In Dayton, Ohio, Community Mediation Center Provides An Alternative Emergency Response
The Greater New York Chapter of the Association for Conflict Resolution hosted its 260th Roundtable Breakfast last week, “Mediation Response Unit: Conflict to Conversation in the Community.” The April 6 presentation, led by Cherise D. Hairston and Raven Cruz Loaiza, presented information about the Mediation Response Unit at the Dayton, Ohio, Dayton Mediation Center, the first mediation-based primary response program in the nation. See Cornelius Frolik, "Dayton’s mediation option for some police calls gets high marks, may expand," Dayton Daily News (Aug. 22, 2022) (available here).
Hairston is a coordinator at the Dayton Mediation Center and Loaiza is the Mediation Response Unit’s coordinator. ACR-GNY presents the monthly events with the CUNY Dispute Resolution Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.
The Mediation Response Unit is a City of Dayton program under the umbrella of the Dayton Mediation Center, which works on community conflict. The unit is an alternative response team that responds to low-emergency 911 calls within Dayton.
The program was formulated after police reform talks began in 2020 and working groups identified recommendations for the community. The program has three goals: (1) to improve positive police-community relations, (2) to be an alternative to policing for lower-emergency calls, and (3) to reduce the overall number of repeated 911 calls for certain situations and to allow officers more time to take higher-emergency calls.
Raven Cruz Loaiza stated that 54% of calls the Dayton police department receives are best suited for mediation. These types of calls include noise and pet complaints; loitering, begging, and minor trespassing; juvenile disturbances; arguments between neighbors; and arguments between friends or family members.
She also identified a number of benefits of the Mediation Response Unit for Dayton’s citizens. She explained that since individuals in the Mediation Response Unit have more time to listen to both sides in a conflict, support resolutions, and then follow up if needed, the Mediation Response Unit is often a better method to respond to non-violent disputes. The unit, she said addresses underlying causes of conflict which, in turn, reduces repeated calls and lowers the likelihood of a potentially traumatic police encounter.
Furthermore, Loaiza also identified a number of benefits of the Mediation Response Unit for the police department. Specifically, officers spend less time responding to non-criminal calls, can rapidly respond to high-priority calls, have more time to re-center before the next serious call, and have more time to build strategies to address crime patterns. She also said that officers have a higher morale because they do not have to respond to repetitive conflict and have more time to engage community members in friendly relationship-building interactions.
Loaiza explained the Mediation Response Unit intake process. The police department receives 911 calls and deems some appropriate for the Mediation Response Unit. If the situation can be resolved with a phone call, the caller will be provided with information and connected to resources and case management services, if the caller is interested.
If an on-scene response is warranted, a two-person team will be dispatched to the scene to intervene in the situation. After the intervention, the parties involved will have access to resources, follow-up, and case management services.
The presentation ended with Loaiza encouraging individuals to speak with her further about the program and recommending that people ask cities to implement these types of programs.
The full program can be watched here, where ACR archives the YouTube links and recordings of all the Roundtable Breakfast events: https://www.acrgny.org/RTB-Videos.
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The author, a second-year Brooklyn Law School student in New York, is a CPR 2023 Spring intern.