tension helped the parties reach a resolution, but it also fostered an adversarial mistrust between them that remained in
the wake of the formal resolution.
Program organizers need to have considered how they will
measure the program and its impact from the beginning of
the planning process. User opinions, observational reports,
and personal interviews comprise the main set of evaluation
tools that have supported the claim that dialogue programs
make a positive impact. But these tools do not assess our
human capacity for inner transformation. We have yet to
develop instruments that measure critical reflection of one’s
own ideas, or the extent to which new possibilities are recognized, or whether shared meaning is developed, even though
these inner transformations may have the greatest potential
for generating positive social change.
Programs need sufficient time and adequate resources,
which are more likely to be awarded to those that can produce
objective data to justify the investment. Although facilitated
dialogue between police and communities has important
ramifications for public safety, law enforcement legitimacy,
and democracy, evaluators and conveners will have to
uncover what measurably works, or funders may move on to
After all is said and done, dialogue programs may fall out of
favor if they fail to lead to meaningful changes in policies and
future interactions between police and citizens. Cincinnati’s
agreement is credited with keeping protests peaceful after
police killed an unarmed black man in 2015. It is noteworthy to
witness a community respond with peaceful protest after the
use of deadly force by law enforcement against an unarmed
black man, whether or not the outcome can be traced to a particular process for evaluation purposes.
Given the national, historical, and cultural scale of tensions between police and ethnic minorities, perhaps facilitated
dialogue is best supported by a number of additional interventions. For example, in addition to police-youth dialogue,
Community Mediation Maryland offers citizen complaint mediation and collaborative policy change programs in Baltimore
City and throughout Maryland. Dialogue that facilitates the
safe exchange of fear, vulnerability, and other emotions, must
occur before looking toward the future. Groups that have historically opposed each other can improve relations, but they
need to experience cooperative interaction, agree on shared
goals, learn about the “other” person, have a sense of equality
between themselves, and receive support from political leaders.
With sustained effort, positive relationships between police and
minority communities have a much stronger chance of being
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