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Utica Phoenix Editor: Mediation Needed, Not Legal Battle

Jeanette Lenoir, WIBX

Utica, NY (WIBX) - After getting word that the UPD Police Benevolent Association plans on taken legal action against the Utica Phoenix–the paper responsible for releasing an edited police dash-cam video that seems to show two officers planting drug evidence– Editor, Cassadra Harris-Lockwood is asking for mediation instead. In a released statement, Harris-Lockwood said, “Our community is currently in the world spotlight. Yes, we have issues to address on many levels, community as well as Police based but, this is an opportunity to change the way we do business. Litigation costs money, continues conflict and does not advance community relations. Mediation does.”

UPD Spokesman, Sgt. Steve Hauck said, “Going into Mediation there has to be a certain open mindness and there has to be a certain trust between the people that enter Mediation … on both sides.” Hauck goes onto say that the decision would be up to the officers involved who are represented by the PBA. He also noted that the situation was too raw at the moment. “This early on, I don’t know that there’s a lot of hope for trust and honesty on their part toward The Utica Phoenix, but I won’t speak for them, they’re individual people, they’re grown men. If it’s something that they feel would work in this case, like I said, as an agency, we’ll do everything we can–whether  they choose that, or they choose some other type of legal remedy, it’s totally up to them as individual officers,” he said.

Harris-Lockwood goes onto say in the statement released to the media, “With this incident we also have the opportunity to show the world how working in a spirit of cooperation can make the difference in a community troubled by a history of tension and suspicion between a Police Department and the residents it is pledged to serve and protect.”

Cassandra Harris-Lockwood’s full statement is below:

Community Police Mediation Program Alternative to Battle in Court

In response to word that the Utica Police Union may sue the Utica Phoenix newspaper for defamation, perhaps the Union and the individual officers might instead call into play the Community Police Mediation Program that Chief Williams launched in conjunction with the Peacemaker Program last year. The Utica Phoenix broke the story in its first edition of 2011and stood up in a press conference in support of the effort with UPD leadership and that of the Peacemaker Program in January 2011.

Our community is currently in the world spotlight. Yes, we have issues to address on many levels, community as well as Police based but, this is an opportunity to change the way we do business. Litigation costs money, continues conflict and does not advance community relations. Mediation does.

Quoting from the Utica Phoenix January 2011 article, “Mediation serves as a safe opportunity for dialogue,… allows each party to be heard, and to gain a better understanding of the other’s perspective about an incident.

“Mediation promotes mutual understanding and learning so that both parties can prevent similar situations in the future…The process can increase officer sensitivity to, and community member understanding of, racial issues and perceptions. Mediation allows both sides to see each other as individuals, which contributes to better relations between police and their community. This generally leads to healing, forgiveness, and closure.”

Lead Mediator and Executive Director of the Peacemaker Program, Steve Robinson, , says that since the inception of the program last year, there have been nine (9) cases mediated by the Peacemaker Program regarding citizen complaints over Police behavior and that every one, on both sides has had very positive exit interviews when mediation was completed. Robinson went on to say that any court case, including law suit cases, are suitable for mediation and that he would personally conduct this mediation process.

So, how about it, UPD? How about we sit down and get going at changing the climate of the way we do business here in Utica? We all have hard work ahead to advance our city. With this incident we also have the opportunity to show the world how working in a spirit of cooperation can make the difference in a community troubled by a history of tension and suspicion between a Police Department and the residents it is pledged to serve and protect.

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