The International Journal of Restorative Justice


The ambiguous practice of restorative justice

Observations on conflict mediation in a police context

Keywords restorative justice, conflict mediation, community policing, action research, case studies
Authors Ronald van Steden en Gert Jan Slump
Author's information

Ronald van Steden
Ronald van Steden is Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Gert Jan Slump
Gert Jan Slump is an independent criminological researcher and consultant.
  • Abstract

      This article discusses conflict mediation as an addition to community police work. After contextualising our topic within the scientific literature about restorative justice and restorative policing, the article presents six in-depth cases involving neighbour disputes, a street fight, domestic violence and non-consensual sharing of nude images. Our action-oriented research aims to describe the mediation sessions and evaluate them in light of three core principles of restorative justice. The conflicting parties must (a) voluntarily enter into a dialogue, and during this dialogue, the mediator needs to (b) address their individual needs and (c) promote healing, repair and restoration. We conclude that it is challenging to apply these principles fully in everyday practices of mediation in a community policing context. First, the symbolic dimension of police authority may sometimes have played a role in bringing conflicting parties together voluntarily, where previous attempts had failed. Second, in one case, the underaged victim and the offender were represented by their parents, leaving the protagonists’ needs out of the equation. Finally, we did not witness full healing and restoration in any of the cases. Instead, the mediator and the conflicting parties tried to arrive at pragmatic conflict resolution based on individual needs.

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