Utica, NY (WIBX) - A police mediation program is being offered in targeted areas in Utica to promote healthy relationships between police officers and community members.Utica Police Chief, Mark Williams said the aim is to bring understanding and a more harmonious existence between all members of the community. He said, "We need to be mindful that we all have different perspectives and those perspectives may not be the truth. And that's from both the officers and civilians view point. We can use the mediation as a module to actually talk out our differences, understand one another and improve community relations."

Cassandra Harris-Lockwood, Editor of the Utica Phoenix News Magazine is credited with bringing the idea for a mediation program to Utica Police Chief Mark Williams, who then worked to make the program a reality. Harris-Lockwood said, "I've been concerned over the years as so many community people have been about the nature of the relationship between the community and the police--there's no trust. That's not a good way to have your society run. You have to have the people who are there committed to your safety be trustworthy." Harris-Lockwood said she is hopeful the Peacemaker Program will bring some healing to the community however,  she stressed that it will take time to see change.

Chief Williams said officers will undergo mediation training for the next two months and the Peacemaker Program will be launched in March. Community members can also take part in the training to work as mediators.  The Peacemaker Program is a non-profit group charged with providing quality dispute resolution and advocacy services to Oneida and Herkimer Counties. The group's office is located at 502 Court Street in Utica. For more information about the program or training for the mediation program contact their office at (315) 724-1718 or visit them on line at www.thepeacemakerprogram.org.

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