The Basic Facts

What is mediation? 
Mediation is a process where an impartial third person facilitates discussion and possible resolution of a dispute between two or more disputing parties. Mediation is strictly voluntary for both parties. 

How does mediation proceed? 
The complainant, officer, and two mediators will meet at a designated location to discuss the incident in question. Both the complainant and the officer will be given an opportunity to explain their respective positions regarding the incident in question. The role of the mediators will be to assist the parties, explore various solutions, and develop a resolution that is mutually acceptable. 

How long does mediation take? 
The length of mediation varies from case to case, depending on the complexity of issues presented and the openness of the parties to resolution. Mediation will require sufficient time for the parties to discuss their respective positions and explore potential solutions to the dispute. As a general guideline, we recommend setting aside two hours. 

How do the mediators make a decision? 
The mediators do not make a decision about the outcome. Rather, it is the parties who voluntarily agree to a mutually acceptable resolution. The role of the mediators is simply to assist the parties with discussion. 

Is mediation confidential? 
Yes, provided that the communications (1) are made in the course of the mediation, (2) relate to the subject matter of the mediation, AND (3) are made in the presence of one of the mediators. 

How can I be guaranteed that my statements will be kept confidential? 
Massachusetts General Laws recognize the importance of confidentiality in mediations to ensure candid communications between the parties in the hope of resolving disputes. As a result, communications during mediation are considered confidential. Parties will sign a consent to mediate form that states that they agree to keep the substance of the mediation confidential in order to proceed with mediation. 

How can I be assured that the mediators are impartial? 
Mediations will be handled by members of the Harvard Mediation Program (HMP). HMP mediators abide by ethical standards outlined in the Uniform Rules of Dispute Resolution that are “designed to promote honesty, integrity and impartiality by all neutrals”. If you have concerns about your mediator’s impartiality, you can inform the mediator(s) directly and/or you can bring it to the attention of the HMP office. If necessary, another mediator can be assigned to handle the case. 

Once mediation commences, am I obligated to continue? 
No. Mediation is a voluntary process meaning that either party may withdraw from mediation at any time. In the event that a party withdraws from mediation, the incident will proceed through the standard Internal Affairs procedure and the complaint will be investigated by an investigator assigned to the Internal Affairs Division. 

What happens if the parties reach a resolution? 
If the parties reach a resolution, the case is closed. The mediators will report to the Department that the mediation was successful, and no further investigation will take place. 

What happens if the parties are unable to reach an agreement? 
If the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the mediators will report to the Department that the case was not resolved. The complaint will then proceed through the standard Internal Affairs procedure. 

Will all of the complaints filed against me proceed to mediation? 
No. It will be a case by case determination by the Police Commissioner based on the recommendation of the Chief of the Bureau of Professional Standards which complaints proceed to mediation versus which cases will be investigated by the Internal Affairs Division. Internal complaints will always be handled by the Internal Affairs Division. 

Who do I contact if I have questions about the Harvard Mediation Program? 
The contact information for the program is: 

Harvard Mediation Program
Harvard Law School
1563 Massachusetts Avenue
Pound Hall 521
Cambridge, MA 02138 

Phone: (617) 495-1854