January/February 2017

Submitted by Bruce Dayno, Riverwoods Chief of Police

Riverwoods Police Officers often mediate disputes between community members.  Many disputes are settled on the spot with the assistance of police officers.  Others are more complicated and involve more time and resources.  One resource successfully used in other municipalities is the  Center for Conflict Resolution.  The Riverwoods Police De-partment will be referring some of these more complicated disputes to the Center when the involved parties are open to mediation.  The following is an article from the Illinois Mu-nicipal League Newsletter with more information.

Mediating for municipalities
By The Center for Conflict Resolution
What do community members do when they have a dispute with a neighbor? Maybe they try to talk to their neigh-bor, but sometimes people are too upset to work out differenc-es on their own. Maybe they hire a lawyer and file a court case, hoping to have a judge decide who is right and who is wrong. Or maybe they do not want to go through the time, hassle and expense of the court system, so they call the police or local government office. This is where mediation comes in. The Center for Conflict Resolution (CCR) is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization that assists municipalities by providing free  mediation services to help residents resolve their conflicts.

What is mediation? – Mediation is a negotiation that is facilitated by a neutral third party mediator. Unlike a court proceeding or binding arbitration, the mediator does not make decisions for the parties or provide advice. Rather, the mediator facilitates a conversation between the parties to help identify what is most important to them and to develop solu-tions that meet their needs. The process is based on the idea that the individuals in conflict are best situated to solve their own disputes. If the parties reach an agreement, the  mediator helps the parties write up a signed agreement based on the terms that all parties have agreed to. Thus, mediation can be a great alternative to court for people who have a  previous or continuing relationship.

What is the Center for Conflict Resolution? – CCR began in 1979 in a storefront in Chicago’s Uptown neighbor-hood, started by young lawyers hoping to help neighbors resolve their disputes through mediation. In the early 1980s, CCR began working with the Circuit Court of Cook County to receive referrals and has since established partnerships with many non-profits, municipalities and community groups.

In the past two years alone, CCR has provided free mediation services to more than 10,000 community members and trained over 1,000 individuals in mediation and conflict management. CCR has 11 full-time staff members and ap-proximately 140 active, trained volunteer mediators. All CCR mediators have been certified and undergone an intensive 40 hours of training and a three-month mentorship program.

CCR regularly handles disputes involving parenting time and decision making, guardianship and probate issues, consumers and merchants, breaches of contract, foreclosures, landlords and tenants, condominium associations, religious institutions, schools and neighbor/community conflicts.

How can CCR and mediation be helpful to my  community? – CCR uses a facilitative approach to mediation. The mediator asks the parties questions to help them identify, understand and communicate their own needs and interests. The parties will talk with each other and may speak individu-ally with the mediator to explore options for settlement.

The mediator will help the parties to think through possible solutions, as well as potential consequences of the parties’ decisions regarding the dispute. The process is designed to give each party a voice, allow them to be heard and empowered, and to assist the parties in making thoughtful and informed decisions.

 How can CCR be an asset to my municipality? – When community members have a problem, they often reach out to their government officials who may not have the staff, time and resources necessary to handle the dispute. This is when Wilmette Police Chief Brian King has found CCR to be “an exceptional resource.” Chief King first referred a particularly difficult case to CCR as an experiment and has been referring cases ever since. Chief King’s officers are often called when neighbors have a dispute. The officers are able to successfully mediate many disputes on the spot, but some disputes take much longer than the 15-20 minutes the responding officer has to spend on the call. This is when Chief King refers the case to CCR.

Outsourcing dispute resolution to a third-party mediation organization like CCR has a number of benefits for municipalities. First, getting outside help with disputes saves huge amounts of staff time and resources. Concerned or upset community members can take up vast amounts of time in multiple departments within a municipality. CCR has trained mediators who can spend multiple hours with the community members in dispute, working through their problems. Second, sometimes disputants feel uncomfortable having the govern-ment involved or believe that the government favors one side or the other. CCR can come in as a neutral third party. Third, CCR mediators have gone through extensive training and are prepared to handle difficult and highly emotional disputes. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, CCR’s services are free!

What does a relationship with CCR look like? – If the parties are willing to try mediation, the municipality refers the case to CCR, and trained case managers will work with the community members to set up a date and time for the media-tion. Many mediation sessions take place at CCR’s office, located in downtown Chicago; however CCR has also worked with different communities to hold mediations on-site throughout the Chicagoland area.

If you are involved in a dispute and are interested in mediation by the Center for Conflict Resolution, Contact Chief Bruce Dayno at 847-945-1130 or at bdayno@riverwoods-il.net.

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