The police aim at maintaining law and order and social peace, and to achieve it they can make use of authority and power in a coercive way, through repression, prohibition or control, but they can also make use of this authority and power to manage conflicts and seek amicable settlements between the parties. A study by Professor Carmen Lázaro of the Department of public law at the Universitat Jaume I, claims the opportunities offered by police mediation, which operation is still attached to a great dose of "lawlessness." In this sense, the research shows legal arguments, which clearly support the legal framework of police mediation and compliance with the reporting principles of voluntariness, freely availability and confidentiality governing any field of mediation.
"The topic for citizenship and even within the police institution is to see the police as legitimated to repress, prohibit or control, but their functions are not only those. The responsibilities attributed to the law are many more and also include actions of mediation and conflict management ," argues Roman Law Professor, Carmen Lázaro. The study comes to refute "the police cliché that in mediation police works with a great dose of lawlessness, both from the consideration of not regulated or prohibited matters as from the search for what is right. In fact, the contents of the mediation, which represents to cooperate in resolving private disputes, is a constant that has a legal basis," explains the researcher.
Police mediation is the mediation developed by the police routinely at the police facilities and with the officers in uniform, its strength, in that context, lies in the trust citizens' place in the institution and the police themselves. Studies by the Professor of the UJI in collaboration with the Unit of Police Mediation in Vila-real (Castellón) show that the fact that the police are an authority and power figure recognized by citizens helps in mediating in conflicts since citizens trust the police and this confidence is what gives the real power. "The work of mediation offers an entirely different view of the traditional repressive and coercive function, which, in a topical form, is attributed to the police, and it is giving excellent results in places where it is being applied," stresses Lázaro adding that police mediation currently represents "a challenge as it is a far from many conventional policing approaches and still has to overcome many existing clichés about the police."
At the legal level, the study warns of the need for the police to receive appropriate training and regulatory support for the principles of voluntariness, free availability and confidentiality in which mediation should be based not to be appealable. "It may seem difficult to talk about voluntariness of the parties when there is a uniformed police officer.It is, therefore, important in legal terms that the parties in conflict seek the mediation service themselves. Also, the people involved are the ones who have to seek the agreement, maintaining the principle of free provision and the police only have to guide and direct the process," she explains. As for confidentiality, the article concludes that the action of a private mediator does not differ from that of a police mediator who is equally covered by professional secrecy.
Over 92% of conflict management with a final agreement in the year 2014
The experience developed by the Unit of Police Mediation in Vila-real, with the collaboration of the research group of the UJI, has shown that the action of the police mediation has been successful in over 92% of the conflicts treated in 2014.In any case, Rosana Gallardo, local police inspector of Vila-real and coordinator of the Unit of Police Mediation, explains that "even though we have not achieved to resolve the conflict mediation, it always helps to ease tension and that is already a success in itself."
Topics covered in police mediation cover a broad range of matters, from harassment among adolescents to inheritance conflicts or disputes between neighbours, among many other cases. In the case of the activity of the Unit of Police Mediation in Vila-real, the main issues addressed at EU level in 2014 were related to unhealthiness issues (51%), followed by conflicts generated by barking dogs (20%). In the rural sphere, the major cause of conflict was the cleaning of properties (57%), followed by clashes caused by disagreements on the edge of land (17%). The intervention of the police mediation in principle is thought to be out-of-court and essentially at a community level, but the optimization of resources and outcomes results in the intervention of the Unit of Police Mediation in Vila-real at a judicial level, that is, developing mediation by referring issues from both civil and criminal courts, and showing confidence in the police management; once again, the first results in terms of management and resolution of conflicts referred from courts have been successful.
Rosana Gallardo notes that the intervention of the police in conflict management "has many advantages because it generates confidence among citizens, and it is a motivation for the police themselves. "In short, she emphasizes that the idea is to advance through mediation towards "a new, close, social and psychological police more professional and familiar that strives to strengthen community ties and promote citizen interaction and cohesion."
The will to move forward on research and development of the peaceful resolution of conflicts through the police has led to the creation by the Universitat Jaume I and the town of Vila-real, the School for police mediation "Ciutat de Vila -real." The purpose of the School, led by Carmen Lázaro, is to extend the knowledge in these areas of influence through research, training and promotion, to improve citizen coexistence through research for peaceful solutions and conflict management by the public services of police. Thus, the School aims to study the police mediation, its legal context, and its socio-economic impact, implement and promote the model of police mediation, become a centre for training and research on police mediation and foster mediation and integration training areas of young people and their environment in the culture of peace.
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