GRAPEVINE — The Grapevine Police department has teamed with Dispute Resolution Services of North Texas (DRS) to offer citizens a mediation avenue, a move that Police Lt. Todd Dearing said will free up officers for other law enforcement tasks.Don Mansfield, DRS board president, offered an example: “Two neighbors are fighting over a tree. A lot of times police get called out. Why not offer the neighbors a mediator, allowing the officers to solve burglaries, thefts and other more serious crimes?”Dearing said the arrangement is a win-win for citizens and police.“We’re trying to create a new path so we can settle disputes,” he said. “It’s another tool for the officers to use.”Dearing said the partnership is ideally suited to situations that do not require enforcement action.“The officer that gets the call can say, ‘Here’s an alternative. Here’s a possible solution.’” Dearing said.At the scene, the officer gives the citizens a form that can be filled out and forwarded to DRS.“They can set up a mediation,” Dearing said. “And the officer can always come back if needed.”Dearing said this is not a way for citizens to sidestep the law.In most cases, he said, if an attacker “hits someone in the head, someone’s going to jail.”DRS is a nonprofit organization that serves the community by providing and teaching dispute and conflict resolution. Since 1983, the agency has contracted with Tarrant County Commissioners Court to provide mediation services for the county’s various courts.Mediation and training are provided by a corps of 200 volunteers who have received training that fulfills the legal requirements for a court-appointed mediator by the State Bar of Texas.Mansfield said the volunteers are not lawyers and do not provide legal advice.“We provide people with an avenue that allows them to express their concerns,” he said. “It’s our job to give them the ability to think outside the box.”Grapevine Police Chief Eddie Salame was instrumental in the new partnership.“Chief Salame is a huge proponent of this,” Dearing said.Dearing gave two examples in which DRS has been called.The first was a domestic dispute where an arrest was made, but the people involved were given DRS information so they could later address “the underlying history,” Dearing said.The second involved chickens and a noise complaint. The neighbors agreed to DRS mediation, but worked out their differences before DRS made contact.“We still count it as a win,” Dearing said.Although DRS is not located in Grapevine, the police department offers mediation sites at the Community Outreach Center and police headquarters.
Marty Sabota, 817-390-7367