try to do in addition to leaving a structure or a
vehicle in place, what we're always trying to do is enhance local communication and the local
relationships. We talk about that with each set of parties, with all the parties, because we know
we'll only be there for a short period of time. It would be presumptuous of us to think that we're
going to solve it for them, and it would be ineffective of us if all we wanted to do was help them
to reach agreements when in fact if you help them with their local relationships and local
communication, you've left in place the infrastructure for them to resolve future problems before
they escalate; or if you have to come in, at least your relationships and your communications is at
a better level and better point than the first time you came in.
Talk about the vehicle or structure that you say you try to leave behind.
For example, people need to have ways to assess, communicate with, get input from
communities and collaborate with communities. This can mean they might need police advisory
committees or structures, some relationships to local Church groups, youth groups, etc., that can
provide assistance and a ready source if a crisis comes up. It creates a ready source of
individuals that they can go to penetrate a community, to help reduce the tension right away. For
example, a structure is a police advisory committee. Sometimes they might have a human
relations commission or council in the town or the county, so that might be something that's
useful for screening complaints so that there's some redress capability through local ordinances in
the future. This then gives people some positive channels through which to put their anger prior
to things getting completely out of hand. You might suggest community relations councils if
they don't exist already. Sometimes you may provide additional training for human relations
councils or offer to sit in on several police advisory committee meetings if they already exist so
that you can take a look at how things are currently operating and make suggestions to both sides
on how they might want to improve it around the current set of controversies they're having.
Sometimes mayors or municipal officials may not have broader arrays of outreach relationships
to affect their communities. Particularly with demographics of change. So, you may talk with
them about how they would go about creating such a vehicle or a structure because sometimes
they don't know how, they haven't thought it through. And what the appropriate groups are,
because youth are most frequently left out, for hate crimes, for violence reduction, for prejudice
reduction, and meanwhile it's the most effective group. Both between long term activity and
loosely organized, spontaneous activity, it tends to be in young people, high school and early
20's, and they're doing those actions on people in high school and their early 20's. That's the
grouping that often times is disconnected from any of the commissions in town, or the advisory
councils or advisory committees or human relations committees. So, those are two types.
Another one is promoting community forums and dialogues. That's another kind of vehicle and
structure that we talk about. Sometimes they pick the form of town meetings, but sometimes
there are just forums and dialogues and we try to assist people, if it's useful for them, to create
this kind of forum or vehicle where they can get some public airing of these things and come out
with some recommendations for future actions. If asked, we'll sit and facilitate those with them,
because sometimes that's helpful to them.
Do you ever find that either party asks you to do things that you're not able to do?
Sure. People would like us to get the other side to do what the first side wants to do
anyway. If you're in the aggrieved community, they want their agenda to be pushed to the
exclusion of whatever the constraints might be in officials, and officials would like, sometimes,
for us to be their representatives to get the community to follow a particular channel. Our role is
to work impartially with all of the affected parties and come up with some resolutions or
solutions that they can agree to, to work together. One of the difficult parts for us is simply
maintaining that impartially while you are also trying to level the playing field, but maintaining
that impartially. It is very easy to be perceived as being part of one side or the other.
Have you ever been in a situation where you found it difficult or where one of the parties
had values that you didn't like?
Well, everybody is a human being, so when you work at CRS you have to work with the
Arian Nation and the Sons of the Confederacy. We have to work with the National Alliance
when they are having their rallies and protests. Then there are going to be counter rallies and
counter protests to them, or vice versa. There will be times when you may not agree with the
construct that people have or the particular values that they bring to a situation. Sometimes it is
not just the hate groups or what are known as hate groups or hate mongers. You may have
people on the progressive left who have their own set ways of doing things and even though you
are providing more information as CRS than they are getting from any other agency, sometimes
because of their particular approach, not because of the agency's reticence as a matter of policy,
and they're still pushing you into corners because they still don't believe what you're giving them
is what's going to be helpful to their protest action or why they're not getting their permit or how
to get their permit or what the police can not yet issue because the activity is being monitored or
supervised by the Secret Service. They may be complaining about metro district police in
Washington, DC or the Park Service police, but the calls are being made by the Secret Service.
the ACLU and the Lawyers Guild and others are in complete belief that you are just part of the
federal establishment. There is a wide range of people that have reason not to believe you. But
at any given circumstance if you lose your professional objectivity and if you lose site of what
your primary mission is, if you lose site of it, then you'll lose your effectiveness.
So is that what you focus on?
You focus is on what the sets of concerns are, not what you think is right. You might have
your own values. Everybody has their own values. You may think you know what's the right
thing to do, but that's not your place, telling them what the right thing to do is. You also may
think you know what's going on from what people have told you. But you only know what
people have told you. In mediation and community conciliation, something to keep in mind is
that as a mediator and conciliator there is every incentive for each set of parties to tell you only
what they want you to hear.
So how do you tease out the truth and how do you respond when you feel you know, based
on your knowledge and experience, what their best action might be but they don't see that or
haven't thought of that? How do you work through?
My personal belief since I come out of a civil rights and a community organizing
background is that I've always worked with an empowerment model. So right from the beginning
I had a capacity building model and that's both in institutions and organizations and in
community groups. I've always work with that model. I'm very reluctant and also it's crystallized
me and is ingrained in my training that what you want to do is try to get the best possible solution
as you see it, but from amongst the array of suggestions of what the parties have available to
them. Let me say that another way. I might think from previous experience that they should do
X. They might only be at a certain point in their development in a community where they can
only do Y. Where Y is a step towards X. So if what they are ready to do is Y, then encourage Y.
Suppose you don't see Y as being a step toward X, but perhaps that might be more effective
action that in fact they could undertake, or does that happen?
Sure it happens. When they're going to take a step on Y and all your experience tells you
that it's not going to take them where they want to go, you try to apprise them of that. Both sides.
How do you do that?
You ask them to think, "If you do that, what's the likely response? Let's say you are
successful at it, then where will you be and how will they have responded to it. You can do that
both with officials, who sometimes want to clamp people down and get them back in line, and
other times they want to give away the whole candy store in an agreement or in a mediation.
Whereas you know they aren't going to be able to live with that agreement later because they
won't be able to fulfill it. And so you say, "If you do all that and can't deliver, where will you be
with your community group then?" It's called reality testing. What you do is you walk them
through, "If you do this, then what?" And so you agree with them and say "That's an approach
you can take and what's the likely outcome and how does it move you toward the objective?"
There are two other responses. First you try to help them take a look at what outcomes are they
looking for as part of the natural part of what their interests might be. What kinds of outcomes
are they looking for? That helps you on each side of parties in a conflict situation. "What kinds
of outcomes are you looking for from us? What would be the best case scenario for you?" If you
can move people into that kind of discussion early on in the process, which is after the anger and
after their frustration which doesn't completely dissipate but at least gets to the point where you
can deal with construction or constructive activity. If you can move them towards looking at
outcomes they're looking for, what would the best scenarios look like, what needs are they trying
to address, what interests do they have, often times you wind up with an array of possible actions
that they can take. If you can get them there first, they are less likely to take Y strategy without
comparing it to X and Z and A and D. You are less likely to wind up with Y and they pursue it
anyway. You aren't always able to get them to do that in the time you spend with both
Do you ever train a group to prepare for negotiations? How far do you go and do you tell
the other party that you are doing this?
You have to. You tell both parties that you are going to meet with each party. What I do is
I tell them who I'm meeting with. If I didn't they're going to find out anyway, or lets say they
didn't find out, if they should find out it compromises all of my effectiveness because they don't
trust me anymore.
If you were to sit down with a city official and he asked, "Who was at that community
meeting you attended," what do you say?
That doesn't happen. That's not what I'm interested in doing. Then I am being used by the
city official. What you tell the city official is, "I'm going to be meeting with members of the
community groups, who would you recommend?" And they would suggest certain groups. That
doesn't mean those are the only people I meet with. When I meet with the community groups and
I've already met with the city official, I say, "Look I've already met with the mayor," or "I've met
with this city council person and he suggested this group of people and then we have this large
group that you suggest, so now I want to talk with you about your concerns. As I told the mayor
(or city official), this is confidential and I can only share what you permit me to share with the
other side." So I've already asked the officials, "Is it okay that I tell them that you suggested that
I meet with such-a-such group?" If he says, "No," then I don't tell the other groups. If he says,
"Yes," then I tell them. And I do the same thing with the community groups. So, now, I'll be
asked, "Who was at the meeting?" I would say, "Well, what kind of meeting would you like?
Would you like to have a session?" I would just take him off the point rather then answer his
question. I just ignore it. I'm not about ready to say who was who unless "who was who" wants
them to be known as "who was who" with officials. Sometimes their previous antagonism has so
skewered their viewpoints of the current issue, they would immediately stop all processes and say
that's so-and-so doing such-and-such all over again. That only has the same dynamic of
so-and-so and such-and-such saying well that's just the mayor doing what they do all the time.
So, it's not useful.
How do you prepare them for the negotiation?
First thing is we've got to get ground rules straight. And the ground rules will be around
who will do the talking, who will be their representatives that will be speaking, will those people
be present for all the sessions, and then what some of the kinds of the concerns that they have are
that they would like to address in some kind of prioritized order. While it doesn't move to single
text, you're trying to negotiate and trying to get them as close to single text beforehand. Which
means that at least each set of parties in the conflict will have it's set of concerns. Surprisingly
enough a lot of them wind up overlapping much of the time. Surprisingly enough to the parties
in the conflict anyway. So, then you need to introduce the ways in which the mediation sessions
will take place and the fact when CRS does formal mediation, it's our process. It's not somebody
else's process. The extent that you want CRS to participate means that it will be CRS's process
and not anyone else's. If they aren't comfortable with that then we are happy to identify someone
else, but when we move to formal mediation it's done in a very standard and particular way by
CRS. The other one is that there will be no media contacts during the mediation, and it's agreed,
except with us, at CRS. Now that doesn't always happen that way, but that's what we insist upon
if there is going to be media contact that it's going to be with us so that we can talk about where
things are at without putting things that are in the mediation process out in the public. Those are
the basics, the ground rules; who the representatives are, consistency over time, identifying the
substantive issues, what the CRS and mediator's role is going to be, and then how does that rule
interact with the media. That all goes into the preparatory sessions. The other part that goes into
meeting with the aggrieved parties and community groups tends to be while you're listening to
these long meetings and their concerns about others, whether or not if you say it that way is that
the most effective way to bring your point out.
So, you do early negotiation training with them?
Yes, that's what you're doing. You wind up with the same thing with officials only the
language is different and sometimes the anger levels are expressed differently. But then they've
got the power. They can choose to do things or not do things based on their own prerogative.
What we try to do is get them to exercise their prerogatives in a less flimsical fashion or a less
personalized fashion and try to move them in negotiation training to looking at the larger
community interest rather than look at the narrow interest that they might be placed in because of
the nature of the current controversy. So you have to do that with both sides prior to the table.
Then at the table you have to go back through the same sets of things again, so that there are
agreements with everybody about what the ground rules are and how the representation will take
place and what the preliminary concerns might be and what the general shaping would be and
what CRS role is going to be. Then people will still try to sabotage the CRS role and you will
have to assert it. If you are dealing with black community groups you'll have some black
executive caucus member show up who is used to being highly respected and responded to and
you'll have to say well, that would be a decision you would make if you were running the
mediation session, but in this mediation session we are going to do it a little differently. You
might have to do the same thing with the mayor who would say, "Well this is the way..." and I
say, "Well Mr. Mayor with all do respect at this time that may be an approach you would take in
another circumstance, not the approach you want to take here and if that's the approach you want
to take then perhaps you don't need us to be here anymore." That usually will get a mayor or a
mayor's representative to realize that they couldn't do it without you and so rather than back out
of CRS they'll temper themselves. So you have to manage the mediation process pretty
effectively and consistently.
Do you find that you often have to call caucuses?
Yes, you do. In fact when things are getting to testy or when people are starting to clamor
you, let so much of it go on. There is a whole bunch of set timing. First you let each party know
that they can call for a caucus at any time. That's important. That is part of the ground rules.
Once the sessions are going, sometimes you are moving towards an agreement on one set of
frameworks or parameters and somebody wants to bring in another whole set of issues that
weren't really on the table yet and so you shift over and you talk about those for a little bit of time
and then as soon as you're getting toward a reasonable sets of understandings around that new set
of questions they'll bring in a third set. Then you have to caucus. Those are sets of individuals
on either side who are simply wanting to maintain the antagonisms and not reach closure or
move towards agreement on any one set of issues by bringing up a secondary and third share of
each set of questions. Or attempting to broaden the scope of the current mediation. Those are
clear times to call caucuses. Another one is the anger levels. You have to let them vent from
each side to some extent and you prepare each side in the pre-negotiation sessions for some
venting to be taking place, to be prepared for it, rather than just reacting to it, which helps them.
You can see people restrain themselves better then they might normally have done. Sometimes
the anger levels get to such that you then have to simply ask for a caucus while you depressurize
the situation. Then the third time for caucuses is when people start using personal attacks, which
you've already put in the ground rules, but it starts to happen. Well, that's time to call a caucus
because often times the person involved in personal attacks is operating out of this dream of what
his side of the party wanted and they just lost it for a second on either side or are losing it. Or
choosing to lose control. And you'll find that when you put them back in their second table
sessions or their separate party stuff in a caucus you'll point it out and then their own other
members will say, "Hey that's not very useful." They'll find a way to do that, both on the
community side and public officials. I think there is usually a fourth area; its anger, its personal
attack, it's getting off the point or trying to expand the agenda, and I think the forth or the fifth
area is there will be people who'll essentially, no matter how many meetings you've had with
them before, will try to undermine the process itself. So when you caucus, you ask them if that's
what they're doing or you introduce that you called the caucus because there are some concerns
that you have. You permit the caucus group to say, if you've called it, to say is that what it wants
to do and you can permit it to keep it involved or not. Very rarely do they say "You can leave
CRS," but sometimes they'll ask for it. You already know that they couldn't do it before, so
they'll just come back again later and maybe these individuals will be a little more responsive the
next time around. So that's pretty much it on the caucuses.
That list you were running down, is that a CRS list?
I think it's from my own work. There are some things that just happen all the time or things
to watch out for. You could still miss them as an experienced mediator, but it's harder and harder
to miss the signs as time goes on. You still make mistakes, but you make fewer and fewer of
them. You also become more aware of your own personal predilections and the certain ways you
can be had on a basis of an agreement with values or a disagreement with values. So you don't
become inured to them, but you become more aware of your own tendencies and your own
tendency to be provoked and you also have learned through hard experience how taking sides or
appearing to take sides has backfired. And you learn that as you get down the road in negotiation
that you really ought to have them formally agree and have a session where they formally sign off
together because a lot can happen from the time of an agreement to the formal sign off and the
agreement can unravel completely. Something that if you aren't experienced and you haven't
seen it happen and say, "Oh everybody agreed," and go to each party later to have them sign it
and publicize it, and it doesn't work. I think this comes from experience.
On the issue of confidentiality, do you find situations where it's challenged or you feel the
need to violate it?
I never feel the need to violate it. At CRS by statute we are not permitted to.
Have you ever had a situation where you felt the need to violate it?
No, because I've been in situations where if I were to violate it, it would help things move
along at least in terms of what I perceived to be what's best for the situation or what I have
perceived to be what's right or wrong. Remember, I said earlier, what I perceive to be right or
wrong is only based on what people have told me in my own experience. If you know the
process and you've been through it enough times you know better, or you should know better.
The example I give is two parties in a divorce; the only people who know what happened in that
relationship are those two people. What they are telling you is the point of view that they want
you to hear. I don't think it's significantly different often times, although you can have insight to
human nature and the kinds of problems you're going to have in a relationship, you may not
know what went on in that relationship and that's similar to what's happening in a community
setting. You may have large degrees of experience and have good ideas of what's taking place
and you've seen similar dynamics but you don't know all the particulars.
You've had some experience in the media before coming to CRS. How do you deal with the
media as a CRS mediator?
The media is often times not helpful to CRS's work, particularly mediation because they are
trying to follow a local story and their local story is based on the local controversy. What will
happen when you are in a mediation is that some of the parties will try to go to the media. Even
though you had a ground rule around it, somehow it will leak out. Usually you can pinpoint or by
and large have a good idea who it was based on what was said. Whenever that occurs the media
account tends to disturb one or the other parties anyway it's done and it interferes with the
mediation process. So it is preferred by me and by CRS that if there has to be a media contact
during the mediation for it to happen from CRS so you can give us a more impartial accounting
of what's taking place and it's not going to interfere. It's your process and you sure as heck don't
want what you say out of the media's mouth to interfere with the work that you are trying to do
with the parties. The media tend to be difficult. They very rarely shed more light. Wherever
possible we would like it to be with CRS and then as limited as possible. To describe the
process, the CRS role in relation to it and then CRS mission.
How do you respond to media when they come to you during an early phase of a case?
I'll mention what we do, the prevention response to community tension that has a basis in
race, color, or national origin and that we are currently assessing the situation to see if there are
services that we can make available. I would describe the mission and the mandate in the
assessment phase. Usually that will be enough. Of course I'll get probed for more, but that is all
I'm willing to say in the assessment phase. I used to have a Regional Director that I could kick
that question to, but now it's me. They would catch me when I was a conciliator too, but now the
conciliators all put them to me. I don't blame them. We try to respond. Sometimes we are
caught onsite and they'll pretty much respond the same way in terms of trying to provide
clarifying comments or contextualizing comments for the difficulty that's taking place. That's the
approach that we are trying to take with the media.
How do you deal with impasses in a mediation?
The primary activity of a mediator, in my view, is supposed to be to try to get the parties to
get to an agreement that they can then live with. The difficulty for mediators tends to be that first
you get too invested in getting the parties to an agreement. When you get invested in them
getting to an agreement, which is natural, you get too close to it, too invested in it. But it's not
your agreement, it's their agreement. Mary Rowe, the Ombudsperson at MIT, was very helpful to
me when I asked her, "What do you do?" She said, "Well I take long walks with my dog." That
was exactly what I needed because the frustration of trying to get parties to agreement was very
helpful for me to understand how do you maintain your neutrality, how do you maintain your
impartiality. Well I take long walks. Even in this WTC stuff I take long walks. I get out to
nature. I may only get out for an hour or two and I may be working a 14 hour day, but that puts
me back in the right context. What human being ever created a tree? They might have built a
big building, but how about a tree? Keeping myself from getting too invested in an agreement.
One of my early teachers, Adam Curle actually had a heart attack at Harvard, under an African
conflict, trying to stop the war. He was from Cambridge and he was also at Harvard.
Afterwards, when I went to see him and he was recovered he told me, Renaldo, I couldn't stop
the war and it almost killed me. You have to remember that you won't be able stop the war. So
with one set of experiences in the mid 70's and then the other 15 years later, both of which were
about the same age at the same time, only I had gotten older. It helps me to realize and stay in
the reality that I can't get people to agree. I can do everything I can, but they have to agree.
That's one. So as much as I would like to see things happen, if they can't get there, they can't get
So you can live with impasse if necessary.
If necessary. The other part that goes into this is, I'm working hard because I know an
agreement is important and would be helpful for a situation, but I'm willing to look at other
things along the way that might yield an agreement in the future or that doesn't have to use
formal mediation techniques to get them to agree without having a signed agreement. So
conciliation techniques, with structures, processes and vehicles that they can then implement so
that they may not have a formal agreement but it already has them in a different relationship to
It sounds like you're getting some type of an agreement.
Yes, we're getting an agreement, but it may not be a formally mediated agreement with
signatories. Now on the formal agreement side it helps me to say well I may not get it at this
time, but maybe we can get it at another time. So impasse means that because I've got a little
more distance from it, as close as I get and as time consuming and energy drawing as it is, the
primary role of a mediator is to get movement in the parties. So, if you get to impasse what you
want is movement. Before you get to impasse you need movement anyway. One of the guys that
I work with at the University of Massachusetts would talk about the dance of mediation, and
parts of it are just that. It's the movement, it's constantly creating movement. So when you get to
impasse you look at what can you agree to. Or what goes into, I mean, "We are stuck here,
maybe we should take a break, time for a caucus," and then you go back to the parties and find
out. "Okay, we're stuck at this point. How did we get here? Are there any ways we could have
avoided getting to this point? Is there any reason to have any future conversation if we are going
to be stuck here? Is there anything other then this impasse that we could talk about? If you got
impasse, if you can't get through this then there is nothing else to talk about, then what is it about
this that makes it impossible for you to deal with from your point of view?" I try to get the
parties to look at what creates the impasse from their points of view. Sometimes what turns out
to be the reasoning why behind both sets of parties are at impasse may be much smaller then the
impasse that showed up. So the reasons, as perceived by each party, that yielded them viewing it
as an impasse and then projecting it as such to the other side may be able to be dealt with in
second table negotiations or in caucus and then be brought back to the larger meeting so that they
can reexamine the impasse, and in fact it can go away. Sometimes we'll take the impasse when
it's just there and say can we put it aside. Are there other things we can talk about? Should we
take a break from this and come back to it another time? Either way what I'm trying to do is
create the movement to get around the impasse or through the impasse or to put it aside, often
times by taking a look at the reasons behind it, the thinking behind it, or is it really as significant
as it appears to be, to get them to examine that.The other area is (long pause).
What you've said although you didn't put in your summary, is that you can get an agreement
on some other related matter such as setting up structures and other activities.
Exactly. That's the one.
Have you ever found yourself intervening within a conflict or party? Where one of the
parties is split.
Yes, I have but it doesn't work out that well. If within a party they are split and they are
fighting with each other and you intervene, that's fine. What you're better off doing is getting a
third one from that group to help the two that are in conflict process their issues. You are much
better off. I've tried it directly, but the focus can come on me so directly, so easily or I can appear
to be taking one side or the other because I'm trying to help them to keep their issues on the same
table that the one who feels devalued winds up more problematic or not contributing at the full
table, at the first table negotiations later. I've found it easier when I have these parties around or
when there are problems or when they've called a caucus and they have their differences of
views, to try to raise the group process. "I understand what's going on, this is what seems to be
happening to me. What do other people think?" That lets the rest of those parties, at least, have
input into it and then they'll break off and deal with it most of the time. At least the major part.
Then by the time I get to speak to them, an antagonist or protagonist like this, I'll say, "I know
that its hard for you and this is difficult, I say can you live with what the other members are
saying to you, or is it too difficult to continue and if it is why don't we talk about that some
more." It keeps me out of the primary role. In other words the interventions happen without me
being in the primary role. It winds up much more effective. I think it takes a little bit more skill
around the group process stuff and permitting others to take emerging leadership roles, but it
winds up more effective from my experience.
You said first table is when everyone is at the table. What about "second table."
With each of the parties and whatever constituent groups they represent.
Is that different than a caucus?
It's really similar to a caucus. It's that sometimes the people in a caucus also have to go
back and talk to their community memberships, so that's why sometimes it's described as second
table. Because the caucus doesn't comprise the entire community constituency, it just has
Will you expand on how you view yourself in terms of neutrality, impartiality and
objectivity when there are issues of justice involved?
I don't think I'm ever really objective. I come out of a community background. There is just
no question about it. Just by approaches, empowerment, by nature, by training and by values I
can't claim to be objective.
How do you address that and make it right with the establishment party?
The answer is that I don't confront establishment people with their inability. I don't confront
them. I talk with them. So, if they don't feel confronted and they feel that someone is speaking
with them and that somebody understands their point of view, then they are much more ready to
dialogue with you. As they talk with you they come to trust you. When they are talking with you
and coming to trust you, you can now teach them some things, or elicit or inspire in them, not
always, another way of looking at the situation. And the other way of looking at the situation
might be the empowerment mode. Which is really very useful because it helps those people in
power and those people out of power if they start looking at capacity building, empowerment
structures, leveling the playing field, getting access to everybody, treating everybody all right,
that's very helpful in how they administer. Either in a police force or in working with community
groups, or as public officials. It's just not a model that everybody is familiar with. If you talk
about it directly as empowerment it would be confrontational because basically you're telling
them that they are disempowering people. That's not helpful to them to hear that. Also, by
talking to them about what kinds of difficulties they've had, what kinds of success they've had
before, some of the stuff that I've had in dealing with people like them in similar situations helps
them to feel that somebody understands their viewpoint and the reality that they're setting in.
Once that happens, then in dialogue and exchange you really can teach. Teaching doesn't mean,
"A, B, C, D, lecturing," but it's introducing new perspectives and other ways of taking a look at
stuff. It can be planting a few ideas as to possibilities so that they feel that it's their own idea.
Which is fine with me. My work in this field is not ego driven. I just want to get the work done.
Accolades can go to whoever wants them and needs them.
Do you present yourself to the establishment as a neutral?
As impartial. Neutrality is really hard. It's like objectivity. I don't think it's possible. The
drive is to be impartial. So that's why I'll talk to each side in these ways and it also helps to keep
from being too strong an advocate because if you're perceived as an advocate you can't help the
other party. And you're not an advocate anymore when you're with CRS. Although what we
implicitly do is balance the playing field with those disaffected groups and the mainstream
society. But you need to approach your work in an impartial way.Let me introduce something to
you that came from an earlier story. When I was advocating for the National Latino Media
Coalition and we were meeting with Senator Hollings, I presented what we were talking about in
terms of media portrayals, access to employment, ownership opportunities across the board for
print and electronic media, tax credit structures to encourage diversity of ownership and our
interest in getting public messaging out. When I was finished, he said to me, "You know, you're
not a special interest group. You're talking about John Q Public," and I said, "Yes, we are part of
the public and that's the point of view that we're representing." I was 27 or 28 when I started
there. I think that's the same approach that I brought to the work at CRS, which is assisting
public officials and law enforcement to recognize that it isn't just a screaming group of minority
people over here, but that this is a part of the public and it's in the public interest to see them that
way and have their viewpoints and concerns incorporated in public policy that way. The notion
of special interest populations is part and parcel of why you have protected classes. If you're
going to begin to undo the nature of those community dynamics, people need to perceive special
communities as part of the general community so that it gets addressed in the same way that
general community issues are addressed. I think that translation question is what I'm best able to
do with public officials and law enforcement, in ways that they can receive it. Which then
prepares them to hear it in less fine language from the community and come up with constructive
solutions. So I can do my work impartially, but it really does represent a leveling of the playing
field. So it's an advocacy for inclusive community interest without advocating for a particular
community at any particular episode.
When you have concluded a mediation, what are the indicators you look for to determine if
you've been successful?
You know what I look for, for me agreements aside because not everything is organized or
oriented towards that. I'm looking at the communication and the relationships. A long time ago
when I started this part of my training was with Governor Louis from Pueblo Zuni, who was
working on Black Mountain with the Hopi and the Navajo when I was back there in the early
70's, and he took me along with his sons. What I learned there was something that I've taken
with me forever, which is my expectation in any community conflict where we intervene either
between parties or working with individual parties like we're doing now in WTC, is the
expectation that I have and where I put my premium is that the next time we meet we'll
understand each other better and we'll each be in a different place. So I have very modest
expectations around any particular controversy. What it helps me with is not to get too wedded
to anything, although I'm completely committed. It lets me take my walks and have a viewpoint
that can help other people. It helps me from having a heart attack or getting too burned out. The
idea that we each understand each other better as an outcome and that we each will be in a
different place as an outcome as primary objectives is extremely important. It goes to an
operational definition of improved relationships and improved communication. So, that's what
I'm working for and that's what I see as a success measure. If two people who previously couldn't
talk with each other are now able to sit together, even if they don't agree, that's a big difference
from where they were before. If two people who don't agree with each other can come to
understand why the other person has the point of view that they have, that's a success measure. If
people who previously were not in any relationship to each other can now have formal and
informal ways of interacting with each other on a regular basis that's an outcome measure.
Because I know fundamentally that the whole framework for mediation is because basic respect
has broken down, communication has stopped, confidence is no longer there, there can be no
unity and there can be no community.
You're talking about improved relations.
Yes. If you build back the community, it starts with respect, communication and trust that
then people can see the different points of view and work together towards a community. I really
focus on that as outcome measures. Each step of the way I'm trying to model that kind of
behavior and how I talk to people, even people whose values I disagree with fundamentally. I
have to model the behaviors that I'm hoping they will be able to get to my example. They can be
their own example of it later. They don't have to be like me, but at least I model one way of
doing it. So there is an internal consistency to my approach with individuals and with groups
that then in turn influences the ways in which they might deal with each other. So, that's what I
look for. If that's happening I know we are knitting something and that stuff stays knit amongst
them. A lot of times really aggrieved parties will watch me handle a particularly obnoxious
person in a particular way and then think, "I never thought of doing it that way." You know, cut
them some slack. Sometimes the most nasty community individuals, because they do exist, mau
mauing people like crazy, how you handle them can be very helpful to people in officialdom
because they get frightened or intimidated by people like that. That's really where I look and it's
always a core part of my work. I think it's happened with you. I've been doing the talking here,
but it's what I try to do. So, I can understand what your needs are, where we're going, where it
could be differently framed than elsewhere, where you would like to go and how my
conversation contributes to the research efforts that you are making. So when we meet next time
maybe we'll understand each other a little better and we'll be in a different place. That's really
what I try to do. It's the relationship. Once you put that back in place with respect and dignity,
once you can get those things in place then you've helped the local situation as much as you can
Related to that, do you have other techniques that you use to build trust between you and the
parties or between the parties themselves?
Yes. There is something that I believe in fundamentally. Everything else has been systems
theory, if you've noticed my approach is not just systemic it's systematic in that I work from a
systems theory viewpoint. I have a very fundamental belief that in the intense presence of good,
evil can not prevail. Now that means intense presence of good. That's just not being good, sort
of good, and okay. I have a belief in that, a fundamental belief, and I know it to be true. So if I
can be that being, even if it only winds up witness to a conflict or a confrontation, then that
means that things probably won't get worse. So it's really the capacity for caring and the capacity
for the compassion around the human suffering that's taking place and an understanding of those
who may be creating the suffering that their own dehumanization is happening in that process.
My ability to try to help them stem themselves from their own fate, from their own action by
introducing a degree of kindness and listening to my respect and dignified treatment, that can
make a difference. Now if you get "pure evil," and they want to do it the way they want to do it,
well that's what they do and that's because they like it and that's what they're about. Well, in that
case at least we'll be able to circumscribe how much damage they can do or delimit or in some
way fence it off and help others not to become like them. That's where, if you fight a strategy
which is pernicious with a pernicious strategy of your own, all you do is become more pernicious
for whatever reason than you think you're doing it. Your behaviors and your methods of
operation will be counted toward your long-term interest. So trying to find people with more
principled ways of action and to embody those in my behavior and in my treatment without a lot
of pontification, just in my day-to-day interaction and in the course of working through a crisis
from the time I receive it and listen to a person who indicates it, to the time I assess it on sight
and work through it is a constant interaction to try to remember that fundamental human
relationship and that fundamental humanity so that people can work through it. I think that goes
to belief, it's technique, it's beyond technique. It's belief and it's a manner of being in a code of
You didn't use the word empathy?
Well, I used compassion, but it is empathy. You know sympathy will get you killed in this
business. I mean you'll die from burnout and so will extraordinary degrees of compassion, as
much as you feel it. But your ability to empathize will let you work with all the parties longer
and to communicate with them better. Without waxing too much about this, it is just the belief.
It comes from the indigenous belief, which was part of my training with Gov. Louis. People
learn how to love by being loved. Well people learn how to empathize by experiencing it. There
isn't a whole lot of it going around, especially in conflict situations. Being able to at least be able
to put yourself in the other person's point of view and for them to feel you there is helpful to you
and helpful to them. On the technique side it's very disarming.
When you hire, what skills and attributes do you consider are most important in this work?
Well I think the last one where we came to in our closure is. I think the most important one
in terms of mediation work is that ability to empathize while still staying clear in what your role
is. I also think for us and for CRS in the future, you need an ability to understand in basic ways
populations of new Americans. I think there are going to be more and more flash points and flare
ups. We've had the major tragedy now, but it affects immigrant populations disproportionately.
Now with the changes in legal structures that we're having in America, it is going to continue to
affect them disproportionately. So we are going to have conflicts between new arrivals and
people and older civil rights populations as well as older Americans of all stripes and colors and
new Americans. Being able to understand the dynamics of population change and being able to
work with newer immigrant populations as well as old line civil rights populations and the
existing dominant society population is critical. All three.
So this job has become much harder.
I think we are going to be part of the bridge builders for those communications between
newer groups and older groups in America, and that's where most of the action is going to be. So
I'll be looking for that. I think I'll be looking for some ability to work conceptually as well as
practically because CRS, even if we grow bit by bit, won't be the size we were in 1995 for ten
years, even if we grew bit by bit, just to get back to where we were in 1995. We are only 51 or
Fifty four full time equivalents. We only have 52 people. People remember 100 and 150
CRS people. That's not coming again. If it comes again, I'd be happy to see it but it's not likely.
So I need a degree of experience to have some insight to think through conceptually how to get
the greatest impact and not just respond to the conflict and crisis response, but how do you build
in systemic approaches so that communities are able to have the capacity to continue to apply the
things that they need to do in the local areas. And how do we position ourselves, and I'm looking
for people who would think about or are inclined to learn how to position themselves as CRS
people so they are accessing key community opinion makers and leadership. So that we can
guide the conflict processes better in both preventing them and then respond to them. It's a
different way to do the work in addition to the skill of having to be on sight and present. So that
we do more speaking, not just training, more speaking and shaping opinion. Chiefs of police
associations, league municipalities, conferences with mayors, interest group populations, so we
talk about CRS and we talk about the things that we see. I think that's what I'm looking for. I
don't know how many I'll find, but that's what I'm looking for.