Riverside Police Department is taking a new approach to handle their juvenile cases: mediation. The police department presented the proposal at a village board meeting on October 17th of this year.
Riverside’s Police Chief gave an example of how the mediation services could benefit juveniles. Say a child begins refusing to attend school. If the situation escalates, parents could end up calling the police to force their child into attendance. While the police officer may be successful, this method does not address the root issue of why the child won’t go to school. Mediation, on the other hand, could give the family a chance to speak openly about what is going on and seek healing for any core issues.
The programs director for the Center for Conflict Resolution, Rae Kyritsi, says that victims are not the only party helped by mediation. “We also know that perpetrators are often victims,” she explains. “Mediation is an opportunity for offenders or accused offenders to talk about their experience, to see the impact of what’s happened, acknowledge the consequences of their actions and, where appropriate, take steps toward repairing that harm.”
This could be particularly helpful for juveniles who are still developing, and it could prove to be educational and possibly result in positive changes in behavior. Mediation could also give kids the chance to be honest about things they’re struggling with, and in turn they could receive additional help where needed.
The Riverside Police Department will utilize services from the Center for Conflict Resolution, a nonprofit created by the Young Lawyers Section of the Chicago Bar Association. The center covers all areas of conflict resolution, but their collaborative services will be limited to the juvenile issues in Riverside, for the time being.
The center would handle both criminal and non-criminal cases. The mediations could still involve police officers, but only if both sides choose. Also, no one is being forced to use the mediation services. The program is entirely optional.
As mediators, we are excited to see a police department proactively reach out to a mediation organization for collaboration. We hope that this alternative solution for juveniles can bring real change to the community of Riverside, and that this practice of turning to mediation can continue to be replicated throughout the world.
If you are interested in learning more about the process of mediation, read more here.