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1 Sparrow, Malcolm.  The Regulatory Craft.  Brookings Institution,
C. 2000.  Page 311.
Mediation and
Conflict Resolution
by Bill Chipman
One major risk leaps out in public perception of the
Law Enforcement profession.  That risk is the first
one that is likely to be encountered by line
employees of regulatory and enforcement agencies,
and that is what occurs at their first encounter with
the community they regulate.  

Many of the relationships that are established
between these two groups are tainted by the initial
encounter.  This problem is twofold.  The first part
is demonstrated by the way some police officers can
enter a situation and achieve a resolution with much
less difficulty than others, based in large part on
the manner in which they approach their dealings
with others.  Some officers can make an arrest of
an unruly subject with little or no fanfare or injury,
while others become embroiled in a physical
confrontation that draws attention and sometimes
ends up getting people hurt.  

The second part is due to much of the analysis that
has been produced in the current national
examination of racial profiling, and some of the
proposed remedies for dealing with it and training
officers to deal with this problem and the public
perception that results.  

Through examination of these situations, it is
evident that better mediation/conflict resolution
training could have prevented some of these
problems.  

Conflict resolution training could have a positive
effect on these relationships.  The differences
between cooperative and competitive bargainers are
very evident in the behavior of police officers.  They
call them by many different names, but both types
could benefit from the awareness that there are two
general types of approaches to conflict negotiation.  
They would also be helped to know that there are
some techniques for recognizing these types and
how to avoid vicious cycles and change vicious
cycles into virtuous cycles.  

The tendency for distributive situations to develop
into vicious cycles evidences itself often when police
officers assume that the situation is ‘win or lose'
and enter them determined not to lose.  These
situations often have the potential to be addressed
as integrative situations, and could have resolutions
that would benefit not only the community
members, but also the police officers.  Resolutions
leaving all parties happier would be likely to result in
less citizen complaints, less altercations between
police officers and those they encounter, as well as
less curtailment of the lives of community
members.  

This is an attempt at positively effecting one of the
more “intractable problems of regulatory practice:  
how to manage discretion…”  In providing more
tools for the regulatory craftsman, I believe that the
solutions they offer will often more closely tailor to
the problem they identify.  Providing frameworks for
recognizing patterns and likely outcomes will also
allow them to more effectively identify these risks.  
Knowledge concerning how to deal with difficult
issues, ones that cannot be dealt with by simple
solutions, is necessary in order to deal with a higher
order of problems.   
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Police Author
Bill Chipman
Bill Chipman is is a
twenty-two year veteran of
Massachusetts Law Enforcement
agencies.  A graduate of the University
of Massachusetts at Amherst, Bill
holds a Master's Degree in Public
Administration from Harvard's
Kennedy School of Government, with
areas of concentration in Leadership
and Conflict Resolution.
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