I want to draw your attention to the important work being done by the Community Relations Service of the Department of Justice in communities like Ferguson that are in crisis. The director of the Community Relations Service, Grande Lum, is one of our featured speakers at the 2014 National Conference on Dialogue & Deliberation coming up in October, and we’re honored to be following his work and to be able to hear from him at the conference.
The Community Relations Service (CRS) is often called “America’s Peacemaker.” Over the years, CRS has worked with thousands of communities, many of whom came together in crisis and emerged stronger and more unified. CRS delivers four services: mediation of disputes, facilitation of dialogue, training, and consulting.
Their must-see resource page provides tips and best practices for police, schools, community leaders, and others who find themselves at the center of crises revolving around division and inequity.
In an August 18th press release from the Department of Justice on the federal civil rights investigation into the death of Michael Brown, Attorney General Eric Holder highlighted the work of the Community Relations Service in Ferguson, Missouri:
In order to truly begin the process of healing, we must also see an end to the acts of violence in the streets of Ferguson. Those who have been peacefully demonstrating should join with law enforcement in condemning the actions of looters and others seeking to enflame tensions.
To assist on this front, the Department will be dispatching additional representatives from the Community Relations Service, including Director Grande Lum, to Ferguson. These officials will continue to convene stakeholders whose cooperation is critical to keeping the peace.
And an August 20th post on BuzzFeed covers how the mayor of Sanford, Florida (the town where Trayvon Martin was shot not long ago) has urged Feruson to welcome the help of the Justice Department and especially its Community Relations Service, saying it “saved the day” in Sanford.
Triplett, who is white, was the man in charge a year-and-a-half ago when the killing of Trayvon Martin spiked racial tensions in the area and far beyond. A situation that many expected to explode into violence, didn’t. Peaceful protestors were met with respectful police and public officials.
Triplett credits the the Department of Justice for the calm and in an interview Tuesday he urged Ferguson leaders to embrace the help the feds have to offer. In his town, Triplett said federal officials arrived with experience on how to handle large crowds and engage with protest movements.
They had tips on police tactics, too. “The best thing that you can do is use your mind and your mouth versus an nightstick and a gun. You know, ‘violence breeds violence’ type thing. These guys [Justice Department advisers] have been there, done it, they’re very astute,” Triplett said.
“We on the city side, we fix roads. We make sure your lights turn off and on. We make sure your toilets flush. We cut ribbons for new businesses. So you’ve got to rely on those that know.” Justice Department officials are engaged in Ferguson in full force, with six agencies on the ground in the Missouri town coordinating a federal investigation into the death, monitoring police behavior and trying to build a bridge between authorities and protesters through a previously little-known department branch called the Community Relations Service.
The agency, which has ten regional offices across the country, is specifically designed to diffuse tension after discrimination-charged events and was established as part of the 1964 Civil Rights act. On Wednesday, the head of CRS, Grande Lum, will be in the Justice Department party accompanying Attorney General Eric Holder on his trip to Ferguson.
Holder has been very critical of the police response to protests in Ferguson, and Justice Department officials have pointed to the early involvement of CRS as proof the feds have a better handle on how to deal with the Ferguson protests than local authorities do.
Read the full BuzzFeed article at http://www.buzzfeed.com/evanmcsan/doj-in-ferguson#1gu9nsk for LOTS more interesting content.
CRS has 10 Regional Directors who supervise conflict resolution specialists (also called conciliation specialists) in regional offices and 4 smaller field offices. These offices are strategically located throughout the country to meet the unique needs of the states and communities they serve.
The Regional Directors are highly trained professional mediators, facilitators, trainers, and consultants who are experienced in bringing together communities in conflict to help them enhance their ability to independently prevent and resolve existing and future concerns.
Regional Directors oversee the regional conflict resolution teams in the development of customized and proactive local solutions. The 10 regional offices are located in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Kansas City, Denver, Los Angeles, and Seattle. The field offices are located in Miami, Detroit, Houston, and San Francisco. The regional and field offices increase the availability of CRS services to rural communities and aid in rapid deployment during crises.
Grande Lum will be speaking during the closing plenary at the 2014 NCDD conference. Learn more about Grande here, and register today to join us at the conference!
Grande is also a Supporting Member of NCDD, and you can learn more about him on his member page. Also see NCDD’s previous blog post about Top #NCDD Resources for Addressing Racial Conflict & Inequality.