When did you begin working with
May of 1972.
What were you doing before that?
I was working part time at the
post office, but working full time as a volunteer community
activist in the Chicago 18th street area. I had moved to Chicago when I
graduated from high school. I went to school in Chicago. The University of
Illinois, Chicago City College, and Roosevelt University. Most of my time really was
spent in community activities, like the great boycott with Cesar Chavez's people. Just a lot of
activism. We felt at the time it would kind of shake up the
system. We hoped when it settled we would be a little
better off. So we worked in creating a high school in the 18th
Street area, and a clinic in the neighborhood. We consulted with
people and activists from everywhere, including the Black Panthers,
who were in Chicago setting up a community clinic. We learned
from them how to run a clinic. They'd been very successful in doing
that in other cities.
Out of that then, in 1972, one of my colleagues in Chicago
who was with CRS already asked me to help him. He had been doing
some work in Lansing, Michigan on some issues and that's where my
brother was living and attending Michigan State. My brother was
stirring up a fight and my colleague went over there to help
solve those issues. They told my brother they were looking for
somebody who speaks Spanish, and he said, "Well, talk to my
brother in Chicago." He did, but I was very reluctant. I had experienced life in Crystal City,
Texas, where I was born, and the
relations between the community and the Immigration and Naturalization Service - which was
part of the Justice Department - and then other things that I heard, such
as the F.B.I., infiltrating community organizations. So I was
kind of reluctant to join the Justice Department. I didn't trust
Then what was it that attracted
It was six months later that I
finally said, "Okay." Once I got to know the agency, I felt that I
could still do the same things and I could fulfill the
same goals, but from a different perspective. And I would
probably have more impact.
As an example right after I had signed up, we had a community
organization that had been trying to get more employment for
Hispanics in the post office. It was very difficult. My old friends called me because they were
going to picket the post office downtown because they couldn't
get a meeting with the postmaster. I said "Okay, I'll see what I
can do." I went to the post office, called the post master, and
I was going to set up a meeting. Then I went to the picket line
and some of my old colleagues were there. One of them said, "Hey Martinez, pick up a
sign and get on the right side. You're kind of a traitor now."
Or something like that. I said, "Look, I could join you, but all
I would be is one more sign carrier, whereas now I can set up a
meeting with the postmaster. You've been trying to get a meeting
for months, I'll be able to get you that meeting." So I did. I
got a meeting, they talked and things worked out. So I was doing
the same thing but now from a different perspective.
Groups up to then were not part
of the decision making process. They were not included.
I remember once I was responding to a
beating of a Mexican guy in Texas, back in the early 80's. We
set up meetings with the mayor and the police chief before there
was going to be a big march through downtown to the cemetery.
The mayor asked one of the local leaders, "Why do you have to
have this rally? You're going to give the city a bad name, with all the media out here." The guy
answered, "We didn't give the city a bad name. It's your police officers who gave
the city a bad name." The mayor asked, "Why don't you work
through the system?" The guy said, "Well, let us in." If he
wanted them to work through the system, then he had to let them
into the system. That's where I guess a lot of minorities see
themselves as not being part of the system. For whatever reason.
But they need to be in where decisions are being made. In
essence, a lot of our work is pretty much like that leveling the
playing field. Bringing them to the table where they can discuss
matters on a level plain. Through us, they can get to do that.
Once they're there, they take up matters themselves.
That strikes me as a real interesting way to move into the
case that we were going to talk about which is the relationship
between Vietnamese and the KKK. The KKK is certainly a small
organization, but obviously the dominant group, and not one that
necessarily needs help getting to the table.
The issue with the Vietnamese was after the war in 1975.
They came to this country, not knowing the culture, not knowing
the language, and with very little resources. They were settled in
Texas and other states, but they eventually migrated on their own,
especially to the Texas coast. When they got there, they saw
that the best way of making a living at that time was to go into
the crabbing or shrimping business. The investment
was very low, all you needed was a boat. So they bought these
boats and after a few years, once they saw how they were made,
they started making the boats themselves. They were beginning to
put a lot of pressure on the local fishermen because they were
disturbing their way of life. Tensions began to build. It's mostly
small communities out there on the coast. In Seadrift, Texas, two Vietnamese brothers
that were into crabbing were being harassed a lot by this one
Anglo crabber. From what I understand, this went on for several
months. Finally, they were accosted by the docks one day and
severely beaten. So then they both went to their home, got some
weapons, and killed the guy.
So it was the Vietnamese that killed the white guy?
Right. In retaliation. So that started a series of events that
got me involved. It was August of 1979 when the killing
How did you initially hear about
it? Was it something on television, in the media?
I had been vacationing in Mexico. I
called the office and they said that something had happened up
here and asked if I could come back. Seadrift is about a two
and a half hour drive from Houston.
The town is a small community of
about a thousand people. It had about a hundred, to a hundred
and fifty Vietnamese. A seafood processor had brought them from
Louisiana. His buddy had told him that if he was to bring Vietnamese, they
were good workers and the women were excellent at picking the
meat off the crabs. They came as a group and were living in some
trailers away from the main part of town. After a while, they
did rent some homes. The Vietnamese are known to be very frugal, very
industrious, and they saved their money that the women were
making at the plant and got some boats and they themselves went
They came from Vietnam where there are no rules or
regulations about fishing. You can fish as much as you want and
keep whatever you catch. Well in Texas, to preserve the industry,
you can't fish at night and you have to return some stuff. Also,
there are open waters and closed waters, and some bays are closed entirely. You also have state
regulations and federal regulations, as
well as a two hundred-mile limit into the Gulf of Mexico. The Vietnamese
didn't pay too much attention to all those laws and customs and
what have you. So they began getting in trouble with both the
authorities and with the local fishermen.
A lot of it was culture, the fact they couldn't speak the
language. But they could shrimp and fish without knowing the
language, so they were out there from sunup to sundown. Only
hurricanes would keep them in. The long time fishermen had
customs and they had been there forever. The local, long time
fishermen would be there until two or three in the afternoon, then
sell their catch and drink some beer and get ready for the next
day. The Vietnamese wouldn't come out until sunset and they
would keep almost everything, and they would eat the stuff they
couldn't sell. So that caused problems.
We have to understand the environment we work in, the lay of
the land in a sense. The Vietnamese were very group orientated,
so if one would find a good shrimp spot they would call in all
the other Vietnamese, or as many as could come over, and share in
the bounty as a group. The local longtime fishermen took a
different philosophy. It was: you're independent, so if you
found a good fishing or shrimping spot, you'd be left alone so
you could benefit and be rewarded for your skill. So it would be
one person benefiting whereas the Vietnamese were a group
benefiting. The problem with that is that the Vietnamese were
accused of disrupting the water so much that the shrimp would
leave and wouldn't come back for days. So that was another
source of friction.
Shortly after the killing, the
Klan got involved. They were very active in the community and
might have had some sympathizers. Mainly, they were out-of-
towners who would pass by and try to intimidate folks by burning
a few crosses shortly after the Vietnamese killed that guy. There
was some retaliation. Some Vietnamese boats were burned and some homes were
firebombed. Local police increased security. That was including
the police chief who told me he couldn't preserve the evidence
from the crime scene because he was trying to help the man who
was wounded. The crime evidence went out of the window. I
think one weapon was recovered and then lost later. When the
trials were coming months later, I worked with the community and
the law enforcement to prepare a security plan to make
sure that the Vietnamese population was protected.
We gathered law enforcement from throughout the county,
state, and local police agencies, plus the one police chief. The
mayor was a young guy who got in my car and he had this big gun.
I said, "Why do you have that?" He replied, "I gotta be ready for those
S.O.B.'s." I said, "What about me?" He said, "You take care of
yourself." At that time, the Klan was getting a lot of media coverage, and the rest of the
community was concerned about that. They knew they didn't
believe in what the Klan was saying, but there was no other
voice. Also, they were afraid to go against the Klan, because
they knew these people may be armed and dangerous. So they kind
of just went along.
What I tried to do is create a bigger voice through the
community leadership. The clergy, the school
people, the business community, they can make up a larger voice.
In any community, we look for those who make decisions,
those who play a role in deciding what that community does or
doesn't do. If you break it down to elements, you have the
politicians, the educators, the business community groups,
organizations which include minorities, and law enforcement.
How do we
know who to talk to? We have an idea since every town has a
mayor. We don't know any names, so we just call the operator and
say, "Hey, give me City Hall and the chief of police." Hispanic
minorities in Texas are associated mostly with the Catholic
church. But you cannot ask the operator to give you the number for the Catholic church.
You have to ask for a specific name. But there's always a First Baptist Church.
You can call that preacher and ask him for the name of the
Catholic church in that town and where the minorities go to church? I
would also ask about African American churches and their pastors,
and how I could reach them. Before we show up, we know a lot
about the town because the people tell us. Once I arrive, I look
around to see who's got the biggest business, who's got the
biggest house, are they racially mixed. Usually, I ask for the top three business people
and I ask those people who the top politician is. I also ask the mayor who
are the top business people, the top educators, the top community
organizations, the top law enforcement.
Are you doing this after you get
Usually, we try to do as much as
we can on the phone, but if it's an emergency we have to be there
quickly. Once I get
there, I ask them several things from their point of view. What
do they think is going on? Also, these people will tell me a lot
of things about each other. Sometimes people have things they
don't want you to know. So we just ask a lot of questions. Who's
the leadership, who's the top educator, who's the top
businessman, who speaks out front, who's in the back? Who calls the shots? They tell
us. Then we make sure we talk to those five key individuals.
Then we can pretty much be effective. The whole point of
being effective is to create some kind of
change or to help them progress, to solve their own problems.
When you asked about the top three in each category, did you
hear consistent names?
What I'm looking for is consistent
names. If four of these people tell me I ought to talk to John
Doe, I'll make sure I talk to John Doe. Now once I get to see them, what do I see
them for? Essentially, I want to know what they know about the
situation. Everybody sees things differently. Your
reality is different from another persons reality. There are no
real truths to a situation because we all see things differently.
That's just the way we are. In essence, I have to find out your
perception of what happened. What did you see? What do you think
is going on? Also, what is it that you want, how do you want the matter resolved, and what role
do you want to play in the resolution?
In the particular case that we're talking about, are you asking both sides about the situation?
Yes. Sometimes getting answers from the Klan might be more
difficult, but there are other people that sympathize with them, or
speak for them, so I'll talk to them. Later on that year, I became very much involved with them in
other communities. I used to then have breakfast or lunch with
the Grand Dragon every other week to see what they were doing and they'd ask
me what I was doing.
Did they welcome your presence?
I think so. I always go self-interest. It
was in their self-interest to know what I was up to. My position
with those kind of groups is that they can let me know as much as
they want to let me know so that I can help. I tell them, "If
you're intent on committing a crime or being involved in criminal
activity, I have to report that to law enforcement. So if you're
going to do that, don't tell me. However, tell me enough so that I can
help." So we have an understanding.
But in this particular case, I would also talk to the politicians and
the educators, and they tell me how things were. The Vietnamese
and the white fishermen also talked to me. The first priority
was security of the town, especially the security of the
Vietnamese population. We planned that closely with law
enforcement officials. Second priority was to help the town. At that time,
it was being paralyzed, a lot of businesses were being closed. I
asked the mayor to convene a meeting of all the town leaders.
Then we began the process.
Generally, I ask them what they think needs
to be done about the problem. So, quickly we turn from a
complaint phase into a resolution phase. Also, do they
personally want to be a part of the solution process? Some say,
"Yes, let me know what you need from me. I'll be there." Some
will say, "I'll tell you everything you ever need to know, but
don't invite me to be anywhere. Politically it's not safe for me
to be there." They tell us who we need to talk to in the
leadership, and tell us about the behind the scenes people.
Isn't anybody interested in getting rid of you?
I guess there would be those certain kinds of people. But in
this process, the more responsible elements began to take hold,
always going back to their self-interest. In
another community where there was a racial killing,
I went to the business leaders,
the chamber of commerce people, and asked, "What is this costing you?"
"It's costing a lot of hotel reservations. People that were
going to have conventions here have canceled. Fishing is quite
popular around there, so some of the fishing tournaments have been
canceled. The downtown shops are losing money because that's
where some of the Klan rallies have been." It was to their self-interest to
get involved, to do something about it. So going
back to the self-interest, that conflict is bad business. Racism
that causes conflict is bad business. And it's bad for the
community business, so what I do is get to the self interest of
these different elements. It would be to their self interest to
get involved to fix the conflict. It's like say a hand or a
body, you smash a finger, well the whole body hurts, not just the
finger, the whole body needs to get involved in fixing the
finger. In making it better for that one element it makes it
better for everybody. Communities work in the same way.
Can you briefly tell us what the other interests were for the
groups besides the businesses?
Political leaders want to be elected and they care for the
overall community. As for educators, their classes were being
canceled, causing disruption in the schools, it's not good
business for them, either.
Was there picketing outside of schools and businesses?
No, but the Klan and others would have rallies in town, and it would intimidate everyone.
Kids didn't want to go to school. The community organizations
and clubs want peace and tranquility and they don't like
violence. So everybody has a self-interest, it's just a matter
of discussing it with them. I never tell
anybody what to do
because it could be the worst thing they could do.
But I do help them analyze their situation and then they decide what
to do. Then we discuss option A, B, or C.
Which one has the most positives, which has the most negatives.
Then they decide which option they take. There's consequences
for A, B, and C. Good or bad, but there's consequences for doing
Do you have this discussion with
each group individually?
Sometimes in groups or with individual members. A lot of times
individuals can give me more information than when in a group
I talk to them individually and as a group to get a consensus. Always I ask, what do they
think has to be done to resolve what's going on, and what role do
they want to play. From this I try to get a community committee
made up of all these elements. Once this committee decides to
go somewhere and do something it will
most likely be successful, because they have the okay of all
these elements. That applies everywhere. Wherever you go
there's different sectors of clubs or churches and they're
all interrelated. The politicians may also be business persons,
they have kids in school, they go to church, they belong to some
clubs, their relatives might be in law enforcement. It's the same
with everybody, in law enforcement the cops go to church and they
have businesses, so it's all interrelated. You must have
representation of the entire town, and if this committee decides to do
one, two, and three, it likely will happen.
Now it looks to me as if most of the people in those categories
are likely to be with the dominant group. How do you get minority people involved?
I did say, there are community organization involving minorities.
In this little town with the fisherman it wasn't
quite that way. The Vietnamese were not that vocal, they were
not a political force and they were excluded from a lot. The
whole town acted on behalf of their own community for tranquility
and peace and progress.
So how did you get this group
together in the Vietnamese's place?
I asked the mayor five or six times throughout the weeks and he just wouldn't do it, finally he
"Let's do it." We went to his house and he called all these people and I said, "Give me the fifteen
people that run this town." So he had fifteen or twenty people
and we discussed what they thought of this. Some were very
scared because of what the
Klan was doing, but some had reached a point where they wanted to
I remember the owner of a
restaurant who said, "This is it, my business is down and it may
close." They were afraid that if they did something they might
experience retaliation. She said early at three or four in the
morning she heard a noise in the kitchen and she got up and it
was her five year old daughter hiding on the side of the
refrigerator, and she asked her what she was doing, and she said
that the Klan was coming and she was afraid. She said, "When my
child gets that afraid and can't even be safe in my house I'm not
going to be afraid, I'm going to go out there."
We analyzed with them their options
and what they wanted to do. They chose a community rally
although they said if we have a rally the Klan is going to come
and the media is only going to cover the Klan. Also, what about
security? So we helped them with law enforcement and came up
with a security plan. It had to be a public rally so there
wouldn't be retaliation of those speaking, with the option of
city council passing a resolution condemning the violence and
hatred. They were supporting brotherhood, togetherness, and
working with each other, so the politicians were going to meet in
public and pass this resolution. They asked me to write the
resolution, I couldn't, but I did review it.
How long after you got on-site did
the first meeting take place?
This was about a month later when a lot of businesses had
closed and the rallies of the Klan were ongoing.
Why didn't the mayor want to get this group together earlier and then
change his mind?
I don't know. I guess he felt that town wasn't ready at the
time. I hardly ever did get too excited, but I got excited that
first meeting because a lot of the people kept talking about the
Vietnamese and who brought them in there and who's going to take
them out. People thought they were brought in by the government
and the government's paying them. The government was giving all
this money to the Vietnamese to compete with the white men, which
was not totally accurate. Once we had the committee going we set up goals for them and we
clarified the rumors and got correct information.
They were accused of not paying
taxes, so I went to the IRS and got the laws on taxes and loans,
and we made all that information public. Through these
committees we have a vehicle that allows us to have information.
The committees give us information of what they need or what's
going on because they know the community. Then they disseminate
the information to the rest the population. Through this we set
up a plan.
thing we looked at were the friction points of the Vietnamese not
obeying the laws and customs. We went to the Parks and Wildlife
Department. They control hunting and fishing throughout Texas
and I asked them for the ten commandments of fishing and
crabbing in Texas. They had eight regulations, so then we
needed to teach them to the Vietnamese. Once I got the eight commandments, I had my wife
write them on posterboard and then I went to the Vietnamese people
I was working with, and they translated them for me. So I had
the regulations in English and Vietnamese and we had a training
program. The game wardens would say the regulation in English
and it would be translated into Vietnamese, and we would give them all these laws in
writing in both languages.
The other part was the Vietnamese/American custom barrier.
That caused more problems. For example, when a shrimper or
crabber is out in the bay if they have problems with their boat,
such as mechanical problems, anybody at sea is supposed to come
and help them. The long-time fisherman were complaining that
their boats would have trouble and they would signal, but the Vietnamese would just
laugh at them. This would make them more angry. "Not only are
they taking our way of life, but they're mocking us." But the Vietnamese said they thought they
were waving at them, so they were waving back and smiling at them because they
wanted to be very friendly. They couldn't understand what the
signal was, because they'd never seen the signal. Through these
training programs they taught each other.
that group have any other issues with language?
Well customs, like cutting in line at the food store, that
irritated a lot of people. The Vietnamese supposedly saw all the options, and the best option
for them was to cut in line.
they understood how their behavior was influencing the
wrong kind of population, were they willing to change?
Yes. Through education and law enforcement. Because
law enforcement was ticketing them and costing them thousands of
dollars in fines, and confiscating whole boatloads of shrimp that
were caught illegally. In this community the Klan had announced
a huge rally, and we helped the community get together to have their own
rally so that they would be protected and not get retaliated on.
We had spokespeople for the business community, the clergy, the educators and other sectors.
When we had the community rally there was a lot of protection, we had plainclothes
police officers and uniformed police officers. It filled the school auditorium and the Klan was
there with their sympathizers. After the dialogue, discussion, and presentations,
the city council voted to pass a resolution. It got coverage,
and the citizens took the town back. I just helped the community
to use all of its elements.
Did the main group or the majority
group make any concessions at all? It sounds as if the
Vietnamese minority community adapted to make adjustments to
accommodate the nine hundred other.
We wanted to buy time that the Vietnamese would get to know
how to do business and how to live in Texas. The American way
let's say. And the locals would get used to the Vietnamese being
amongst them. You go there now, the honor students in the schools
were all Vietnamese. They were getting all the awards and
getting scholarships so I think it was a matter of both sides
understanding each other through that period. And we were the
catalyst to make it happen and help the community realize what it
was facing, and what they could do about it. They decided what
they needed to do and they did it. We just kind of helped them
along the way.
KKK involved in this process?
Yeah, they were. They came to some of the meetings.
Was that the sympathizers or the KKK?
The KKK itself did come. They weren't wearing their robes while they were at the meetings.
What was their dialogue? what were they saying?
First of all, that the Vietnamese were fishing illegally but the government wasn't
doing anything about it, they weren't enforcing the laws. And
because they weren't enforcing the laws, the Vietnamese were taking
advantage of the locals' situation and the government was giving
them all this money so it's an unfair advantage and so the Klan was out
there to help the locals fight that. They were protecting the
local community and its way of life.
Did you ever find out how they became involved?
Any situation like this brings them out. Later on in another setting,
when thousands of persons were coming across the border illegally, the Klan
said they were going to help the border patrol because the border
patrol could not keep all these aliens out. The border patrol
said, "Hey, we don't need your help." Then I found out a
vigilante Mexican American group was going to go out there to
confront the Klan if they ever showed up, but they didn't.
There's not that many of them. Through cross burning and
rhetoric the Klan can cause a lot of concern. The minority
community would say some law enforcement people are sympathizers.
That they may not be wearing their robes but
they certainly share the same feelings. We don't find guilt or
innocence, we're trying to find out what they can do together.
Also, we don't make any decisions. In essence in this whole
process we sell ourselves. It's always a personal interaction.
I have to sell myself to you. Once I do that, then I sell the mediation
How do you do that?
We explain the benefits of the process. Through the process they come together, and then
they sell each other, and then we're out of there. I
believe that the process is seventy-five percent of the solution.
Long ago, there was a scientist, philosopher, and writer,
Marshall McCleuen, who said of TV, that "the medium is the message."
Similarly, "The process is the solution." Because the problem is not necessarily what somebody did or
didn't do, the problem is the fact that we don't trust each
other, we don't communicate with each other, we're very
suspicious of each other. We do hostile things to each other
because we don't know any better. Through the process we get to
see each other as human beings, and we have so much in common.
We're just trying to make a living and we're looking out for our
kids education and what have you. That's universal. That's the
solution and they can do all kinds of things tangent to that,
once they have this trust of each other. Sometimes it takes an
outsider with no interest other than wanting to help them. We
don't give out any money, we don't sell anything. If they don't
have to accept us there, they can run us out of town. I tell them that if at any time they think my
presence is negative for them, let me know. Because I'd rather not do
anything than do something harmful. All they have to do is just
So you go into the initial meeting
laying everything out, explaining your procedure and your process
up front with both parties?
I do it individually, or in a group setting. Sometimes
we may key in on certain people depending on what the issue is
and how bad or how small the problem is.
Do you decide that before you go in?
No, I have to find out. I make as
much contact as I can by phone but that's only to determine if
we have jurisdiction. Is there a conflict in this community, and
is it related to race? That's usually the phone contact. When
we're there we explore the situation further.
Given the detail on the process, I was wondering if you could
go back and speak specifically about the case. How were you able to
get the parties to trust you or to buy into your process, what
were the special techniques you used?
Starting cold, if I came in here, I'd have gone into your
office, I would have looked at what you have around you cause
that's important to you. If you have pictures of your family,
I'd ask you about your kids and I'd tell you about my kids. I'd
tell you where I've been and what I've done lately. The town,
I'd tell you about the temperature of the town. And there's
always something there. Try to find that.
And what did you [unknown]?
Because it's so hot down there, it takes certain fortitude and strength to be out there on
a boat eight hours a day, the sun beating on you and the boat
rocking all the time. So what I did
the first time I went there, I went to the dock I just sat
there for two hours, to try to understand what makes a person be here, when
they could be doing some other job. I just asked them why. I
showed an interest in their situation, in their lives. It's just
human interaction. We're all human beings, so they see my
humanity and I see their humanity. Now we can work.
just go up and say, "Hey, I'm from the government and I'm here to help
you," you know that old line. When you walk into a sheriff's
office let's say, you walk differently. Wear my other boots, the
ones that make a sound, they're more like semi cowboy boots, wear
my suit, pinstripe probably, blue tie, walk in there like you belong.
Take a different position, ask some tough questions,
but in a very friendly manner, and at some point they'll know
you're not there to investigate them. You're not there to
prosecute them, you're not there to do them harm so that they have to
watch out and look out and be careful what they tell you. The
more comfortable they feel with you, the more they'll tell you.
That's the only way to help them because you have to understand
their reality. Their reality from their point of view. That's the
only way you can understand them, to try to help them resolve their own problems.
Was each party aware you were
Yes. Only because I had told them, but a lot of them didn't know.
Let me go back to the Vietnamese
story. In this little fishing town, the Vietnamese were found not
Not guilty of killing this one guy. They had good lawyers.
They made the case that you can defend yourself if you feel that
your life is in danger. You can take life preserving measures to
defend yourself, including using a weapon. The jury had to weigh the fact that, in this
situation, the Vietnamese felt in imminent danger even though it was fifteen
minutes later when they killed the man. They had good lawyers, and they made the case for
coming back and shooting the guy.
At the time, I used to have a government car. It was a brown
Plymouth Horizon, little bitty car. In this little town, there's
only one way in and one way out. I always used to take different
streets when I was in town at night. I was cautious, in case somebody
was following me. The first night I stayed at that hotel in town
I had to fight the roaches and rats and what have you all night.
I stayed in the next town, but I would always leave from a
different direction. I used to park my car in the parking lot at
City Hall, they had one big light. So after roaming around with whoever, I would
come back and pick up my car, let's say
11:30 at night. The whole town was dead by then. I would open
the door, lower the window, and then put the key inside and then
turn it while I was still outside, if it blows up you go with it.
So you were afraid?
Well, we all had to take precautions. We worked by ourselves
most of the time. One time the committee people told
me, "Hey the boys know when you're coming," meaning the Klan. I
said, "Oh yeah? How do they know?" "Well, they know. And you
know what they say?" "No, what do they say?" "Here comes Martinez in his Tijuana Taxi!"
A lot of times, the police say, "I'm
not gonna meet those people. They came to my office last week
and the leaders were screaming and hollering, calling me racist and a
pig and I'm not gonna stand for that."
I would say, "Why don't I
go back to that community group, propose to them they come meet
you with a list of what they want. They want answers, but I'll have them
prepare their questions beforehand. So before the meeting,
you'll have all their questions and maybe something that they
want you to do. You can analyze that and see how you feel, but I'm
going to run the meeting. Before the meeting starts, everybody
is going to agree to some ground rules. No screaming, no
hollering, no insults, no nothing, I'm going to introduce the
topic, I'm going to run the meeting, I'm going to manage the
process. With those assurances, they're more willing to meet.
When did you know that it was the
right time to bring them together?
I brought them together once I have all these ground rules
written out and everybody understands what's going to happen.
Usually when I call a meeting I would have met with each one to
see where they're coming from. How do they see this issue, what
do they want, and are they going to be part of the process? Are
they going to follow some of the rules that are going to be set?
I don't like surprises, so before the
meeting, I would find out the game plan for each person so I know
where the pitfalls may be. A lot of times emotions are so high
that things may get violent. If you bring them together too
soon it's going to make matters worse.
What's the difference between "need" and "have to have"?
I guess it's just another form of that, what is essential and
what is critical. "This is what I have to have, I'm not walking
out without this. I may need only this much, but I really want
that much, so I'm going to ask for all this, and then you can
negotiate down." Now the other side is probably thinking the
opposite. "I'm not going to give them anything. But if they
push me, maybe I can do this much." Just a matter of getting
them to balance out.
back for a minute, when you're designing the process, do you get
them involved in process design and ground rules, or do you do
We negotiate with them one-to-one and make sure everybody
understands. We discuss and develop the ground rules at the
start of the formal meeting. We help them decide how these
meetings are going to run. They already know they have to
respect each other, but now they have to commit to each other face-to-face.
Is there kind of a standard structure you use where each side lays
out their needs and then lays out solutions?
They lead themselves to that. Like in this situation with the
fishermen, it wasn't that formal. But some other situations are
very formal. For example, there's a town in Texas where
police action caused a lot of disruption and the community had
allegations of police brutality. I had worked with that chief
before in a previous situation, and so he asked me to come and
help. I had the chief's support, but the newspaper reported that he
had asked me for help. So then it was assumed I must be aligned
with the chief and competing against the minority community.
Again we helped them to analyze their situation. They wanted an investigation
by black F.B.I. officers, and of course they were going to write
to the attorney general for this F.B.I. investigation. I explained
to them that there were some benefits through my process that
they would not get with the others processes. They could always exercise those options, they
could file a civil suit against the city, which they did, they
could ask the Attorney General to investigate, which they did,
they could picket and holler and scream, and they did that too.
Or, they could use my process, mediation. Then we analyzed the
situation with them. Their attorney was advising the community people not to talk
to the police or the investigators. This caused a problem
because the police could not investigate through internal
affairs, and the chief thought the police were being set up. I told
the community, "I will write a letter to the Attorney General,
once it filters through the process, it's going to take maybe a
week or two. Then they'll assign it to a local F.B.I. agency so
then about two months from now you'll have an F.B.I. agent over
here. They'll take another month and a half to do the
investigation, then it will go back to the civil rights
division." I always tell them what the process is, because they
may not be familiar with it.
So what exactly was the issue?
It was a police brutality issue. There was a black youth party going on. A police officer came
and then there
were arguments among the people sponsoring the party about why
the police were called. The police then left, but
they came back and got involved in an argument and one of the
police officers was hurt. He called for other police officers, and then everybody
came. According to the witnesses, the police were pushing people and
they used mace and a lot of racial epithets. They even sprayed
mace in a little girl's open mouth.
I had to analyze, with the community leaders, how long it was going to take for the
FBI investigation to be completed and whether or not there would be
African American agents. It was going to take at least a month
before an investigation would start. Maybe there might have been
federal violations, but not something they could prove. It could
have taken five or six months.
So I advised them in the
meantime, "You have this problem with the police department. The
lawsuits are going to cost a lot of money, and maybe a jury's
going to hear it three years from now. In the meantime, I can
offer you this mediation process. You can sit down and write about
whatever troubles you about the police department, ever since
time began." "Are you going to tell the chief about this?" "No,
I'm not going to tell the chief, you're going to tell the chief."
"Yeah, well they're not going to do anything." "Well, they're
going to tell you what they're going to do or not do right there
in front of you." So there's all kinds of benefits. "If you don't think
the process is working for you, then drop it.
But as long as you think it's working for you, go ahead." And I told
the same to the police.
So they came up with nine
issues, including recruitment of minorities, internal affairs
investigations, and composition of internal affairs. How the
police enforce the law in one place and not another, and their
excessive use of force. So what I have the community do is set the agenda. I asked them
to propose a remedy. "What would resolve it? Something that's
doable. We talked about what's doable. You can't fire all the
officers and the chief, but what is doable." Right away you take
them from a complaint mode to finding a solution. Right from the
very beginning practically, once they accept the process. So you
have an issue and the police department's going to come up with a
response. It may not be what's happening, or how the police see
it, but this is how we see it, and that's in writing.
Did you ever assist a party in
coming up with what their interests were? Were there parties who
were not well organized?
Yes. You teach them the process and what's required of them.
"You have to look at this, you have to spend time, talk to your
neighbors, talk to whoever. What are issues that they are
concerned about? One person is not going to know everything, and
one person is not going to represent everybody. You have to have
enough representation of both of the population and of the issues
Did you help them determine what was doable? If they came up with things
that were off the wall, would you tell them?
I do the old devil's advocate thing. A lot of times they want civilian
review boards, so I'll provide information or compilations of cities that have review boards and
how they're working. You can use that. "And I give that to the
police also, but you might expect that they're not going to
accept it and if they don't accept it, what other option do you
want? What's the next thing that would satisfy you?" Also, I
explain to them what I'm interested in doing. Especially when it
involves excessive use of force, a possible solution is to lessen
the opportunities for problems to occur, for police misbehavior
to occur. Lessen the possibility of that and then you don't have
to deal with the after of trying to correct it.
First, recruit the best people that you can and as diverse
as you can, and give them the best training that you can give
them. Monitor their activity. A supervisor needs to discipline
them. If you do all that, and the community has opportunities to
partner with law enforcement, through committees or police
advisory committees, things can be taken care of before things
get big. If you tell the chief some things that are wrong, he
might be able to come up with a response, a remedy, an agreement
of what will be done. This agreement will describe what is going
to be done, who is going to do it, and by when. Otherwise you
don't have accountability and you're just wasting time. My time
What assurance do you have that the
police will do what they say they're going to do by the time
they're going to do it? What happens if they don't?
The negotiators set up a monitoring committee of law
enforcement and community representatives. The people and the police negotiate it as a deal and
agree to meet three or four times a year, or at the end of four months. They will sit down and
review all that was planned and see if it has been done. Most likely it will have been done
we only talked about what's doable. What happened in all this is
the people are now talking directly to the chief. They see that
officers are not sprouting horns like everyone painted them to
be. They're not devils. We're all people here.
The other day in this big town, there was a mediation meeting with police command staff, and
I asked them to tell about themselves. Why did they get into law enforcement?
How long have they been with the department? One sergeant, who's
an assistant to the command person, said, "Look, I've got
relatives, and they're all like you. I'm the one that's a police
officer, but they're not. They face the same problems you face
when you're out there." So the people there got to see this
person as a human being that has relatives just like they do.
Comfort and lack of intimidation are very important. For the next
meeting, all the police were not going to have uniforms.
But everybody knows each other now, and we've reached that
level. Now we're very much into negotiating what's going to be
done. Who's going to do it and by when? So the monitoring
committee, at the end, assures that it's continual.
Another town I worked with went through this process. At
the end, the mayor wanted to have a press conference in City
Hall, and the mayor signed it, the chief signed it, the city
manager signed it, as well as the community representative. They
all agreed to a monitoring committee that was going to meet three
or four times a year for two years. However, they then agreed to
make that monitoring committee permanent. Then it became the
conduit for issues, human beings are human beings, we've been
dealing with conflict since Cain and Abel hit each other or
something. That's a long time ago.
Did you ever caucus or provide
assistance to only one group and not the other?
No, I don't think so. There was one case in a small community outside of
Houston where a lot of Klan violence was occurring. F.B.I. and others
investigated it, nobody was prosecuted, so we did an analysis.
We had the community create a committee that of course couldn't
be called the anti-Klan committee. It was called the Area Civic
Club. I try to create a committee if there's not one, so we did
that there. There were rumors
that anybody going to the meeting would have their home fire-
bombed. So we had a lot of police protection. A funny thing
is, once you had the meeting going, the Klan showed up the first
time, and just glared. In other parts of the area, they had gathered and fired off a cannon,
burnt their crosses and all that. But at this second meeting,
one to the leaders of the local Klan brought his people in, and he is now the
Grand Dragon of Texas. He came and sat down and argued that it was the wetbacks who were
all the violence going on there. He was there to defend the good
name of the Klan. He said, "In fact, we haven't hung anybody in
In another city I worked with the shrimpers back in 1981 or
1982. We always had to do things at the start of the shrimp
season because things would heat up then. This one particular
year, the Klan had been very active along the coast. We brought
the communities together, helped create another committee of
locals to deal with their problem, and had meetings with the
Grand Dragon. This guy was also the head of a white fisherman's
group. We had already talked individually, so when we met
together, I talked to them about the benefits of coming up with
an agreement about how they're going to share the bay. We had
the meeting, but there were some glitches that we had not foreseen. The Dragon walked
out. We were meeting at the City Hall and after one of his
supporters walked out, I walked out.
I was at the front table with the guy who was running the
meeting, but he was doing a bad job of it. He seemed like he'd
had too much to drink the night before. I didn't expect he was
going to be partying all night, so I went to the Dragon and I
said, "Hey what's going on?" He said, "We're going to go to the
Governor. Forget all this." I always try to deal things at the
most local level because the local people are the ones that are
going to be out there, not the governor. I said, "I thought we
worked it out." "Yeah, but this SOB..." This was about a year
after the killing in the other town of the white guy by the
Vietnamese. I said, "You're all going to be out there, the
Vietnamese are going to be out there. If the shooting starts,
it's going to go all kind of ways. We don't want what happened
in that little town to happen here." He said, "Yeah, you're
right. I'm not going to go to jail for so and so." I said,
"That's what I'm talking about. Nobody has to go to jail, nobody
has to get killed. We just need to go back to the table over
there and I'll run the meeting." He says, "Okay, if you run the
meeting, we'll go back." Diplomatically, I talked to the guy who
was running the meeting and told him the plan. He said, "Yeah.
Let's do it." So we got an agreement. I think it's the first time
ever that the Klan signed an agreement with the Vietnamese fishermen on how all fishermen
going to share Galveston Bay.
It's interesting that you were able
to convene the meeting with the KKK. Did your race or ethnicity
ever become a factor in the negotiations?
Sometimes. But I had meetings with them, the Imperial Grand Wizard and the
Grand Dragon, and they differentiated between me and rest. I was
Hispanic and the rest were wetbacks. They were planning a demonstration,
and they don't say anything about
Hispanics, but they say wetbacks, chinks, gooks, Jews, and all
that. So I was sort of different. In fact, that guy called me a
year or so ago, and he had some problems over there. But he had
reformed. He said, "I no longer call people wetbacks. They are Hispanics." Great,
that's progress. It's always personal. If I only dealt with
people that agreed with me, I'd be the most lonely person out
there. It's when they start putting some of these racist beliefs into
action that it becomes a concern of mine. Depending on what that
How do you diffuse tension when you've got groups that deeply hate each
Normally if there are going to be counter-demonstrations, we
help the community prepare for what's going to happen. Try to
keep them as separate as possible. Also, be aware that some
things may not follow according to plan, so be sure to have a
secondary plan. Years ago when the Klan would come to Houston in
buses they would receive police protection. There had been an
incident in another town a few months before when the Klan
marched and anti-Klan people were also out there in their own
march. The march went well, but after the demonstrations were
over, the Klan went to pick up their cars and some of the
Hispanic gangsters accosted the Klan. They beat them up
severely. They were not part of the deal, and the Klan came into their
neighborhood, so they proceeded to do what they did. The law allows
them to be as safe as possible and allow
them to say whatever they've got to say. This upsets a lot of
communities, but they have to be given their right to speak, as safely as possible.
So that's why they always have a lot of police protection. They
probably wouldn't go on their own because they would feel the
reaction right away. People get upset with law enforcement when
they do that. Still, they're following the constitution. At
least how it's been interpreted.
That's what we'd like to know. How were you able to maintain
impartiality in spite of all this?
Not everybody can agree with me and everybody can say what they
I know everybody's not going to agree. So you would just kind
of go with the flow?
Well, you have to maintain a certain detachment in some
circumstances. Half of my family doesn't agree with stuff that I
do. My wife doesn't agree with me all the time. If I'm only
going to talk with people that agree with me, I'm going to get
bored. At that rally, the Klan was very inventive in what they
were saying. I heard them speak many a time and the usual stuff
comes out, but they were special that day. I commented to one of the reporters that I know, "I
kinda feel slighted because they've talked against blacks, Jews,
everybody. But they haven't mentioned Mexicans or Hispanics."
About ten minutes later here it comes, Latinos. I went back to
the guy, "Hey I feel better now. I was feeling slighted and
That's how the town dealt with it, and this was just last
year. The Klan would come in and then they would leave. You
can't prohibit them from coming in, but if you can manage their
stay and you help the town agree on how it's going to respond to them,
then they're going to come and they're going to leave. What I
helped the town do was stay focused. You set where it wants to
be, where it wants to go, and how it's going to do it. If it
stays focused on that, then it can withstand any other group
coming in, African American groups, white groups, any kind of
group coming into town, with the understanding you're going to
manage their stay, and they're going to leave. But you stay
focused on what you all need to do together here to get beyond
where you were, where you are, and where you want to be. We
helped them create a vehicle for that.
Did the conflicts ever change over
time with the way in which you were involved in the case? You sat
down with the parties and you had come up with a game plan that
you think would work. They came up with a game plan suitable for
the conflict, but over time, over a month or two, did other
Yeah. Things change, everything is fluid. What's possible now
may not be possible tomorrow, and vice versa. But if you can
help them create a vehicle that can deal with that conflict, they
will be able to deal with the current conflict and any nuances
that might come up later. Now they have the vehicle to do that.
It's their vehicle that they're going to own and operate. It's
not my vehicle, it's their vehicle, and just use it and understand
how it could be adaptable."
Do you try to get new issues on the table?
No. Make sure that all the issues are covered at the beginning, and that their
dialogue is going to cover enough so that it takes care of
whatever the problems are at that time. Then maybe help them
look to the future. Don't create things that are not there.
You don't want to expand the problem or issue.
How do you deal with impasses?
What happens when you've got one party here saying, "I won't take
less than this," and the other party saying, "I won't give more
than this," and they're not coming together?
I was doing a court mediation case
against a federal agency. I'm part of that agency, Department of
Justice. It was over an action INS took in a community in
apprehending day laborers, and that town's police force helped
INS in conducting this action. The plaintiffs felt there were a lot of
civil rights violations, such as the fourteenth amendment, first amendment, seizures laws, and all
that stuff. They filed a suit in court against the Attorney
General, against the Department of Justice, against that city,
and against the city's police department.
So the plaintiffs asked me if I would mediate it after it
had gone to federal court. They all got together, and even
though I work with the Department of Justice, they were asking me
to mediate. I had worked with a lot of the plaintiffs before.
They felt I would be fair and impartial. It's the same idea with being Hispanic, dealing
with issues involving Hispanics. I'll never stop being who I am,
but I will try to be as fair and as impartial as I can.
To be able to help them. When I'm in town they say, "Well are
you going to talk to the sheriff?" I say, "Of course." "Are you
going to help him?" I say, "Of course. I've got to help the
sheriff deal with you, and then help you deal with the sheriff.
If I can't do that, then I don't have any business here."
In this court case, once we got the judge's okay for
mediation, we had a second meeting where some new lawyers came
from Washington. The plaintiffs were asking for class
designation and for thousands of dollars to pay for their
attorneys. The government said, "No, there's not going to be a
class designation and we're not going to give you money." They
were asking right off the bat for about $600,000. Then said I asked the government, "If you give
them $100,000, is that reasonable?" "No." "$50,000?" "No." "$25,000?" "No."
"$5?" "No." "Five pennies?" "No." Nothing, zero, no pennies,
nothing." So the plaintiff's attorney was there, and he said,
"Okay, you're not going to give us class, you're not going to
give us a penny, then we're out of here." So they just walked
out. I called for a recess and a caucus. I talked to both sides
about how important this was. The government wasn't going to
give up any money, but what would be reasonable? What would
their supervisor and the taxpayers feel was comfortable? But it
became a personal matter to them about giving up anything. So
now they're playing hardball.
Then I talked to the plaintiffs and their party privately
about their ultimate goal. Is their ultimate goal getting class
and getting money, or is their ultimate goal reaching settlement
on correcting the problem they say happened? What are you here
for? Are you here to make money, are you here to declare that
this is a class action, or are you here to get what you can get
for the people you represent? I also said, "Okay, if it's
critical to you, think about how much money you want. Also, why
don't we put that at the back end of the discussions?" So it
becomes issue number twenty instead of issue number one. That
way, you all feel you've accomplished a lot if you've
accomplished eighteen of the things on your list. Of all the
things you really wanted, corrective action on the police
department was very important, corrective action by the
government. If you get that, then maybe money won't mean as
much. Now you've gotten pretty much all that you wanted. And
that's how we did it. It involves helping them realize what
their true self-interest is. I just helped them through the process
of analyzing their interests. The plaintiffs didn't get half a million
dollars. That's what they felt they had spent in legal fees. As for the class,
they were just defined as one. But everybody got a whole lot of
what they came there for. They went to the judge and the judge
gave the okay a few months later.
Was there ever any situations where
you felt one of the parties was giving you lip service only and
was not genuine in their negotiation?
Perhaps, but they made the decision. A lot of times people
just want to voice their complaints, they want to be seen as
players and taken seriously. We did a mediation in a
prison, involving Hispanics, blacks, whites, and Indians. There
had been a race riot. In negotiations, the white inmates stopped
all discussion because they wanted a tape recorder. They saw the
administration using tape recorders and all the other culture groups
using tape recorders. So we stopped everything and the next day
they had a recorder. After many sessions we asked them,
"Who's transcribing all this stuff?" "Nobody, we're just using the same
tape over and over." They just wanted to make a point. That's
how people are.
Another case was in a school setting involving the
superintendent, the parents, and a civil rights organization.
The superintendent wanted the parents to get to the point. What
do they want? Parents didn't want to get to that, it was their
opportunity to tell their side, and they wanted the
superintendent to know what was happening to their kid and to
other kids. The superintendent was not interested in all these details, he wanted
solutions. The parents weren't at that level, and the civil
rights people wanted to tell the superintendent how bad off these
people were. When one wouldn't give in, the superintendent walked out.
The parents stayed there, the civil rights person
there on their behalf walked out. I got out and grabbed them and
brought both back with the understanding that the parents would
get to talk for fifteen minutes about whatever ailed them. From
then on it was going to be about resolution. And the superintendent
said, "Okay, I can listen to fifteen minutes." And the parents
said they could say what they needed to in fifteen minutes. We then had an agreement.
Did you ever have an experience
where two parties couldn't meet with the other parties?
Yes. The only time it happened was in another town in Texas near Houston. There was a lot of
activity over the freeing of an African American that had a death
sentence for committing a crime. The black
protestors and organizers out of Houston had been doing a lot of
activity in support of freeing him. I'd been in this other town
and I was coming back and the leader of the black organizers
asked me to go with them Saturday, because they were going to
have a rally and a demonstration. They were concerned about what
they had heard about the Klan retaliating, and what the police
might do to them. I picked up the message on my answering
machine as I was coming into the office. Later, the police chief
called saying, "These people are coming from Houston, there's
going to be a big rally, can you help us out?" I never told them
that they had each called me. I went out there. I
needed to see where the march was going to be and how long they
were going to stay.
The blacks were meeting in an old college that used to be
there during segregation days, but it wasn't a college anymore.
The chief wouldn't go over there, and the leader of the black
protestors would not go to the police station. They were not
going to demean themselves by going over to the other's
First, I got the march plan, they're going to City Hall, and
the start and end times. So I took all that to the police,
here's what they're going to do. Well, they were running a city
election the day of the march and City Hall is the polling place.
So they can go to City Hall but could not obstruct access to City
Hall because people have to vote. If they do, the police were
going to arrest them. I went back and let them know that it's
okay, except when you're at City Hall there's going to be voting
and you cannot obstruct it or they're going to arrest you, so
make sure everybody knows the ground rules.
There was one glitch once he started the march and they were at City Hall.
Somebody was putting heat on the chief to just go
arrest them. So I told the chief, give me some time and I'll go
talk to them. So I went to the leader who was making a speech
right in front of City Hall and these people were really blocking
the entrance. I said, "Look, we had an understanding that you
couldn't block the entrance and some of those folks are." He may
not have seen them because he was talking. He said he just
needed two minutes. Then he cautioned them to stay away from the
door, and then he continued. But I went back to the police and
said, "Two minutes he's going to talk. He's going to tell them
not to block the door." And he did. The protest ended with no arrests.
Those parties never convened at the same location?
No, in fact the chief was right there, they were both at City
Hall, but the chief never did go talk to the guy, he did it
through me. If you're going to take an action let us know first
before you do it. Because when there's an action, both sides are
likely to get hurt. So it behooves them at some point to
communicate, if not through each other than through us. Nobody
wants to get hurt, I don't want to get hurt.
Did your role ever change from case
to case, or did you primarily have the same role in each case?
The same role with different approaches maybe. But I'm always
the outsider, I never tell anybody what to do, they're
responsible for what they do or don't do. I can be of assistance
to them if they let me. In one town there was a very
tense situation, there had been a killing of a black guy, big
time national news. I spoke to the officials, mayor, city
council members, city attorney, police chief, and then went
through all the scenarios of what might happen or what to expect.
It depends on how prepared you are to
take whatever might happen, ordinances, crowds. It was a
Wednesday, I had to be in another town on Friday. The people
there said I had a lot of experience in this and they didn't.
They asked me to stay. I came back an hour later, I had to call
the people in the other town and arrange for somebody to take my
place so I could stay for two more days, then I left town. Did
that answer the question, what was the question?
The question was did your role
change from case to case?
No, based on the circumstances, my approach might change, but
not the role. I'm always on the outside, I'm trying to help them
The thing that strikes me as interesting is when we started talking a couple of hours ago, you
said that your role was to get the minority group to the table,
listening to that I thought okay, he's clearly acting at least to
some extent as an advocate or as an assistant who is trying to
increase the power of the low power group so that they're on a
level plane with the other group. Yet all of our discussion has
like you are very careful to play an impartial role and help both
sides regardless of their power levels. Did you ever have a
problem trying to balance those two?
In order to carry on a dialogue, there has to be a level
playing field of some sorts. Maybe the community's at that level
already, through their contacts. I always understand nothing is
new to them, because they have a relationship with each other,
there's a history already when we arrive. It's up to us to know
the history. Police leaders have asked
me, "Why do I have to deal with those folks? Whom do they
represent? Just who are they anyway? They're self appointed
I remember in one town, there was an issue over Hispanics' participation in a festival,
and the fact that I was Hispanic was an issue. There was a
Hispanic organization that was leading the charge. They were
not discriminating, the officials said, so why did I have to show up? I explained, "I'm not out here
to see if you're discriminating or not
discriminating, I'm not going to ask you any questions on that.
Yeah, I'm Hispanic, but I'm not a member of their
organization, but maybe I can help you with the problems you're
having." They say, "Okay, come over, but we're not going to have
anything to do with that organization." So once I got there all
these organizations that are part of this festival were there.
"Which group is giving you problems? You get along with the
Elks?" "Yeah, but not with that group." "Would it behoove you
to sit down and talk with that group?" But it was to them a
coming down to their level and they were not going to appease it
by recognizing them as legitimate. So I had to reinterpret that
for them. Okay, through me, let's see if I can get them to sit
down and again come up with a list of issues and what not.
Finally they agreed to come together. When I brought the
issues of the responding group, I had to prepare them because
they not only wanted to be included as vendors, but they also
wanted a seat on the board. And I don't tell them what they
should ask for. All I ask is, "Right now, what would resolve
your problem here?" That's all I'm interested in. Although I
discussed with them what the possible reaction might be. What to
expect so they don't get surprised. But even when he wrote on a
paper and I took it over to the other side, I told them, "Look,
here it is and when you first look at it, you might think they
want the moon! But feel confident that they're not asking for
Mars and Jupiter, just from here to the moon." Because it's a
shock, they want us to give them everything. There's always
things they could've asked for then they negotiated on maybe not
right then but next year.
Do you ever approach the authority
group and say, you guys have to give us some help?
No, it's up to them to decide what they want to commit. I do
analyze with them and may give my impression of what the
perceptions are of the other side with the understanding that I'm
not speaking for them. For example, take A, B, and C. "If they
ask for A, B and C what would you think?" "Well, we're never
going to give A." "What about A-1?" "Yeah, maybe that. We
might consider it." "How about B?" "Well B, yeah we'll give
them B." "What about C?" "Well, no we're not going to give them
C." I know then what we're dealing with, and then I go to the
other side and say, "What if they refuse to give you this? What
if they maybe offer you this much? Or maybe this much tomorrow,
maybe not the whole bread loaf, but half now and you get the
other half later." "Okay, we'll settle for that." But I still
bring them together and just bring it up. And they themselves
come up with the option a lot of times. But I already did the
ground work with that.
Did parties ever ask you, once you
had gained credibility with them, did they ever ask you to
abandon your impartiality, and maybe join their party?
In the Houston case with the rodeo, afterwards they wanted to
make me a lifetime member of the committee, but I couldn't
accept. In that case, Hispanics were trying to be part of the
structure of the rodeo. The rodeo issues about five or six
million dollars in scholarships. Hispanics felt they weren't
getting their fair share. The rodeo criteria for scholarships at
the time were ones that Hispanics could hardly ever meet. At
that time, for the most part, scholarships were being given to
students that participated in agriculture and farming orientated
programs and Hispanics living in the city, of course, can't raise
a cow on Sixth Street, it's illegal. And sometimes that was the
criteria for being eligible. That you have to raise a farm
There was an impasse for some
four or five months before the Hispanic group called me, and I
called the management and I got discussions going again. I was
managing the process, came up with proposals, and there were
objectives to that. We amended the proposals and there were
objectives to that. We would meet together, and we would meet
separately, but finally they came up with an agreement. The
Hispanic position was that the whole rodeo culture contained a
lot of Hispanic culture. Even the word rodeo is Spanish.
All the terminology used in the rodeo are Spanish terms.
Hispanics introduced the idea because Spain brought horses to
America back in ancient times, so they developed the culture then
adapted it to Western culture and Texas culture. And that's how
the rodeo evolved, but they claimed they were being left out as
an identifiable group.
In their discussions and negotiations they struck a deal.
They later changed their name to fit the rodeo structure's
naming, so they're the Go Tejano committee but they do
scholarships targeting Hispanics, and they could also educate
everybody and change their criteria for applications and then
advertise that. A million dollars is now being given out because
there are a specific number of Hispanics. Also, they created a
Tejano Day for the rodeo. They set rodeo records of attendance
every year for that particular day, and they got to 60,000 this
last year. Now they've added a carnival, and they're into the
hundred something thousand.
Before we helped to negotiate, they didn't have that.
People don't know the history of all that. I myself go to Tejano
Day and have never seen more Tejanos, Mexicans, and Hispanics
gathered in one place outside of Mexico City or L.A. But they're
doing great, they had some glitches a few years ago, but they
worked them out themselves. They wanted to give me a
lifetime membership and give me some special tickets up front to
see the rodeo and I had to turn all that down. So when I retire
maybe I'll buy a membership to the committee.
Did anybody ever ask you to do
something while the mediation was on going which you couldn't do?
Advocate for them or somehow tilt tables more than you felt was
legitimate to do?
I can't remember. I try to get from the beginning a clear
understanding of what my role is. I remember being in Detroit
one time and a Hispanic group said, "Why don't you level with us,
why don't you talk to us, like plain language what you're doing
and what you're going to do?" I said, "Look you know who I am, I
don't know who you are." And I always know I'm being tape
recorded, every conversation, so I'm careful what I say. Saying
whether I can defend it because you don't know who's out there
and who's working for whom.
Did it happen to you one time and you have been on guard ever
Yeah, I guess back at the beginning in 1973 or 1974. After
a super looking Indian turned out to be working for many years
with the F.B.I., not an agent. He was portraying to be a super
Indian, security, militant groups, but I already had adopted this
point of view of being careful, but then I looked at the last
four or five months, and thought what did I tell that guy?
How does that effect your job, and
the ways that you do your job?
It's just a part of it, wherever I go, whoever I talk to. It
keeps me really clean that I can back up whatever I tell anybody.
I tell them in private and if there's something confidential that
they're telling me I always say, "Can I share that information
with the other side?" And they tell me yes or no. "Can I even
tell them that I'm talking to you?" They say yes, or they'll say
no, and I protect that, but I assume you never know.
One time I was in Houston and there were some riots with
Hispanic and black kids from a school. One teacher was a
Hispanic woman who was very active in the schools. I called a
meeting with the deputy superintendent, this person, and her
advisor (one of the community leaders.) We had the meeting and
it was non-productive, because of the Hispanics' opinions,
and we terminated the meeting. About two weeks later I'm at the
Hispanic leader's house - the advisor, because I meet everyone in
their environment preferably.
The original question was whether
or not people ask you to do things that you can't do?
Yes, but I explain what I can and cannot do. Two weeks later I'm at the advisor's house.
He said, "Hey listen to this" he played the whole conversation of the meeting that we
had. I asked him, "How did you record that?" He told me he had
a voice activated recorder in his briefcase and every time we
talked, it would pick up and start running. So anybody can have
a recorder anywhere.
When you mentioned that the good looking Indian was actually an
undercover F.B.I. agent...
No, he was working for them.
Working for them. I'm interested
to know is the F.B.I. considered the good thing or the bad thing
or do you work in conjunction?
We're not law enforcement, and we don't provide them
information in the investigative capacity but we work with them a
lot in Houston. We do training, and they are part of the
training program that we do. When communities have issues that
they want to bring forth to them, because they feel that they
don't trust their local investigative agency, I make that
connection, although I don't speak for the community. I may
convene a meeting with them, but I'm not part of that process, I
just facilitate it.
So what was your apprehension after you realized that this Indian was
working for the F.B.I., what made you nervous about that?
Well, only what I had said. There had been another instance where a
group of Native Americans had taken over a facility up in
Northern Wisconsin. Their picture was in the paper and I was
talking to a law enforcement person in St. Paul, Minnesota. The
newspaper said, "Hey, look at this. Look what happened up there.
See this guy here? He works for the state police, and that guy
works for the sheriff." So you never know, especially in
groups that are pushing the envelope. I assume that they're
sincere about what they want and what they're doing, but I don't
make those judgments, it's the other party that needs to make
the judgments. Do they see it as a working
group? A group they can work with and resolve whatever issue? I
don't make those judgments, they make those judgments. I'm
just saying that the way I deal with it, I'm just careful what I
say and do. And appear to be doing also.
Do you say right up front that all
of your conversations are confidential?
Yes, but with limitations. They know what I'm there for and
what I'm doing. In some instances those groups that maybe have a
history of committing criminal acts, I let them know I'm still
with the Justice Department and if they do something of a
criminal nature, I'm duty bound to report it. But tell me only
as much as I need to know to help them and help the situation.
With that understanding, I don't want to be part of their
strategies and I always ask, "Can I make this public? Is this
public information?" No matter who I go to. And they say, "You
can tell them this, but don't tell them that." And I respect
that. If I don't then I'm no good to anybody.
Had confidentiality ever become a problem?
I don't think so.
Or were you ever accused of breaking confidentiality when you
Well, one time, in Wounded Knee, when
I was inside the compound. Wounded Knee
was like a bowl sort of, and the hilltops were controlled by F.B.I.
and the U.S. Marshals. The Indians had their positions below. We had to take cover a lot
of times because the bullets would come toward us. There were people
trying to come in and trying to get out, pretty much all the
time, although the feds had guards on the perimeter. One Indian
guy, who was very agitated came to me, he had a weapon and was
saying that I had spoken on the radio to the F.B.I. or the U.S.
Marshals, and that evening one of their people who was going out
had been arrested. I said, "Well, first of all, did you see me use the
radio by myself?" He said, "No." I said, "Ok it's a policy I
have, every time I use the radio I'm within hearing distance of
one of you. So you'll know what I'm saying. How do you know
everyone who's in here is what they seem to be?" He says, "Oh,
yeah." So I got over that, but it was a direct challenge. I got
him thinking about what the circumstances might be.
But that's why we always were careful, especially when
violence is very close and you don't know what can happen. So be
super careful that everybody understands what you're there for.
Especially in that situation because they were shooting at the Feds, and the
F.B.I.. and the U.S. Marshals were shooting at them, and yet we're
with them inside, so it's kind of a strange role. The leadership especially needs to know,
and we're there at their request, and with their permission.
They felt we were essential to working through all the problems
they had, and coming up with some finality to the occupation. So
they needed us, and all sides needed us, and that's why we were
there. We were taking some risks, but we tried to minimize risk.
If they called a truce, we would go out there to monitor the
truce. That was the only real time I've been under fire.
ever lost a mediator or an employee gotten seriously hurt?
I think there was a guy working out of the Cleveland office
years ago, and he had been in a riot situation and I think the
police knew where he was, but maybe some of the sergeants didn't
and they ordered an evacuation. He was not able to get out of
the way fast enough and he hurt his back and was in the hospital
for a while.
There has been other times back in the late 60's where the
law enforcement may not have believed who they said they were. They
ran into some problems but they weren't hurt. Since we don't get
protection, we always have to take care of ourselves. In the
sense of knowing where we are, knowing that we're by ourselves.
For example, when I was working that little town, every time I
would come out it was 11:00 or midnight, I'd check cars behind me
or cars in front. I picked this up living in Chicago, when I was there
back in the 60's, you're walking down the street at night and see
who's up there or who's behind, and if there's a person up there
and all of a sudden you don't see the person because they might
be hiding behind a building or in an alley. You stay on the curb
side and it's just survival stuff that you pick up. The same
when you're working in different environments. You analyze the
risk and try to go with the best approach and let the people
When I was meeting with the Grand Dragon and the Imperial Wizard over in
this little town, I called the chief I had been working with a
lot over the last two or three years and said, "Chief, I'm
meeting with your cousins at 3:00 over at this place. I should
be out of there about 4:00, 4:30, and I'm going to call you back
afterwards. If you don't hear from me, start dredging the bay or
something." I was kidding, but at least to let him know where I
was going to be and if I turned up missing where he could start
looking. You never know.
Did you ever try to work as
escorts, for instance in Wounded Knee did you have a Native
American who was with you?
Hmm... did you read the reports or what? Yes, there was one
time when some of the lawyers for the American Indian Movement
were declared "unwanted" by the tribal government, and one of them
was ordered out of the reservation
immediately. The defense team asked that we escort the guy out
of the reservation because they were afraid he would not make it
out alive. So then they asked me to escort the guy
in my rental car. I took him out of Pine Ridge village into
Nebraska where he had some acquaintances. Everybody knew I was
going to take him out and I did. The problem is though, it
started snowing terribly when I got back into the reservation.
Also, a tribal police car had followed us all the way to the edge
of the reservation. So I was obeying the speeding laws and
When I came back about two or three hours later it was maybe
1:00 or 2:00 in the morning, I entered the reservation and it was
still snowing. The police were following me then, and I got
nervous, and right as we got into the village, out of nowhere
came all these patrol cars in front of me, on the side of me, and
I couldn't go anywhere. Some of them knew me and I showed my
i.d. But then I picked up a radio, and I started radioing into
our command post, telling them where I was and told them the
tribal police had stopped me. Our guys were asleep. Nobody
was minding the phone/radio desk. But I had to let these police
think I was in communication because I didn't know what they
would do. The next day when everybody woke up, I said, "Hey, you
guys never answered."
Let's talk about training.
Most of the training is on the job and learning from more experienced staff. We have had
some formal training provided by CRS. As far as training provided by other staff, Dick was really
good at that, we would go into a situation and he would ask questions and what have you, and
then at the end when it was over we would get together. He would ask, "How
do you read it?" So I'd let him know. It was very helpful.
First of all, I was reading a lot just like he was reading the
situation. But there's some stuff I was overlooking. He was
very helpful, and he helped me analyze the information. How to
ask questions, and how to ask a question without stating an
opinion. And just like you were
saying, "I'm Hispanic, right," so the other side would think I'm
biased toward Hispanics. But it was a way of asking the question
that does not convey a bias. It's a neutral question and it
comes back with what information you need. Instead of saying,
"Oh that's a beautiful sky, the sky is blue and it's got some
white." Well that's my opinion, I would say, "What do you think
about the sky?" Or, "A lot of people think the sky is blue." So
it's not me anymore, it's a lot of people, it's somebody else.
Then I'm still clean as to my position. It encourages that
person to give you their perception without my influencing what
he/she is going to tell me.
And even just the other day I was dealing with some Native
Americans in Houston, talking to one of the tribal leaders. I
thought I was being cautious, but then my friend, who is Native
American and who I've been working with, was with me and he told
me later I should ask the question and then wait for the answer.
Don't interrupt. Because those elders are on a different time
frame so they're thinking about the response they're going to
give you. If you get too anxious for them to talk or if you feel
like you're wasting their time, then it takes them off what they
were going to say. So you can never get really what they're
going to tell you or the answers to whatever you're asking them.
More than anything when you deal with different cultures, you
have to understand how they absorb information, what is the pace
that they work in. So he told me I should wait for the answer,
and I should not look at them so much, because they're not going
to look back at me. And just let them answer, don't interrupt
I remember meeting with the Vietnamese back in the fishing
days, but much later, a new guy had taken over leadership of the
fishermen. But they were having problems with the FCC. The
Vietnamese were communicating in the emergency channels and
playing music and talking in Vietnamese. The problem is that
some of the channels are tied into repeaters, which can broadcast
all over the gulf or into the Indian Ocean through repeaters and
relay's. So the Vietnamese were jumping into those and they were
talking locally. But they're being heard in Russia and India,
and jamming the emergency channels. The FCC complained so we talked
to the Vietnamese about that and we came up with a training
program. I met with the Vietnamese fishing leader. Had a dinner
with him and a friend, who had helped me with interpreting and
translations for many years, and I told this fishing leader that
we were going to have a seminar and we needed to invite the
previous Vietnamese leader, who I worked with a lot.
The next day my friend calls and says that the new leader
doesn't want to invite that old leader. I said, "Well, I already
called him and left a message for him that we're going to have
this workshop and that he should be there." He says, "No, he
doesn't want him there." I said, "Why didn't he tell me? We
were there having dinner talking about it." He says, "He
considers you too much of a friend to upset you and contradict
whatever you're saying. Because it's discourteous to disagree
with your friend." In our culture, friends say anything
they like. You can tell him/her whatever. There you respect
your friendship, and I said, "Now I'm in hot water, I've got to
disengage myself from already inviting the other guy. If he had
told me then I would not have even started the invitation. What
should I have done?" He said, "You should've explained the
problem the way you saw the problem and asked, would a workshop
be okay? Who should be invited?" In other words he would come
up with who should come. But in that culture, the friendship got
in the way, and it should be the opposite. So we learned.
I remember a case in a little town in Texas, where the U.S.
Attorney and the police had canceled a Hispanic weekend festival, because
supposedly the Chicanos that were there objected that the band
was not playing enough Chicano music. So after around midnight
everyone was feeling really good and the guy who objected went up
to the stage and knocked the keyboard off the stage. Of course
the keyboard player didn't like that, so he jumped after the guy
and the police security jumped in and that started the whole
I went and talked to the Hispanic group and they started
talking about their grandparents, what had happened to their
grandparents in those days with the police, the Texas rangers.
It was important for them to tell me how it had been, how they
had gotten to where they were. But at some point after two hours
of listening to what had happened to their parents and
grandparents, back in the 20's and 30's, I said, "Look, we could sit for another few hours talking
about history and it's very helpful and informative, but we've
got an hour and a half left, we need to talk about what we're
going to do here. It was critical that I listen to them because that's
the only way I could understand them and then they would be able
to tell that I was interested in them as human beings.
Would you bring in only
consultants, or use any outside resources to help you during a
case or a process?
I very seldom use consultants, however I often use other CRS staff. I know a community
then it's easy. But we usually make a connection to people they know that I know. In the little
of Texas, I didn't know the mayor, but I called the mayor and set
up a meeting with him and he gathered about twenty or thirty
ministers. One of them had worked with me eight or nine years
before in another town. And he and I worked together. So
when we had the meeting he remembered me. He kind of sold me to
all the rest, so sometimes I use an intermediary, or if I work
with one police chief and I'm now working with a new one, I
let the new one know I worked with the other one.
Did that ever backfire on you?
need to be almost certain that it's going to work, before I mention it. I may say I worked with
chief so and so, oh yeah we went to school together, whatever. So if I sense that as good, then I
claim more about my relationship with police chief number one, to get close to number two.
There was a riot among students in a school in Texas, and I saw a security officer by a gate. Half
of the students had been dismissed and their parents had come to pick them up and take them
away from the school when I saw the security guard engaging some parents in discussion, which
was attracting only more parents. I felt that we can't have a group of parents there
arguing about this because there might be a problem. I needed to
have that security guard stop what he was doing, but I'm not his
boss, I cannot order him to do anything. But I talked to the
assistant superintendent who was there on-site and I said, "See
over there what's happening? That guy's talking to them, and it might be delaying what we all
want to happen." And he says, "You're
right." I said, "Maybe somebody should tell him that he should
just let the parents go," so he then called the head of security, who
told that guard he shouldn't be doing that. I borrowed
the influence and the power of others. What I stated seemed
to make sense to him. And we together analyzed it; he reached
the same conclusion I did and he took action.
So were you ever reluctant to bring in a referral or consultant
to your process?
No, but only after we were sure of that person's capabilities. I remember up in Illinois,
while working with Hispanics and police, we needed somebody who could talk to the police up
there about what makes Hispanics tick, especially Mexican Hispanics. A lot of them had moved
up there throughout the years and settled. I borrowed a sergeant from the San Antonio, Texas police department, a
Hispanic officer who helped me tremendously in educating the police in Illinois on how
are different. The policing was
really the same policing but you had to kinda do it a little
different. It helped a whole lot. Recently, a newsletter had
the story of the sheriff in Bear County in San Antonio, and I'm
reading more and I saw his story and it's the same guy I used
as a sergeant almost twenty-five years ago. He got elected sheriff. I called him up.
So we were talking about borrowing experts and that's one time that I borrowed someone.
A lot of times, as I said earlier, I
borrow people's influence or knowledge.
So in towns that we don't know anything about, we either
mention something that's similar to them about police chief number one,
I'll drop that name off to police chief number two and then wait to see what
the reaction is, if that was a bad relationship then I don't
claim much association. If it was good then I associate myself closer to
number one and mention all the great things that we did to be
able to have an entry with number two. Regarding training, a new staff person
took a trip with me to Oklahoma, and I
told her that we are a resource, and sell mediation and conciliation. Like a
shoe salesperson that goes out there and starts to sell shoes,
the client doesn't have to order white shoes or black shoes or
high-heeled shoes or low shoes or gym shoes, but they have to buy
shoes. Otherwise, the salesperson is not going to be in business too long. The
same for us, we have to engage the community to use our
services because we know they can benefit, but we have to have
that contract; otherwise we're out of business. Rightfully so, if
we cannot help communities then what are we doing? As far as
training, of that particular person and others, before we enter the meeting we'd
converse, like what do we want, what do we
expect, if that person comes back with this, how are we going to respond? Then
you ask certain questions. I watch them, and I
ask certain questions, you watch both of us, and we gotta walk
out with this much, but we're going to see how much we can get.
Then after the meeting, we analyze the situation. How did it
work? Did we get what we wanted? Did we get more than we
wanted? Where does that lead us to now? Then we go to the next
one and analyze that, and put it all together, because at some
point we have to determine what are we going to do. We know how
the community sees it, we know what they think would work, we
know what role they want to play, but then what do we want to do
Yeah, CRS because we have to quickly, and I would say in any
community within the first day, we have to pretty much know what
we're going to be doing. Of course it depends on the
circumstance, but quickly you have to know what they want.
Why is that important?
Because first of all, time we don't have much time. We operate
by ourselves, and a heavy case load. Everyday, people calling, wanting
this, wanting that, and to them it's very important. They want to
know what are we going to do for them. Here. Now. We have to
explain to them we're a one person operation. We don't have any
secretaries, we don't have any other assistants, and I need a new
copy machine and my computer doesn't work half the time and on
and on. But they're not interested in that. So I have to strike
a deal regarding our time with them. You get to that point because cases are most of the time not
simple. If things were simple they would've resolved them
themselves without any help. It's because they reached an
impasse or they can't talk to each other or whatever. But we have to respond quickly.
If you wait too long, well what's possible then may not
be possible later. So we have to kind of strike a deal that this
is what we can do, but you have to give me some time. You do
this much, and I'll do that much. With community groups, I ask
them to do research, find out who else is being affected by this
and get them together for me. Rather than me going out there and
talking to everybody, they get them together for me, they do this
much, they prepare them, they think things through, and that's
their assignment for the next meeting. Then I can go somewhere
else and I come back later, we get together and we pick it up again.
If it's an issue that has to be done that day because of the situation and the circumstances,
well then we drop everything aside and just do that. Then make
excuses everywhere else.
Do you ever involve other CRS
personnel with your cases?
Yeah, in this case last year, it was of such magnitude and we
needed to move quickly, so I handled it the first three days.
There were going to be events on that weekend so I asked for some
help and then I had to leave town. So a colleague stayed there
while I was out of town, and took care of other cases that needed
to be taken care of. I came back and then he had to attend to
his cases that he had left pending. But in the whole region
there's three of us. We cover five states and there's always
issues happening and we cannot respond to all of them. We can't be looking
for work, there's just too much. We can hardly handle the
load that comes in.
You turn down requests because you just don't have time?
I try to answer all the calls. Some people are insistent and you know
the squeaky wheel. This one minister gave me a
call about a week and a half leaving messages, look, "Why don't
you call us collect." After I found a little break, a normal
day, we set up a to do list things that need to be done. The
environment changes right away, somebody calls, they need help
now, they need help tomorrow, they need help this afternoon.
Some people are going to be meeting here. Can you come to this
meeting? Well I can or I can't. Then as I'm talking, more calls
are coming in and being put on the recorder. After each call I
punch the message machine and there's like about five or six
messages, people I met earlier or people calling in for new
stuff. So then I respond to the most critical one of those, and
I make that call, and fifteen of them are on the line again.
How does that all work into your job?
It adds a lot of stress. It's just hectic all the time. Like my wife gets upset when
I'm at home because she wants me to leave it at work. But you
can't because your mind keeps working, and the solutions come up
or ideas come up and you either jot them down or remember to do
this or that. I very seldom now call from the house, and very
few people call me at home because I don't give out that number.
A funny story is when I first started in Houston, I've been
there since 79, this is when I was working with the Klan a lot
and the shrimpers. As normal in each of our offices there's an
emergency number that people can call and it's usually somebody's
home number (or nowadays we leave pager numbers), and about two
or three in the morning the phone rings and it's the Grand Dragon
of the Klan and he sounded drunk and he had just come out of jail.
We'd had him at some meetings before, and he said ever since he
went to a meeting, the police had persecuted him and his civil
rights were being violated. I said, "At three in the morning?
First thing in the morning I'm going to call the chief and see
how they violated your rights." He was satisfied with that, and that
morning I called the chief, "Chief, I got a call from your 'cousin', he
claimed your guys are violating his civil rights." The police chief said, "He was eating at
some restaurant and supposedly complained about how they handled his steak, got into
an argument and ending up punching the waiter and that's why he
was arrested. Did he tell you all that?" "No, he didn't tell me
all that. He said your guys are persecuting him." "That ain't
the case." When I got to the office I changed the message, no
more calls to my house.
We get into programmatic things as time permits, but it's
mostly crisis response. If there's a crisis, and a crisis is how close
people are to violence. That's the determining factor. If
they're about to blow each other apart we drop everything and go,
or if we think they're about to blow each other apart. If
something happened and it could lead to a potential riot
situation then we go immediately and analyze the situation.
If we think we need help, then we'll call for help.
If there's somebody who's not involved in another critical
situation, anywhere around the country where they're working,
then they become available. So that's priority number one. Then
it goes onto to deadlines of things we already committed to, and
if there's a deadline coming up, for the mediation I'm doing in
Houston, pretty much everything has to be done by the 28th.
That's the next big meeting. And there's no excuses. I have a
huge work load. For example, I got up at a quarter to five,
worked all day until midnight, and was in the office at 7:30 am
again today. If you mess up either way, you might as well not
come back or ask for forgiveness, try to make amends.
They're very understanding. Especially the people I work with,
they understand my work load.
tell over the phone by just talking to somebody who's saying what
you ought to do or what you ought to think about?
With this minister, that's what it was. It sounded very urgent
and he made a lot of phone calls to me.
We analyzed the situation and figured that he didn't need me
right away. Perhaps he needed the help of this other guy. That
guy would help analyze his situation and let him know where he
needed to go. He needed more of a community organizer. He says
he's got problems everywhere, including police and schools. I
can't be tackling that job. That would be five different cases in
that little community with the same people. What would I do with
the other half of Texas that I'm dealing with? The stuff I
already committed to? So I do as many referrals as I can, but
with the understanding that if they don't get results, they can
call me back. I'll call that other agent and tell him, "Somebody
is going to call you, they have this problem, see if you can help
them." Because they do that to me too. They send me people, so
I help them. It's kind of network with the other agencies;
federal, state, local agencies, politicians, community leaders,
Who are the agencies that you most
often refer people to?
EEOC, F.B.I., U.S. Attorney, District Attorney, LULAC, NAACP, school districts, police,
HUD, etc. - agencies and organizations that work with civil rights. In Houston, I'm
fortunate. I've been here so long that I know all the police
leadership, some from back when they were captains or
lieutenants, and we work with them. I try to purposely build a
relationship with those people coming up, because at some point
when they make it to the top, I want to be able to maintain their
relationship. Everybody's important, no matter what their
position is. You don't know when you might need them or they
might need you. You've gotta have that relationship and a high
Do you set a minimum or a maximum
amount of time involved in certain cases, or does CRS set a time
No, it's as long as you stay relevant in the case. At the
beginning, I dedicate 100% of my time
to a case to find out what's going on. Then once things get
going, I work 75% of that case and the community or the parties
do 25%. Then I get them into discussion and I'll do 50% of this
case. They have to do a lot to prepare the issues. Then, I do
25% and they do 75%. Now they're doing it on their own, and I'm
becoming less relevant. After awhile, I'm 10%, they're 90%, then
I'm 2% and they're 98%. So from the beginning, I look to see how
I'm going to work my way out. I have to have a sense of what
it's going to take for me to get out of there. Eventually
they're doing all the work.
How do you know when you're at that 2%?
Let's say they sign an agreement. Now they communicate to each
other and they don't need to go through me. I just keep checking
up on them, call them up, or they call me. You have to program
for this when you get in - how you're going to get out? After
you're at 75%, what's the next step? Things become clearer when
you play a role and you go into action, and then they don't need
you anymore. That's essentially what you're trying to do, work
your way out of a job in that particular setting. Now they can
do it themselves. They're going to have problems, that's the
nature of things, but they can work them out themselves. They
don't need us.
I told the people in this community, "I'm not going to be
married to you all." We're very close for the first, two weeks,
but then relationships go in different directions. This happens
on purpose. "I'm not going to be as available, I won't be
bugging you so much. You're going to see less and less of me."
There's also the danger of you staying too close to them for too
long. They'll ask you, "You've got nothing else to do? Why are
you here with us? What is your real purpose of being here all
the time?" That creates some suspicions as to our role. You
need to recognize there's a time for this and a time for that. A
time to be with them 100% of the time in their homes and offices,
but then there's an extraction phase.
What are the key things you look
for during that extraction phase?
Where are they in the process? Are they talking to each other?
Are they working together on remedies? Are they already taking
action about what they said they were going to do together? Did
they have each other's phone numbers? Are they actually calling
each other? Are they visiting with each other? If all
those are indicated, then we don't have to be there.
keep a file or two because we had some ownership at one time.
Just because the kids are grown up, you don't abandon the kids,
right? You're still attached in some way. I'm attached
to pretty much everyone I've worked with the last twenty years,
to some degree or another. Especially if they keep telling other
people to call me. At some point it's a personal relationship.
I don't see how it could be done without that. If you were
totally professional, totally astute, totally detached, they'd
sense that. They'd say, "You're not very interested in us."
They decide they don't need us. It's not that we need to feel
wanted, but that's our only entry. If we're not accepted,
we are not able to help them. Like in this department
I'm meeting with now, they have assistant chiefs that can take care of
all the problems we're dealing with now. But for some reason,
those assistants have failed. So what we're doing through the
mediation is creating a bypass. If our bypass works out through
the negotiations going on, if it's successful, they will be given
some credit for it. Because now their position will be changed
to meet the needs of whoever is complaining. So we work our way
out, and the people know that. We're not going to take them
over, we're not going to be there forever. We'll only be a
temporary loop here, a bypass.
At the end, what we're doing here is changing the process
that they've set up. When we come in, they'll have revised
whatever they already have. There's a need for that, but it
isn't working. So we help them to
change it, to make it more customer friendly, to build back the
trust of the community. There will be some solution there.
People don't complain because either they don't trust the
process, they don't know about the process, or they're afraid of
the process. So we have to build that faith back into it.
What we're doing is lessening the tension gap. Suppose you
have a bar graph, with one line representing perceived
inequalities and the other the perception of a redress system,
the systems in place that can give you redress to what you're
complaining about. If the perceptions of redress are at the same
level as the injustices, things are okay. If you complain about
something happening to you, you can go somewhere to get
redress. Problems occur when complaints are high and perception of redress is low. This is
called a tension gap. The higher the concerns and the lower the
redress, the more volatile the situation is.
If you look at recent race riots - Rodney King, Miami, the
Liberty City Riots, St. Petersburg, a police incident usually
triggers it all. People go back to saying they don't
have anything to lose, so let's go for it. What we try to do is
help the system get back to a certain level, so we're constantly
on the look out for these indicators. If there is any place they
can go, then we help them get there. Then the community will
have faith in the redress system and in their leaders.
ever experience internal tensions or conflicts? How did you
There was a woman who was being disruptive at the meetings so
the minority group wanted to exclude her. For example, when we had a private meeting
with the group, she was objecting to a lot of things in the
police response and suggested we should just go in there and walk
out. I talked to her and I talked to the group about trying to
understand her, because they're blaming her for causing some people
to stay away. The group put it on the agenda for the next
meeting, and this person walked out of the meeting, I
couldn't be with them at that meeting.
Was she initially part of the group?
No, she wasn't. She came in later and she's not a minority
person. The group was trying to portray itself as inclusive, so how can
you be inclusive if you're going to throw her out? Find ways of
working with her. She can contribute. She's extremely smart.
She may upset the police chief, the way she says things, but look
at the overall contribution that she's making. You'll find that
there are more pluses than there are negatives. Just work on
educating her as to what approaches she should take.
Is that what you tell them to do?
Yeah. I don't want to get involved in who stays and who goes,
because I cannot choose for you who your representatives are,
just like I cannot go tell the chief who his representative
should be. "You all have to work that through. Just try to
reason with her." Hopefully they'll take care of it by the time
I get back. She wanted to email me something. I don't know what
it is about. I think everybody feels that we're so close to
ending the process that they don't want any derailment at this
time. They've invested too much in the process.
At the very beginning of our conversation, you had made a list of the five different groups
people which included the top three politicians and educators.
That sounded like you were doing the
choosing, and now you just said you don't do choosing.
That's through the assessment phase, because I have to learn
who I need to be talking to, and learn who and what we need to deal with.
Okay. Once you do the assessment
then you decide who gets to be the representatives?
No, the parties decide who their representatives and leaders are. I ask them who are the
players, and they'll tell me we need to have this person, we need to have that person.
But you need to have one person out
of all the key players who's convening the meeting, or do you
convene the meeting?
I need to be in charge of the process, the participants provide the input. At the beginning I
convene the meeting or we do a co-convening. It depends on what's going to work. If it's bad
that I associate myself with somebody that has a lot of negatives
already, then I don't associate myself with that person too much,
although that person is critical. So I try to find the safest
person at the table, or the one that has the most positives and
work with that person to do what we need to do.
But in this other community last year, I chaired a committee
of leadership, only because there was no agreement on who else
would do it. Toward the latter part of the meeting I said, "This
is the last time I'm doing this. You'll have to select somebody
you all can agree with. This is your town, not my town. This is
your case, your issue. You should care enough about your town
that you're going to work together under some leadership here.
I'm taking the first stage out, I won't be around forever."
I was going to say also, out of these five or six people who
are obvious leaders, some may be in the background. In this
other town, we had police problems. It was a big town in Texas.
I met with people I thought would be relevant
parties in the community. Then I went to a county commissioner
who was not involved but who knows everybody. First of all I introduced myself and explained what
I'm doing. "Here's what we need to do, and am I dealing with the
right people here?" I mentioned about six or seven players, "Are
these the relevant people I need to meet with?" He says, "Yep, I
think you got them all." I went through the original process but
then I double checked myself. I'm going to spend time with these
players, I need to know there's going to be productive time. If
they're not the ones calling the shots, what am I wasting my time
for? Let me go to the ones that are really in charge.
If he was to tell you that you don't have the right players,
what would you have done?
I would've checked on his information first, information is
either relevant or irrelevant. I don't say you're lying to me or
telling me the truth, but I'll check. It's a contradiction. I
trust everybody, but then we'll see.
there's tricks. Suppose you met with Heidi yesterday and I
asked, "Hey, have you met with Heidi? How's she doing?" And
then you'd say, "You know I haven't seen her for a couple of
weeks," I wouldn't tell you that I know you're lying. I'd ask
myself, why is she lying to me? Also, I would check to make sure
you were with her. I may have already talked to her and I'm just
innocently asking all these questions I already know the answers to.
If you knew I was lying, how would that affect how you do your
Who can I rely on? That's how I have to make decisions. What
is the best source, what's the best data available? If you later
tell me something, then I would check and then triple check
because I know you already didn't tell me the truth once. So are
you a reliable person? Then I may just treat you courteously and
be patient with you, but I'm not going to tell
you any of the real stuff. But I have to learn that because I
don't know anybody. People can tell me anything, but it's a
process of verifying information, double checking information.
If we're not proceeding on the correct path, we're not going to
come up with correct results. It's all influenced by
If a party comes to the table and
asks you a question that you're not quite ready to divulge the
answer to, how do you approach that situation?
A lot of times people ask me, "What did he or she tell you?"
"I can't reveal that information." But I'll say, "Look, there
are some things, because of the way we do our work, we'd best
keep confidential." I'm really trying to help everybody. I
wouldn't tell her everything you told me, so I'm not going to
tell you everything she told me."
Trust building is very important here. What do you do to break
the ice to ensure that trust is being made between you and the
It's a step at a time. You trust me to this one point, and
I'll trust you to that one point. I'll keep trusting you until
there's a reason not to trust you. You keep trust in me.
Hopefully there will be trust in me all the way.
There was a situation in Houston with the gangs. There had been a
fight with Hispanics and the black gang leader got killed. The gang
came back to this apartment complex to drive all Hispanics out of
the complex. The ministers went out there and checked the whole
complex. The ministers had worked the whole area and they said,
"I think we just need to let the Hispanics go because they're living in
too much danger. You can see the gang members patrolling the
area and they all have weapons." The
police had called me in on that and I went to the apartment
manager. I had to convince her that maybe I could help her, but
we first needed to do something. I said, "Give me five residents who care about the whole
conflict. We're not going to ask them to do anything, just come to
one meeting. One step at a time."
Although the minister said we have to get all the Mexicans out,
that won't allow us to get rid of the gangs here and the
violence. This is how I finally describe it to them - the
ministers, the police, everybody. "Let's say that together we
decide to take one step, so now we're over here.
We'll look at each other, see that we're still standing up, and
we'll consult again on taking the next step. Then we'll check each
other again, and then take another step. After a few meetings, they realized that they could trust
each other and that they could be effective if they worked together (police, residents, ministers,
management and community leaders). Further violence was averted. The management later asked
if I could help them in another apartment complex.
The group came up with a security plan.
"We're going to have police meetings here, we're going to have
community gatherings, we're going to have kids involved." So we just took
it a step at a time..
What did you do that caused key persons to take that first
I showed them that doing nothing and staying by themselves was more dangerous than
that one first step together. No person is an island, right? They need each other in some
kind of way. The people understood that greater good is going to come
out of the working together.
So a fairly typical approach, in order to find the people
you're most interested in meeting with, is that you just ask who
are the ones who are fed up with the situation, who are the ones
who really want change?
Yes, and who are the officials that can help make the change.
Who's interested in this. Who has a role. Draw up
several options, and then they decide what role they're going to
play. A mayor up in northern Wisconsin told me, "I'll tell you
everything you need to know about what's going on. I'll tell you
about the Indians and hunters in that area. I'll tell you
everything you need to know, but don't invite me to any meeting."
He was extremely helpful, he was everything we needed. Funny
thing about that, I spoke at the Native American program at the
local college up in northern Wisconsin, talking to the teacher
and the Native American students. I told a little bit about what
I was doing, all with the intention of finding out what they
could tell me. I mentioned that it was a problem that was in the courts already, and you know
how the courts take time and there's a lot of red tape involved.
"Mr. Martinez," they said, "it's not red tape, it's white tape."
I get educated everyday. Live and learn.
Several times you mentioned the
media and their involvement. Did you see their involvement as a
help or hindrance to your job?
Good question because it's very critical all the time. They
always want to know what we know, what we're up to. But we can't
let them know all we know. So we
check with the community elements first of all and see if they
want us to let the media know this or that. Sometimes they'll
say, "Sure go ahead." But most of the time, we just tell them
about our process and not about the particulars of who's doing
what. The media knows we're there, they know what we're trying
to do. The media knows whether or not we're making progress.
example, in this issue in Houston, the media finally got a hold
of it because I made it public with the consent of the parties.
I did a presentation for a national panel. I knew that it was
going to hit the paper. I told them about the process and told
them we were making progress and it's going to take us another
month and right now the media is not allowed in the discussions.
But they will be fully briefed. Especially one reporter. She'd
been following the story, and at the request of one of the
leaders she didn't reveal it any sooner. There has to be
cooperation and some trust. They've got a job to do, and we've
got a job to do. We just kind of negotiate, but they can be very
helpful, the eyes and the ears of the community. Also the voice.
The people read the papers, so it's best that they get the story
right and a lot of times they don't. When they don't, they might
What kind of problems did they
cause or how did they interfere with your work?
They might reveal some information some of the parties don't
want to release. Especially the local media, they're
part of the community too. It all comes back to self-interest
and what role would be in your best interest. You might
get a scoop, but then you've hurt your self interest by doing it
that way. Be cognizant of the effects and that's all. Especially during assessments on mediations.
The parties may be hesitant to express themselves or may play to the media if reporters are
present. The parties should be addressing each other and in a frank manner.
Do you ever seek out the media
yourself to try to get them to cover something or publicize a
settlement, or do you always let them come to you?
We're not supposed to be calling press conferences except in the
context of a settlement we might. For example, in one town the
police department had a media person working on announcing a settlement,
and that person asked me how I wanted my role portrayed in the press release. We talked about
Did any of the parties ever demand
the use of the media in order to follow through with an
It's understood that the agreements are public, so they're
going to need to cooperate with the media. It's normally done
through a press conference. Everybody gets the agreement,
everybody understands. Usually these agreements are made
available to everybody; libraries, community centers, whatever is
affected by the agreement. Nowadays, there are very
sophisticated ways of email and all that.
Did any groups ever use media involvement as a condition of
working with you?
Yes. That group that I was telling you about where the
Hispanics went through about two and a half hours of history of
their grandparents and great grandparents. They sat down and
came up with their demands. They wanted a meeting with the
police to discuss dropping the charge against those who called
off the festival because they were liable for all the damage
incurred by the vendors. There were four police agencies
involved, the state police, sheriff's department, police
association and the police department from that city. In order
to resolve it, we needed to get all these four agencies in one
room together so they could respond, and not pass the buck. Well,
one of the conditions besides all these I mentioned was a public meeting, with all the media
The agencies didn't want the media or a public meeting, so they agreed to have one
reporter at this session in lieu of the public. The community
made those two demands and they only got one, but they were
satisfied. So the public is not going to be there but
the next day everyone will know. The tough thing was they wanted
a public apology also, from one of the police agencies for what the
minorities thought was a violation of their civil rights. I was able to
get the four police
agencies together, and I brought the demands paper the community had put
forth, and they looked at that. We helped them analyze number
one, number two, number three. The head of one of the agencies
said, "I'll take the rap for closing the festival. I didn't do it, but for the sake of
resolving this I'll say I did it." We found also that the police
association had insurance that covered all liabilities and
damages so they wouldn't pay anything. Now, as for the
apology wanted from the state police, they said, "No, they're
not going to apologize for something they didn't do, it was a riot
and it met the state criteria for a riot. So, they took actions
based on the criteria for a riot and stopped it."
I then met with the community group,
and they came back with their response, but I brought
them together again, and I went to the police agencies and got
their response. Finally, I brought both sides together, and I shared the paper
with the attorneys and the lawyer for the community and the
community leaders. They had a female lawyer who was a
veteran of civil rights wars back in the 70's. It was very quiet
as she was reading, and she finally says, "Bullshit!" and throws the paper. She just threw it at
them. I again said that this wasn't written in concrete, there was still room for discussion and
nobody saw it as written in concrete. That is the purpose of coming together,
why don't we talk about number one, and we discussed number one
and we came to an agreement, and so on. The part of the apology
worked out real nice because at the end of the sentence where it
said no apology was necessary because they did not violate
anybody's rights. We added the word "however", and added that if some people thought
their rights were violated, then an apology is extended. So it
could be read both ways.
The article was very positive, citing the apology to the
community. So the community got their apology, it was in public, and the law
enforcement agencies were able to settle the problem.
They had their insurance, so I don't even know if there was a
claim submitted, but nobody had to pay. They did drop the
charges and everybody lived happily ever after, well maybe.
Was it a problem to have a reporter
at the meeting?
No, that was a condition for the mediation, on the agreement of both parties. The police
"We've got nothing to hide," but they didn't want a community
meeting because it could be disruptive and it probably would have
gotten out of hand. It wasn't that they were trying to act in
private, just that they didn't want to expose themselves to a
situation that would get out of hand. A situation where they
would have to take more action because that was the original
charge of police brutality and police abuse, so they felt that a
private meeting with the media there would settle their purposes.
And the community would know anyway, so let's have a reporter,
and they agreed to it.
Which form of media was the most
helpful or beneficial for you?
Usually the print media because they can take time to analyze
the situation, although they don't always know everything. But
at least they reveal more. Electronic of course it's sound bytes
and you kind of have to train for that. Answer direct questions,
quick. We go through training exercises. It's like twenty-five words or less,
and to some people in the audience, if they didn't
see it on TV, it didn't happen. Right? Now if it's not in the
paper, it didn't happen. Since TV has less time to analyze
and put it forward, and they like to give intros, it may not be
exactly what we are trying to convey. The thing is to repeat the
question in your own way and answer your own question, not
what the reporter asks. Although they may even cut that down
later. Always answer your own question in your own way, that's the safest way.
you measure success of your intervention?
Was the problem resolved? Are the parties still working together? Have they solved other
problems? Have they progressed? I guess there's immediate success and there's long range
success. At the beginning of the issues with the Vietnamese,
nobody else got killed. That was our main goal, not to get
anybody killed or hurt. So that was successful. But then in
time they had got to know each other, but there were a lot of steps
along the way, and each year there were slightly different things
we had to do. One
thing that the Klan Dragon said about the Vietnamese came true.
He said, "If we don't stop them now, within a few years they're
going to own all the shrimp houses and all the processing plants.
They're going to own refrigerated trucking, they're going to own
most of the shrimp fleet," and that's become true. You go to
these little towns and it's the Vietnamese. A lot of the locals
realize it's the American dream, you work hard, you sacrifice,
and there'll be a payback, if not within your lifetime, your kids
will be better off. You go talk to a lot of those Vietnamese
fishermen, their kids are teachers and attorneys now. The guy that was going
to set up the FCC hearing, his kid was going to a Naval academy,
then Texas A&M. In some cases it changes their culture, oriented toward
The more influences they get from the
local environment, the more they become like the rest of us and
they lose some things. Then they do what we're trying to do,
which is recapture some of the culture that is still relevant and
can be helpful to us.
Like in this other little town, a fishing community, they
all lived in trailer homes, they were in a circle, like the
circling wagons. The more they stayed in that circle the better
they survived because they knew each other and they spoke the
same language, they set up gardens. But the more they protected
themselves, the less they got to intermingle with the rest of the
community. They became more separate as a result of what they
chose to do, but they were also afraid of the other end of the
So we set up meetings with the churches, working with the
catholic priests that lived in one of the trailer homes to have a
Thanksgiving celebration. That's a very positive American
custom. So during Thanksgiving they participated, and the
churches contributed. They also had problems because of the
trailers; they had built add-ons to their trailers. The priest
was the main perpetrator of this because he had built on both
sides of his trailer. Because of the add-ons, emergency vehicles
couldn't go through. Everyone's violating codes and regulations.
So the mayor said, "You can't do that, and they've got some
garbage over here, and they're raising pigs over there, so we
gotta enforce the law." I said, "Mayor, I've taken a tour through your
town, I see a lot of
people raising pigs, and there's a lot of garbage if you go on
that street. If you take action against the Vietnamese,
somebody might say you were targeting them, discriminating
against them. Yeah, they're a problem, but you've got problems
elsewhere and why are you not enforcing the regulations on the
others?" So we came up with a strategy. Every spring there's a
spring cleanup, for about two weeks. They'll have a whole
citywide spring cleanup, and we'll add a Vietnamese component to
it. So we got the translator to translate the safety ordinances
and then the police and the city did it's cleanup work, but they
did it all over town.
So we got the job done in a safe manner and it was
effective. It wasn't targeting people and we just helped them
analyze that, and had the Vietnamese do a dialogue and a
What are the long term measures of success?
The Vietnamese in Seadrift, Texas, are prospering, their kids are very successful in the
schools. In another town, a Vietnamese is the municipal judge.
For example, is the community overcoming what they had? Are
they working together? And years later do the problems come up
again? If the problems do come up, were they able to deal with
them? In a sense, we tried to have a more lasting impact but
because of our limited resources and time it's like a quick fix,
but that quick fix hopefully helps them create a process where
they can work through their immediate situation. Then they'll be
able to handle other issues, or the same ones if they come up in
a different mode or with different players later on.
In a town I was in a year ago, I met some people that had
been protesting the killing of a black guy about eight
years ago. I had worked with some of the community leaders.
One of the, a black man, came to me a year ago and said, "Hey, I'm now
a county commissioner, you helped us work with the power structure and all that, and at some
point they thought I was a good candidate." Another one of the black
leaders that was being called a troublemaker owns a restaurant
now in the downtown square.
In fact, outside groups came to protest the killing and I spent until
midnight one night convincing local blacks they should let these
outsiders in. These are African American people in this
community. I wanted them to let the outsiders come in and do
their protest peacefully. They were concerned that people would stir
everything up and then they would have to suffer the
consequences. "Why don't you meet with their
leadership before the rally, so they can explain not only to
the African American residents, but to the town leadership that
all they want to do is come and show their concern for what would
happen." They were not going to take over, or loot and riot.
I was looking at Columbine newscast, they had a
camera of all the kids coming in, I don't know their environment
but all I could see is a certain kind of folk coming through
there. And not that it's good or bad, but are those the only
kind of folk? It affects your perceptions of other folk, if you
go out of this area, you go to Chicago, you go to Houston, the
country's made up of a lot of different folks, you go to
California with the Asians, it's still America and it's still
great, it's just different, and differences shouldn't scare us.
How did the changing nature of the
civil rights movement and protest activity affect what you do at
CRS, or did? We've heard from some people that the work of CRS
has really changed from the 70's to the 90's because the civil
rights movement has changed from the 70's to the 90's.
I think that at some point a significant part of the country
felt that minorities already had what was coming to them or even
more. They went into the mode of they've got too much
already, we have to knock down affirmative action. But if you look at all the data, the
facts, and the statistics, you see where minorities are and where
minorities think they should be. Even as far as reaching parity
with almost anything. Still, I go back to
letting the community describe their situation, what they think
they need to do, and how they can do it together. All situations
are politically local, so what good does it do me here in my
block that something is happening? It might have some effect but
I still have to earn a living, I still have to go to work, I
still have to be in the environment where I work.
There was a Hispanic lawyer who has since passed away, he was
very active in civil rights in Texas. He was very anti-
Department of Justice because he felt it wasn't doing enough.
We happened to meet in a town where the issue was over a
Hispanics family, a pregnant mother, a father, and two
kids. They'd been run over by a truck that was being operated by
a person in the army who had attended an Oktoberfest festival.
This person was drunk and killed them all. The guy was found not
guilty. So the Hispanic community wanted the district attorney to prosecute
all of the deaths-- even the child that was unborn. The
prosecutor wouldn't do it. So they
asked us to help because they were going to have some
demonstrations and picketing.
The Hispanic lawyer showed up and he
didn't want to work with us, he didn't want us involved. I sat
down with him, said, "Look, you don't like the present administration, and
there's some things I don't like about the administration myself. The political winds in
Washington change every four years. It goes in one direction,
then another, and yet the people are still here. You're still
here and I'm still here, so why don't you and I work together to
help these people here the best that we can help them in this
current situation? Let the administration do whatever, I know
you have strong feelings about that, but let's think about these
people here. Let's see how you can help them and I can help them
and maybe we can help them even more if we both work together."
So we did that and they and the D.A. finally worked a deal where they got a new
What can we do together, that's our position with law enforcement.
With the F.B.I., local police, and others, we try to form teams or work together
and not be worried about turf or who gets the credit.
We're all being paid by the same people. They pay the taxes that
go to the federal and local governments. Why don't we all
get together and give those people the best bang for their buck.
And let's work for them. That's pretty much how we do it now
and we have a hate crimes task force in Houston with the F.B.I, the
ATF, U.S. Attorney, District Attorney, and the Houston police.
They're involved, and they want to know what are we going to do, how
can we chip in, what's the best training we can give other agencies with
the resources that we have. Those taxpayers are paying for all
the resources we're getting.
What do you think are the most
important skills of an effective civil rights mediator?
I guess the usual is to be able to listen. Ask questions to
clarify what they're trying to tell you because you don't know
where they're coming from. When you're finished asking,
understand what is relevant. We have to know what is relevant to
them. What is relevant and who is relevant. But they have to
tell us that. Also, I guess, have a sense that you work for them.
You're there to try to help. You're going to tell them as much
of the reality as you can give them. We're at their disposal up
to a certain point. But they're going to be responsible
themselves and we're just there to help them. That applies to
everyone. Also, have empathy for your clients, put yourself in their shoes. Have confidence in
yourself. Communicate all this effectively to all.
What do you think your greatest
strength is? What part of the process do you enjoy the most or
get the most out of?
Actually the beginning and the end. The beginning because it's
a challenge. What am I going to do? Once there's a clear path,
then the process is just the process. Then when they end it and
it's successful, then it's a happy time. I also like the end
because they're working together.
As a rookie working with Dick
Salem he had a thing every Monday our whole staff would sit down
and talk about what they were doing, make comments, and what have
you. I had been assigned to city of Lansing, Michigan.
Desegregation had been ordered by the federal judge and it had
gone through so many appeals, and now it was time to implement it.
I talked to the judge, he put us
in the order that we were supposed to help the community. So we
went out there to find the leaders. I was so lucky because the weekend
before, the local newspaper had identified them for me. I spoke with ten
leaders of Lansing, the union people, the politicians, General Motors,
clergy, etc., and invited them to a
meeting. So Monday we had the staff session and I'd just been
over there a few months, so it was my turn to talk about what I'd
been doing. "What did you do in Lansing?" I said, "I got all
the leaders coming together Thursday, or whatever day it was.
Now what do I do with them?" So they offered advice, and it was
really good. The judge had spoken, all the appeals had run, so
why doesn't everybody here get together to help those kids, your
kids, their kids, our kids, and everything we do is for the
benefit of the kids. The students are going to have to be
transported here and transported there. This led to a coming
together of top leaders who called for kids in the community, and
everybody did assignments of what people were going to do, and
what officials were going to do. It worked quite well. Peaceful
desegregation. But it was Dick and his people that answered the
question, what am I going to do? And I listened. My greatest strength, I guess, is the ability to
convey to clients that I am really trying to help them and that I can.
Did you mostly work by yourself?
Most of the time, due to staff limitations. Once in a while we
would ask for help and got help for a specific assignment.
Most of the time, there's no room for error, so you call on people that you trust because
you've seen them work and they are ultimate professionals, and
they're going to make you look good. But that doesn't give
opportunity to others who have not had the experience, but in high-stakes situations, you are
going to go with your best. The ideal situation is to
get some veterans there with some of the younger ones to work
together so they could also be trained in doing the job. That
way while you're doing the job, it has benefits for both. A
lot of our staff are leaving CRS, though.
Yeah, and through budget cuts. We brought in a lot of new people, then we had the
budget cuts. So we had to let go of a lot
of younger people and by younger people I mean fourteen-year
veterans. And we lost some great people. I worked with
them in the most violent and most tense situations and they held
their own and they persevered, and really helped.
What's the average number of
employees for each region?
Right now it's about two or three. With the new budget we're
trying to get some more, in fact we announced for a position in
Los Angeles, and we're trying to get more regional directors.
We've got a new one here in Denver. We need one for Dallas, my
regional office and the one in Philadelphia. But sometimes I go outside CRS for help. I've gone
the Dispute Resolution Center in Houston for some help.
So just that one case?
Yes, just in the ongoing case with the Houston police. Their mediation is rather different in
that the parties are there already and you just go and mediate, ours you have to build
The broad categories of topics are the things that you do when
you work through a case, so we've got the category of how you got
involved in the first place, how you do the assessment, who you
talk to first, how you develop a plan, questions about developing
trust, defining issues, how you actually engage in the meetings
when you have negotiations, how you facilitate it, breaking down
tensions, power disparity, technical assistance, neutrality and
partiality, dealing with internal conflicts, identifying
community resources to help resolve conflict, confidentiality,
and the last ones are going to be related to getting out of the
conflict and media. We pretty much talked about those, but I've
got some other questions. Why don't I go through them and see if
you can come up with cases that are good illustrations. First
thing is the case that we were talking about how things come to
your attention. People call you and
when we were working on this interview schedule we were also
thinking of situations that we'd heard of from other people where
you see or read about something in the paper, or the radio and
you go in cold. Who would you
contact first? Do you ever do that or are you mostly just
responding to people calling you?
No there's occasions like when I went to Jasper, I heard about
it in the news. The body had been discovered on Sunday and it
made Monday TV in Houston. I saw it Monday night and I decided
to go there. Every town has a mayor practically so
that's always a good source, a good place to start.
you call him before you went?
called him. Let's say in that situation, since there was a black
victim involved, I wanted to see the concerns of the black
community so besides calling the mayor I tried to reach the
NAACP, and the ministers. I tried to reach the First Baptist
church, also. As I left town I called the F.B.I. to see what
had been happening. The F.B.I. district director special agent
in charge talked to me and said they held a press
conference at noon, and he was on his way back to Houston. He
just filled me in a little bit on what happened. I had also
tried to reach the mayor and the mayor finally called me back and
arranged to meet with him. We arranged to meet about 7:00 or
8:00 that evening, so on the way up there about thirty minutes
from Jasper, I called the mayor because I thought maybe I should
meet with other people and he could notify them. He said sure,
come on over we'll talk about that. He was going to see what he
Later I was up at his house and he had a whole lot of black men
there all dressed up in suits and all that. I thought it was a
monthly meeting of some group. I realized after a while that he
had called them to meet with me. There must have been about
fifteen, or twenty people, maybe more. They told me about what they felt
about the current situation, what they had been doing already,
and some historical issues involving race in the community.
We agreed I would help them, and we'd look into the
historical issues at a later date, but right now we would look at
what's happening currently, what was expected, and who was doing
what already. I found they had begun working very closely with
the white ministers.
When you say "they" who's they?
black ministers. And a few other black leaders who were at the
meeting that the mayor had convened for me. The community was
getting involved, politicians, and clergy. So in essence, the
four or five basic sectors of the community were beginning to
work together. They pointed out other long standing issues and
some media things that they wanted done. We began working with
them. So in that situation, to answer your question, it was the
media that pointed out the issue and then I responded.
usually go to the city or county or whatever official first, like
It depends on who I make connect with first. I try to reach
the NAACP, I try to reach the ministers, the church, and I try to
reach the mayor. It was the mayor who called me back first. But
within the first few hours you try to reach all parties and I let
them know who I'm meeting with, or ask them if they could
identify somebody from the community. If I'm talking to an
official, I ask who do they think I should be meeting with?
Who's the one that's been active? Who do I need to see? They'll
tell me. Then I call them up.
Have you ever run into the
situation where you call up somebody and they say no they don't
want you to come? They don't need your help?
No, in twenty-eight years I don't think I've run across that.
Although I think I mentioned the other day, in this town where
the Hispanic organization had called me, regarding their conflict with a festival's Board of
Directors. The Directors didn't think it was necessary
for me to be there. Because they were not discriminating, so
what it was I was going to do? So I explained to them I don't
investigate, I don't try to find fault or blame, I was going out
to see what was going on and if I could help. I explained to
them how I could be helpful to them. Although I was Hispanic, I
was not part of that group. I was not a member of that organization. So they said, "Let's
meet" and I went down there, and eventually produced a settlement.
Did you ever run into a situation
where you thought that your getting involved might undercut a
minority group protest activity?
No, since most of the time that I've come across, they're
looking for assistance. A lot of times, minorities see us as a big
stick they can wave at whoever they're trying to get something
from. We have to be careful that they don't misinterpret our arrival or
presence to whoever else is there. Sometimes they do. We have to clear that up, we have to tell
officials about what we do, what we don't do, and what we're
Once you explain that, do you think that solves that problem?
Yeah. People have to see us as a resource to help them deal
with whatever crisis they have or whatever issues they have. I
don't pick sides, and I'm going to listen to everybody. I'm not
there to judge, to investigate anybody, to point fingers or cast
blame. I'm there to see if I can be helpful. They determine if
I can be helpful or not.
That leads me to a question I was thinking about when we were
talking on Monday that I didn't get around to asking.
You were talking about the KKK, and how you approached them,
and you said
you approached them by seeing how you could be helpful. How were
you helpful to the KKK?
Well, their concern was retaliation, or possible violent repercussions
for what they're doing. They were concerned with their safety. I
have to help all sides. So in situations where they need
coordination with police we set those meetings up and the police
can provide security. Just like police provide security for
everybody else. They cannot be excluded and that's helpful to
them. I remember it's ironic, but they had
issues back in '80, '81. We had set up an understanding between
them and the Vietnamese fishermen and it kind of wasn't going the
way it was planned. I had to come up with plan B which was I'll
asked the leader of the Vietnamese shrimpers and the Grand Dragon
if they wanted to meet one on one. With just me present and my
colleague I had at the time. Each side said, "Yeah, we're not
afraid of them." So I said, "Let's meet." We met in my hotel room. During the meeting the
Dragon asked that I not take any notes. The Vietnamese brought
two or three of his people but they stayed in the lobby and the
Grand Dragon had somebody calling him like every fifteen minutes.
But I did take notes.
Was his fear that you were going to report what he said?
I don't know. But I guess he wanted to level with the guy, and
he didn't want any notes. Yeah I guess he was a little heavy
handed maybe, or it could be seen he was trying to exert
concessions from the Vietnamese about selling their boats or
limiting the number or boats there, but anyway, it was a good
meeting. My purpose of bringing them together was if nothing else, they should know each
other in person and also exchange phone numbers. If nothing
else, they should at least be able to talk to each other. This
had to be a private meeting. It went well.
But later I'm in my office in Houston the next day, and
the Grand Dragon calls me saying that his people didn't think he
was doing enough on their behalf. Would I give him my notes so
he could show he was doing something, that he had this meeting. So it
was to his benefit that this happened and he wanted to show he
had been meeting with the top Vietnamese guy. So I told him to
go to the police station and I would phone my notes into the
recorder at the police station and he could transcribe them. It
happened but I worded my notes in a certain way that it was very
positive. It still got to what the issues had been but also what
the resolutions had been and the spirit of cooperation.
what the issues were.
Something like the Klan wanted the Vietnamese to get out of
town. Essentially that they should leave or they should limit
the number of boats on the water.
How did the Vietnamese respond?
They of course said, "We can't do that." It would've been
illegal because as long as they meet the state and federal
requirements, it's a legal activity. Both sides agreed that
shrimping was a resource, and shrimp were like a bank account,
they all believed that they should not over shrimp. Putting it in
terms of a bank account, you could withdraw the interest every
month, but not touch the principle. Both sides agreed that
they needed to be careful about conserving the principle amount of
the shrimp and not over shrimp because there wouldn't be anything
for anybody to harvest.
Did that really come out of it, or was that your
talked about that, and the next day they shared the notes with
the media and that became the "sixteen-point agreement".
Who gave it to the media?
They did, somebody did. The Klan or the police department,
somebody. But it appeared in the newspapers, the
"sixteen-point agreement" between the Klan and the Vietnamese.
Did it hold?
Yeah, because it has the concerns that they all have. It
showed that the Grand Dragon was doing something for his people
by meeting with the Vietnamese and it was proof that he had met.
At the end everybody benefited. Although in a mysterious kind
Where did these sixteen points come from, were they just bullets
you put down?
Yeah. What they said they were
going to do. They came out of the agreement. We got there a
different kind of way, but everybody was satisfied.
And you had no idea you were writing an agreement when you were
No, just notes. I always take notes.
Let's switch gears a little bit and talk about trust. We've
talked a lot on Monday about how you generate trust.
important is trust, can you operate if you aren't able to gain
trust the trust of the parties?
I don't think so. At least a certain level of trust. You talk
about absolute proof, or proof beyond a reasonable doubt. You
don't have to have absolute trust, but it must be enough trust to
be able to do the job. I guess that can vary with different
people; some people trust you more, some people trust you less.
But you're not asking them to trust you, you're just asking them
to consider what is being proposed or consider options that
you're proposing or your presentation of different perspectives.
They decide on that. Also, once I've met them, they make the
judgment of if I was true to what I said I was going to do or
not. Did I hold things in confidence that they wanted me to?
Did I talk to those people that I said I was going to talk to?
So maybe not necessarily trust, but there's a working
relationship. And as long as there's a working relationship,
that's all we need to be effective.
about trust between the parties?
I guess it's pretty much the same. They test each other out.
If they establish a working relationship based on whatever
they're going to do together, then the process itself begins
creating this trust among them. You can't just say, "Hey trust
me." They never have total trust, especially if there's been a
history of mistrust, but a lot of times that mistrust is based on
misunderstanding, or lack of understanding. So through a process
it creates an opportunity for trust.
you ever run into a situation where you're doing well at building
trust between the parties and then one of them does something
that breaks it all down? They violate an agreement or something
they said they were going to do, or they leak information?
There might have been where they perceived that there was a
breach of confidence. We analyze whether there was or wasn't,
and if there was, what effects does it have on the overall goal
that they're trying to achieve. If they see it to their benefit
to keep discussions going because they see they're benefiting,
although somebody slipped up somewhere, then it's not really
important when you look at the big picture. But they have to
decide that. Since discussions are voluntary, they can withdraw
any time. They have to decide if it's worth it for them to keep
going, in spite of the fact they thought something had occurred.
But also you can have them talk it out and maybe it was a
misunderstanding, it wasn't that person's perception that what he
or she was saying was violating the agreement or there was a
breach of confidence let's say. They need to see that by
continuing the dialogue everybody's going to be better off.
If somebody wants to walk away
from the negotiations, do you work to keep them there, or would
you say okay?
At times when it's happened to me,
I halted the discussions and conferred with each side. I think I
told you the last time about the superintendent, the parents, and
the civil rights group. They both walked out, because in
mediating they couldn't decide how they were going to proceed.
So we just came up with a way that one would listen to the other
for fifteen minutes and then vice versa. The other time
concerned the lawsuit with the attorneys wanting
compensation and class action status before proceeding. They
had asked that of the court, too. They walked out, so I had to caucus
with them again and had them agree to discussing those two points
toward the end of the discussion. By then they would've gotten a
whole lot more. Getting paid and having class status and some
money wasn't where they needed to be. They didn't file suit to get class action and they didn't
file suit to get paid. They filed suit to correct some wrong
doings that they perceived had occurred. Other than that, I
can't think of any.
Let's talk about identifying the
issues and the conflict. You said last time you basically talked
to everybody and asked them what's going on I imagine that you
sometimes get a superficial answer and then there's a need to dig
deeper to get more of the underlying issues. How do you go about doing that?
Just through questions, discussions, and asking them what is
important to them. What is really important. People say we want
justice, but doesn't everybody want justice? They said they're
engaging in that activity because they want justice. So what
I've done several times is kind of turn that around and instead
of talking about justice, talk about injustice. So, say there
was a police situation with a community. What is unjust that
they're doing? Well they used excessive force, that's unjust.
They're not hiring enough minorities, that's unjust. They are
ticketing us more than others, that's injustice to them. Let's
say we have five categories or five issues that define the
injustice, so if you take care of all those and you come to an
understanding or there's progress made on those five, then they
And you do this by asking questions, I gather....?
don't try to develop the ideas for them or ask them questions to
get them there?
Yes, Sometimes that is necessary. We help them formulate their issues, not create their
Their main concern was that they felt there was no justice.
The slogan of the youth, "No justice no peace." So those are all
examples of injustices occurring. So just working on those issues, you
get to a point where they feel maybe there's not total justice,
but there's sufficient justice.
Once you have gotten this list of things that they consider to be unjust, do you take those to
authorities and say these are their issues?
Yes. Either in the initial meetings with the authorities I
would mention some of the concerns. But at some point I would
let them bring the concerns up directly. Because you have to get
to that level. Because you're not only trying to
resolve those particular issues, but you're trying to establish
the relationships that need to be formed so they can carry on by
How do you know when to bring the
When they're ready. Well, we have a basic understanding that
they should meet. They decide if they would want to meet. They
obviously don't decide then and there, especially the
authorities. In a city that had police problems with a
black community, I talked to the chief
and asked if he would be willing to meet with them. We discussed the
issues he was concerned about and what was happening. Would he
want to meet with them at some point? He said, "No way, they
came to my office last week screaming and hollering, and would not let me talk."
You talked about that.
Then I said, "Well look, would you
attend if I ran the meeting? If they understand there's not
going to be any screaming or shouting, no name calling?" and under
those terms he was willing to meet. Plus, I told him before the
meeting I would bring to him in writing what they're concerned
about, and if possible, what they think should be done about it.
Both issues and proposed remedies, and he would have a list of
whoever's coming, and that provides a certain sense of security
and safety to the official that could be productive.
So now it's a new setting, and it worked in that community,
and it works in a lot of places. Sometimes the community leaders say, "Okay, we can tell them
before the meeting, but we don't want to tell them about the
remedies. Because then they'd be ready for us." So I say you can do it
both ways, but think about it this way, you can do that, but also
think about this, the official is not going to make any decisions
right then and there on the spot because he needs to research how
he's going to respond to the issue and what he/she can possibly
do about it. So identify the issue and propose some way that it
could be resolved. He or she needs to know what you think would
be a solution to this. Now if you propose that at the same time
you bring up the issue then he or she has the time to research
and talk to his or her department, to be responsive, but in a
positive way because he or she has seen that these remedies
you're proposing are not off base. And maybe he or she wanted to
do something along those lines anyway. And this creates a sense
of trust let's say, the beginnings of that.
But it also expedites the process. When you go up there
having the issues identified and in writing that's a plus already
because in the previous meeting with this chief they didn't have
that. They just went out there and vented, and it was very
unproductive. Unproductive enough so that the chief said he was
never going to meet with them again. I was talking to a city
council member in that same city, and remember I said I always ask questions that I
know the answers to. I asked where the minority
community in town was, and he didn't think they had any
minorities. They've got some coloreds, I think he said. And
they live north of main street, but over the last few years they've
been infiltrating south. How can somebody accuse somebody else
of infiltrating. It let me know where that person stood. Both
in the terminology he used and how he interpreted things.
Anybody has a right to move anywhere they can afford to move. Whether it
should be called infiltration, that's a little extreme.
do the same sort of work with both sides? Do you help the police
or the KKK or whatever the opposing side is to help develop their
Sure. Not develop the issue but look at possibly how the
issues could be addressed and what he or she might be willing to
do. Especially once they propose a remedy. How possible is
that, how feasible is that. Maybe if you cannot give them A or
B, you could give them C or D. Or A or category D or whatever.
It's good for me to know both sides, where they think they are
and what do they think are some solutions. I mentioned, you have
to help both sides or you can't help either side.
did you do when one side, presumably the minority group, came up
with some demands that the other side absolutely wasn't willing
Again, I have them look at
the greater good. There was a community in a fairly good size
city in Texas. One of the demands was that the chief create a
civilian review board with subpoena powers. I told the community
when we were reviewing their issues and their proposed remedies,
that perhaps the chief might have a different opinion, but be
prepared to justify and make the case. When the discussions
reached that issue, it was like number six or seven out of nine,
and so they did pretty good on all the others, when it came to
that one, the police chief said, "If I tell you yes on this, I
might as well give you my resignations too." Say no and keep the
job, or say yes and be out of town, quickly. Politically, the
chief felt that he or she could not get any support either from
the council or the police unions or the police organizations if
he or she did that. The community was not satisfied but they
proposed another option and the chief agreed to the other option.
Which they did, I gather, because you suggested beforehand the
chief wasn't going to go along with it.
I didn't say the chief wasn't going to go along, but there
might be some objection to that. Strong objection.
So they were prepared. It's their
choice to ask for whatever they want. Whatever's going to please
them. Whatever they think is going to make it right. But in any
discussion or negotiation, you may not get everything you want,
or you may get more than you want, or you may get what you want
but maybe in a slightly different way. If you ask for chocolate
ice cream you may get strawberry ice cream, you still get ice
cream, but in a different flavor. But if all you wanted was ice
cream the choice of flavors is just a little extra.
sure you wouldn't have done it in this case, but did you ever run
into a situation where one group asked for something you thought
was a reasonable request, and the other side no, no way?
Yes, and the I explained possible benefits of saying yes but the officials still said no. What I
want them to do is analyze themselves as to what they see is doable and not doable. We're
about remedies, solutions finding. Like in this case where they
wanted a citizen review board, they probably could've gotten it.
Communities do have those, but not necessarily in that fashion.
San Diego, and San Diego county have something
like that, they have subpoena hours. In police situations,
civilian reviews boards may have a role. But that is looking at
a problem after it has already happened. They look at how someone is going
to be punished, so instead why don't we work so that problems are
not likely to occur. Police departments should get the best recruits
they can, train them, supervise them, monitor them, have the best
policies, train the people on the policies, have outside
monitoring systems and community monitoring systems. Have an
internal affairs investigative process that the community has
trust in. If there isn't trust then work toward making it so
they trust the system. All that lessens the probability of
something going wrong or officer misbehavior.
The reason I asked that was to lead into another question which
may or may not make sense. Do you
ever try to sell a particular idea, or convince one side that
they ought to do something, or is that up to the parties to do?
I never really try to sell anything. Other than ask them to
consider options, would they be willing to sit down and create a
working group. But I didn't tell them they have to, or that they
should, but would they consider it. It's been my experience that
those working groups have worked in a lot of other places so I
would ask them if they would consider it, and tell them it's
worked well in town A and town B. And maybe they either know
about that or know how to reach parties in town A or town B or
even I may give them names and they could call to see if
something like that is working for that community, which might be
similar to theirs. But they decide. It's very dangerous if it
gets to them doing what I say they should do. I don't know them,
I don't know their community, I don't know all their history, I just know
a little bit, and I don't know the skeletons hiding in their
In fact, I ask people to give me a warning when what I'm
doing or what I'm asking them to do is not appropriate. I want
them to tell me I'm going to wind up somewhere I don't want to
be. I ask them up front that they please do that. Also they
can ask me to leave if they think what I'm doing there is more
harm to them than good. Every time
we enter a situation we change the equation let's say. What we
try to do is have it change positively. But if it seems like it's a
negative change, they need to let me know because I don't want to
be doing that. I have too much work already, I don't need to be
there if I don't have to. If you think I can do some good and
you think we can work together and I can help you work to get
there, well then I'll continue. But if you don't think so, let
me know because there are other communities out that have been
begging me forever to come over there and help them out.
Has that ever happened?
No, I don't recall that ever
happening, but I give them that option. And I think it also
helps them to understand that I'm not there to push them around,
I'm not there to tell them what to do. I'm not going to appear
to know more than they do, and up front I don't come with a bag
full or tricks or remedies. A bag full of solutions, those have
to be developed amongst you all. I may just be helpful in the
process of you doing that. But I'm not here selling anything,
I'm selling my service really, but then again, it's a voluntary
thing. It's voluntary that you work with me or not work with me,
and it's voluntary to work with any of the parties too.
asked to stay, for example, at a reservation once. It was the
agency of the opposition leaders that felt that our presence
there was hindering what he wanted to do. But according to the
opposition what had been happening was a lot of violence and
criminal acts committed against the opposition, so they felt
that our presence would maybe stabilize the situation and curb
those violent acts against them. So the leader of the
opposition felt that our presence there was right.
We told the leader we were trying to help, and we'd be consulting with him on a
regular basis so he would know what we were doing, and how our
presence there would be benefiting everybody. We kind of left
it at that. I wouldn't have agreed if we'd been insistent and
some definitive action had been taken to remove us from there.
Then we would have him talk to our authorities and see what was
the best thing to do. And it might have been that it was those
particular CRS people there that he didn't like. We could send
another team. But no, it went well, perhaps maybe he engaged in
other activities that were more pressing to him.
He didn't try to stop people from working with you?
I'm going on now to talking about when you actually have the
parties together, were there ever cases where you didn't bring the
parties together, you just engaged in shuttle diplomacy back and
I think I mentioned in this little town in Texas where,
remember, the lead protestor called me on the phone and left a
Yes you did, right.
And the police chief also called me and they wouldn't meet with each
other. Sometimes it's not necessarily that people don't want to
meet with each other but it's inconvenient. Either I take the
response in writing and share with the other group, or when I was
doing the mediation of the lawsuit, we had attorney's in
Washington, San Antonio, and Houston so I just did it on
conference calls, it was mediation by telephone.
The whole thing? You did say you had some meetings, but in
between meetings you did that?
Right. When there was an impasse,
it was usually a matter of clarifying the position or whatever,
or considering another option. Rather than spend the taxpayers
money sending the people from Washington everywhere, just do a
conference call. Plus they faxed all the information to each
other prior to the conference call. It was much more efficient
that way and you still get the job done. You gotta do what you
gotta do, and at the time it was the best thing to do.
Does the location of the meeting
ever matter? Is that an issue?
Sure. I ask them where they are comfortable. The meetings
we're having in Houston, we met at the police station the first
time, but then the community said let's meet at a Hispanic
center, so we met there. The next time we met at a black
community center. Then we met at a Hispanic church, then at a
mixed place, a bank building. In another town, the community says
bring them here, they've never been to
our side of town. I just ask, would the parties be comfortable
meeting there? They usually say yes. It was the first time the
police went over to that side of town without going out to arrest
somebody or stake out the place.
I used other resources in that
case, officers from Houston that I know work with the community
quite well. In fact, I asked the community services division to
help that police department learn how to deal with communities,
especially the black community. So I took the Houston officers to meet with the
community first and they got acquainted with the community and
had a meeting with the police officials. We can only do that if
the police officials and the community agree to them coming in.
Because we're not going to impose it on them. So we had these
pre-meetings and they saw the benefit of having them in. So then
we brought them all together. One of the police
officers from Houston had been a gang member. He'd really reformed, so he was sharing
his past experiences with that side of the law.
And he did this with both groups together?
Yes. See after I cleared it with both sides, and they said yes
to the officers that were coming over. So both sides met with
them. And they discussed what they were going to talk about and
how they're going to be helpful, and everybody agreed to it and
it just went so well.
And then the officers' first meeting, what was the role of the
They related their experiences as police officers and growing up as members of a minority
group, and the need to work together. In fact, they were asked to come back by the community.
And I think by the chief too, once it was over, like several months
later. But it was on their own. The community and the chief
thought they could contribute on some other things.
Basically relating to community relations I assume?
Yes, relations between community and police. But I do that a
In fact I'm doing a training of a police department out of Houston,
another county. But I'm using one of the trainers a Houston
police officer. There's an excellent trainer at the academy on
cross-cultural communications processes. Although we have
different backgrounds, how do we, as a human being's receive
information and process it fairly? We use screens that let in
what we want to let in, and then we react that. What you sent
this way was not necessarily what I received. He's really good
at describing this and through role playing and discussion he's
very good at imparting that, so we used him in community problems
between the African American community and Vietnamese store
owners. And, it goes beyond cultural training, and cultural awareness, it's the
next level I guess. Just us as human beings. How can we better
relate to each other? No matter where we came from and no matter
what path we took because it's basics that we all relate to. We
all have arms, heads, and faces that's common for all of us. But
there's a lot of other things that aren't common too.
How does this come about?
Oh, because we wanted to teach this course they do at the
academy to rookies and others. But we wanted to do it in a
community setting to help the community, the residents, and the
store owners be better able to understand each other, and
hopefully by understanding each other they would be more
cooperative. This was to lessen the opportunities for violence,
for thefts, and for problems. Of the seven stores that we
targeted through this program we brought this training in because
it empowered the strategic plans that we helped put together, the
training's part of it. There have been no incidents, no
robberies, no thefts, no vandalism, and no shootings in those
seven targeted stores.
What about surrounding stores?
They are also seeing positive effects. I asked the community what is doable. "You live in a
certain part of Houston, would you want to do work twenty miles away
in another part of Houston?" "We can't do that." "Can you
handle the whole city?" "No." " Can you handle half of the
city?" "No." "Can you handle fifty? Can you handle seven
stores?" "Yeah, we can do seven stores." So you look for what
is doable. You embark on a course you want to consider what is
doable. "Can you personally visit fifteen stores?" "No." "But
you can visit at least seven. That's like one each day of the
week." They would be able to cover all stores in a week. So
what is doable, that's what we need to keep. There are all
things we wish could happen and we wish the world were different.
We wish everybody was good. But we're trying to deal with the
reality of where things are. The aim with the shrimpers is not
to have anybody else killed, about as basic as you can get.
Everything else was extra. So we did help the state government
and the federal government put together a plan that was going to
handle issues on the whole Texas coast. I devised a plan after
working the situation there for a year or so. The governor
agreed to the plan and we just executed the plan. Everybody had
a role to play.
Have you done other kinds of
Well, we do a hate crimes training in conjunction with
Right now we're training a lot of police officers and police chiefs.
We trained thirty-five chiefs in the Houston area at their
request. They were members of the Harris County Police Chief's
Association. We used the F.B.I., the district attorney, the U.S.
attorney, the Houston police, and then we had a part in designing
the program. We adjusted it to fit. It's an actual program by
the Department of Justice. In every federal judicial district they have
a vehicle to conduct this kind of training. It can be done in
different ways but we chose to do it in the Houston area having
all these components represented in imparting their particular expertise to local
This included how to gather evidence of hate crimes, how to
preserve evidence, how to talk to witnesses, how to look at the
investigation and what other components you would not normally do
when you're investigating a regular crime. If you think it's a
hate crime or indication of a hate crime, what other things are
helpful to present the best case you can to prosecutors. It also
goes into getting accurate data. Some communities reported no
hate crimes, some states, one or two hate crimes. Others
reported two or three hundred. It's not that one state or city
is more hateful than another, but it's just that they see what's
happening differently. And now they're capturing the information
better. So whenever you do something like this, it may result in
the rise of the statistics. It's not necessarily the rise of
incidents, but just in the rise of statistics. Because now you
know you're doing it better. So that's one objective, more
reliable data to get officers to become more expert at what they
does the community help in developing solutions, or do they help
with the investigation, or both?
Both. Hopefully the community working with authorities can
create a climate of prevention. But if something occurs and
everybody gets together to resolve whatever happens they see that
it doesn't happen or help the prosecution. The police cannot be
everywhere, something that we used to point out was the need for
community cooperation. We'll say here in Denver,
what's the population?
Probably about two million.
How many police officers do you have? Let's say about five
thousand, in Houston you have five thousand officers. Now
they're not on duty all the time. At least three shifts. You
have two thousand, let's say less than two thousand on duty. You
have two thousand taking care of two million, plus they're not
all on the street. Half of them are in their quarters doing
whatever. You have accountants, attorneys, you have a minuscule
amount trying to watch and take care of zillions of people, it's
impossible. So that's why they need
the community to help them do their job. But sometimes there's a
damaged relationship, the community is reluctant. They see
the police as the enemy, they see the police as the occupation
force. That indicates a bad relationship. Also, minorities and police historically have met each
other in negative situations. Getting a ticket, getting
arrested, and that's it, so there needs to be opportunities in a
positive atmosphere, so they can get to know each other. We're
just like you, we bleed, we hurt, we have children, we have
families, and so there's opportunities for coming together and
forming partnerships to help each other out.
Are the communities always willing
to do this?
I would think so. Yeah because it goes back to self interest.
It's in the self interest of the community to work with the
police and vice versa. Now they might need a little
understanding, a little assistance, but in the end it's got to be
the community, and they realize the benefits of all of this. And
there may be some things that through discussion, and through
dialogue, they can clarify and get over. It's just a matter of
everybody understanding it's for their self interest that they
I gather from what you've been
saying that parties come up with their own solutions primarily?
Yeah, I would say so. At times we can give options of what
other cities have considered, and some cities will say, no I
don't think it will work in this community. That's happened.
But since I don't know the community that well, and I don't live
in that community, I have to let them decide what's going to work
for them. They'll say, "Hey, that's a good idea, let's see if we
can work, let's get more information," so maybe I'll get somebody
from that community. If the conflict is in community number one,
I'll bring somebody from community two to see how it worked in
community two and they'll share their experiences, and number one
will say "well, I think it will work, it's a good idea, but not
the way it is over there because it's a different environment,"
every city is unique. So if we do it this way, I think it'll
work. Or they'll say, "no, that's not going to work here." I'll
show city number one (that has the immediate problem), how number
two is working. How they're doing it. It's kind of like cross
fertilization. And just like I used police officials to help
other communities, I used community people to help other
communities. In that way they get to see what other cities have
done, and maybe it'll work or not work for them. That way we
don't tell them they need to do this, but would they consider
doing something, but still it's them deciding.
you ever been involved in situations that were violent or
What do you do? How do you diffuse
I guess the same old way. Sitting with the players, maybe
individually, and then with groups, but start individually. See
where they want to take it. Sometimes they ask the way to go
because they don't see any other option that's going to work for
them. And they realize that's not even going to work for them,
in the long run it's not going to be productive. We advocate
that people resolve their problems by discussing and coming
together, not by shooting each other, or throwing bricks at each
other; they can do that if they want to, it's up to them, but we
advocate for something else. We personally feel there's a time
and place for everything, some solutions create other problems
that are worse than the original problem.
That Wounded Knee setting that I really didn't talk about
last time. They were shooting each other, we were ducking
bullets and all that. For me it never has really gotten that bad
in any other place. Either the violence has stopped or I haven't
arrived at one. That one lasted for seventy three days I think.
So I was there for forty-one days in all.
Was there shooting for most of the
time, or just at the beginning?
No, there was shooting at the beginning and throughout the
whole event. There were times that there was no shooting because
we would set up truces and we would enforce the cease fires.
Other times things changed from day to day. I remember being
outside with one of my colleagues at the trading post in the
evening, in fact we were talking with a CBS news crew. The
trading post was here, and there were some trees next to it.
The Indians had their bunkers here, and
Marshals and F.B.I. were at the top of the hill. If we were low
and kind of in the bottom of the bowl the bullets would come over
We noticed the tree branches being knocked off,
so we looked and we saw tracers coming in, I think every fourth
bullet is a tracer bullet. I think it has phosphorus in the back
so that shooting with a machine gun you could see where you were
hitting, even in the dark. So I told my colleague it would
probably be a good idea if we go in the building. We went
inside and by then all the lights had been turned off and just a
candle was lit. Maybe fifty or sixty Native Americans and their
supporters were inside the trading post, lying on the floor. I
had gone to the trading post before when it was a real trading
post. All kinds of stuff you could buy there-- Indian artifacts
and weapons, but by then there was no weapons, just an empty
floor. They started beating on the drum, and we were standing
there inside with our back to the wall, and somebody came and
told us it was a log building, and that sometimes bullets would
come in between the logs. I had just bought a new overcoat, a real
nice beige colored, and I didn't want to get it all dirty, but I
thought I could later send this coat to the cleaners. If a bullet
comes through it it's going to be different. So we got on the
floor and for the longest time we just heard a drum beat and in
between the drum beat you could hear bullets flying outside.
I don't know, maybe thirty, forty minutes, and finally it
stopped, we walked outside and continued with the business.
CBS was out there the whole time?
I don't know what happened to them. Some of these young news
crews are kind of adventurous. I guess they're doing their job.
You said you enforced cease fires,
how did you do that?
By setting up patrols in the areas separating the two fences. A lot of times there would be
a request for the Marshals to send a flare in the middle of the
night, two, three in the morning and they would send a flare to
see who was in between. Either the Indians or us would call for these
And it shows that it wasn't the other side shooting?
Yes. Other times in my career, I arrived when shooting had stopped, or
the riot has stopped. In Panama, in the Cuban refugee camps they had
riots where the Cubans broke out. They wounded
maybe two hundred soldiers. Two Cubans died trying to cross the
canal. So I arrived shortly thereafter. We already had
some crew there, but in fact what I did there besides other
things was to devise a plan of how our CRS staff would enter these camps,
because you've got three thousand people with a hundred soldiers but
none of the soldiers were inside. No person could go in by himself or herself,
they at least have a partner. You walk into the gate
and tell the military guy where you're going to go, who you're
going to talk to, when are you coming out, and exactly where
you're going to be. Don't go to a place were you cannot exit
quickly if things happen, so don't go to the middle of the camp
at night because you don't know what can happen. Just
elementary things. You try to avoid circumstances that are dangerous to that
extent. Always, if something happens, what do we do?
When we go to any demonstration or where we're asked to help
out and mitigate any negative situations we always plan for what
are we going to do if something negative happens. Physically, where are
we going to go. I remember attending a demonstration in Miami
one time. It was Haitians demonstrating against immigration and
they stopped at the immigration office. My colleague and I
discussed, if something happens we're going to head toward that
parking lot, we're going to jump that fence, and we're going to
get out that way. Oh yeah, we can do it. So we proceeded to
stay there and help out. But all with an eye to if something
happens, where we are going to go. And if you plan all this and
something happens, then you just do it. It just lessens the
probability of something bad happening to you. Because at the time there
were no police officers around. It was us and our feet.
So what do you do once you go into
a situation like that?
You look for how you're going to get out if things get
But assuming you stay in, what do you do?
As long as it's being managed, you
kind of take it at different levels. If this starts happening,
this is what we're going to do. But as long as it stays at
whatever level, like they were not rushing the building at that time,
they were ripping some trees down, but we're not rushing the
building. They were very vocal, and very demonstrative, but they
were not taking any motions to come into the building.
So you're acting like peacekeepers
standing in between the building?
Yes, and we're talking to them and some we knew. As long as
it's things like that, then it's okay to just wait it out.
But you don't try to instigate negotiations?
Not then, because there's no way to negotiate, they don't want
to negotiate, they just want to demonstrate. The only thing that
could have been negotiated is, you're here, how long you going to
be here. Or stay off the sidewalk. But there was nobody to
negotiate with. We just asked them don't get on the sidewalk and
don't block the entrance to the place. You just have to read the
situation and I guess through experience, you know some things
that you need to be doing. Safety first, of course, and the risk
that is calculated. And there's always an escape plan.
Have there ever been situations where you've been asked to go
you say "no," it's too dangerous?
in Guantanamo, Cuba, at the camps, when the military guards were sweeping the camps for
contraband, homemade knives and things that they had made. The
military would go in to "sweep" the tents. One time
there was a request for us to go with them when they did that,
but we refused. Because the Cuban refugees would be
seeing us as the military, or an arm of the military. So we had
to keep our neutrality. So we negotiated with them, you all go
in, and maybe after you go in and if you get out, if there's
something still brewing, then we'll go in. But it'll be us
representing ourselves. That's the only way it could work. When
you go into those camps, there's no military around when we're
inside. So we have to establish a relationship with whoever's
leading or whoever's in the camp. But the military then saw the
benefits of doing it the way we wanted to do it. Because we said
if we go with you, then we can't even help you anymore. But they
saw the benefits of us being there, and we made sure that they
understood our role. Also the persons inside the camps knew our
role. You do this through discussion and dialogue. We refused
what they wanted us to do. They saw that it was to everyone's
benefit that we don't do what they were asking us to do.
What did the people inside the camp see your role as being?
Helpful, that we were a resource that they could use and that
our presence there was helpful to them.
By keeping each side safe from the other, was that how you were
Well, we helped to maintain a working relationship. Whenever
it was threatened we would help to clarify things, make sure
things didn't turn into a worse situation. It was understood
that the refugees had to be inside these camps. They understood
that, they chose to flee Cuba. At the beginning they said they chose
to go to America, but knowing that they would be picked up and
sent to Guantanamo. That's not where they wanted to go, but they
knew. Nobody went and grabbed them and brought them over. They
came of their own volition. They would be there and some would
have to go back, they understood that, some would be allowed into
the U.S. It was not that they were prisoners or enemies, it was just they were there, and the
military was supposed to take care of them physically and in
How did you deal with impasses,
when you reached a situation where negotiation was at a stall?
I told you earlier when those parties almost walked out, they
just couldn't agree. So there was no progress, so we just talked with them privately,
privately, and discussed the whole situation over. I helped them
analyze where they were, their positions, and asked them to
think. That if the whole concept was to find remedies and
solutions. It wasn't to make points, not to find somebody
guilty, and we were confident that they could do it. We helped
them explore options and possibilities, and then they saw how
they could really continue and progress by looking at it slightly
different. This was after a re-analysis of their positions and
what was being asked. Things are very fluid and everybody has an
idea of where they want to go, but there's glitches along the
way, you have to work them through and help them do that.
Were power disparities ever an
I think they're present a lot of the time. If it's a minority group
that feels disempowered, a lot of
times, they themselves will say, "We have no power here except
the power of numbers, and we're putting ourselves out there." If
nothing else they'll put their bodies out. Others in society may call a person
with influence, they can call somebody to help them work things
through, they can call a congress person, they can call a city
official, they can call a city council member, and they speak on
their behalf and the problem gets resolved. But sometimes minorities
feel that they don't have those resources or those avenues, so
they just put themselves out there. We give them access to those
environments where decisions are being made or can be made.
Access that they didn't have before. If that's empowerment, I
don't know, but we're giving them access, they themselves can then
negotiate to resolve the problem. For some reason
they may have not been able to do this before.
ever perceived as being biased or non-neutral by the other side?
Have you ever run into a situation where they say, "How come
you're giving them so much help?"
I haven't run into that, because the officials are the ones
being complained about a lot of times. They want to respond but
perhaps not in the setting that is being proposed, like in the
street, or through the media.
A lot of times they don't understand,
they might be in groups asking for things that somebody wants and
then somebody wants something else within that group. So the
officials don't know how to respond or have difficulty in knowing
which group to listen to. What we
offer is a clarification of the dispute and then through the
clarification of issues and the presentation of issues in a
programmed manner. The officials may not have much experience in
negotiating in the street, but they know how to negotiate in a
controlled setting. But maybe the protesting group may not have
experience in negotiating in another setting like that, so we
provide the setting where everybody's comfortable.
Both parties understand that it's to their benefit to
come together. There's all levels of groups, levels of
sophistication, and levels of experience and sometimes they
require very little of us. Sometimes it requires more
preparation. I would say most groups are very sophisticated, so
we just need to help them and they do it themselves.
Looks to me like it pretty much covers what we have. If
someone were to ask you what are the
important lessons that you learned, over the years, what would
you tell somebody coming in new to this area? What are the
important things that you think they really need to learn?
I guess some degree of patience. That you don't have all the
solutions, plus they're not your solutions anyway. That you have
to convey to communities how you can help them. Let them decide.
Be ready to provide options or a different way of looking at
things, listen to them and don't make judgments. Hold things in
confidence, even if they don't ask you too. Look to things that
are going to help resolve the problem, not make it worse, maybe ideas they
haven't explored. From the beginning look for solutions, help
the community look for solutions, if you have an idea, analyze it
with them. Have confidence that you can help them, if you're not
going to be confident, don't even show up.
Have you run into situations where you haven't been able to
Some, but that has been because we don't have enough time. I think that's the
biggest drawback, we always wish we could talk to more people or
talk to some other people. We regret not having time to go back
maybe to situations where we thought we could've been helpful,
due to lack of time. At times perhaps we could've been more
helpful, and spent more time to analyze with them and be with
them, but I'm not able to be in two places at the same time yet.
I had a meeting in Austin one time, a mediation I was doing
there, and also a mediation meeting with Immigration in Houston, and because
I didn't put it on my calendar, they were on the same day. One
in Austin, one in Houston. Fortunately, the Austin meeting was a
two-hour morning meeting, the Houston meeting was going to be an all-day
meeting. The meeting in Houston was near the airport and the
meeting in Austin was at the airport, in the airport authorities
office. So I got on a plane to Austin, went to the meeting, caught the flight two hours later
to Houston, and got to that meeting. It's just that you wish you
had more time. And I said already, some things that can be done
today, can be done tomorrow or something that you can't do today,
you can probably do tomorrow. But if you don't have time today
or tomorrow, by the time there is time, you have run out of time. I
don't know, I wish we had more staff, I wish we spent more time
with the parties, I wish we were more thorough. But it's a judgment
call, and if I had more time I could've done things better.
We have a lot of good people in the agency, learned a lot from them
in the heat of battle, or just quiet conversations. But I've learned
a whole lot from them.
Great, the agency's going to lose a good man when they lose
I don't know, there's always somebody who can do it better,
still a lot of good guys left and good women left too. And
they're staying around, although some of the old-timers are
leaving, Larry's leaving. But there's always tomorrow for whatever. Just another
philosophical point of view in dealing with crisis situations, "this too
shall pass, there'll be a tomorrow, the sun's going to come up, and
if we're lucky enough to be there, we'll just welcome the sun and see
how we can make the best of the next twenty-four hours."
In the heat of crisis, I tell myself,
this too shall pass, what's happening now can't last forever and
we'll be back tomorrow, and see how we can do it again, give it
We're talking about a black man
dragged to death and killed a year ago?
Yes, June 7, I think it was of last year.
There has been a strong community reaction to that. What have
you been doing to try to diffuse the situation?
I don't know about diffusing a situation.
Okay, maybe I should change the question, what was your role?
First I wanted to see how the
community was reacting to it, and estimate if something going to
happen in reaction to the killing. And I found out all kinds of
things, all points of view, I tried to talk to everybody that
wanted to talk to me. Persons were calling me, or I would ask
them to talk to me. I found that the community was really
working together in the beginning, and following the lead of the
family Mr. and Mrs. Berg that they didn't want any
demonstrations, no picketing, and no rallies. They wanted to
handle this in a dignified manner, in a Christian manner.
So for the most part the leadership followed that lead.
It was unique, more than I've seen anywhere were the different
elements in the community working together, religious community,
political leaders, the community organization, they all saw that
it was to their benefit to come and work together. I did have them analyze
some of the circumstances. I had them look at other communities
with a similar situation, what was relevant to Jasper that they
could be doing. And what they could expect, since there was a
stage set, media, and worldwide attention, that they could expect
other people from the outside, or maybe inside coming in to use
that stage. When that happened, they were prepared for that.
When I mentioned other communities, when the Klan was coming or
somebody else was coming, they had counter demonstrations, and
some communities didn't have anything, so they chose for
themselves after analysis, that it was best for them not to do
anything. Just maintain a calm and not react to the people
coming in. So we followed their lead, we really tried to
maintain that cooperation.
One of the issues that they mentioned were problems that had
been there historically.
helped analyze with them what some of those things were that they
could be doing to address that. Which was the better path?
After many meetings everybody had a role to play in the creation
of the Mayor's Task Force 2000, and we gave them technical
assistance in that. Also discussing with them that if
they were to focus on the future, that they could be better able
to handle the present. They would then have a plan how they're going to
reach that future and then they could withstand whoever came in
and out, and whoever had other agendas and the city was not
focusing on where they wanted to be. And they would decide where
that place was, and how they're going to get there. It would be
essential that before they decided where they wanted to be that
they should discover where they were. And once they discovered
where they were, and everybody understood where they were, then
they could shed more light on where they needed to be and how
they're going to get there. Through a lot of meetings and a lot
of private discussions they did that and formed the Mayor's Task
Force 2000, formed of all the elements in the community. There's
always consequences for doing something, and consequences for not
doing anything. So there were pretties, and as you know the
mayor's African American, and the head of the chamber of commerce
is African American, the board president who had been there
twenty years is African American, or he just resigned, the head
of one of the major employers, the hospital. Two of the city
council members are African American. A lot of people they
themselves credit that as to why the town was able to cope with a
lot of things. Other communities are not composed like that, and
may not have been able to handle it as well. Fifty percent of
the population is black or about that much out of 8,000. This
incident happened in the county.
When we were discussing and I asked him what area are you
going to cover because it was in Jasper, and we talked about
creating a vehicle to take them into the future, but this vehicle
would be Jasper owned and operated, they would decide where they
would go, who was going to be in it, how the vehicle is going to
be shaped, and how they were going to get there. The mayor and
others felt that although it may be a Jasper vehicle that it
would be inclusive of the areas outside of Jasper too, like the
creek area where the killing occurred. Critics on both sides
said that it wasn't going to work, it would be a white wash, they
were going to hide things, and there's no problem. Yeah we've
got problems, we're not perfect, but things are okay. Things
have happened here, and there have been other incidents that have
just been kept covered up and we have longstanding issues.
We kind of agreed with them that the creating of a vehicle
in a public manner through community dialogues and small town
hall meetings they could discover where they were. All of those
meetings were public and the way they organized the task force is
it's composed of different committees. The task was to do a self
examination of the law enforcement, of the education system, and
of the business community. These committees are composed of
representatives of the whole, but with representatives of those
entities and the committee was going to take a self look, so then
they organized these meetings. I had sketched out a skeleton of
an organization but they even did me better. They got really
sophisticated and came back with an official organization
structure that really was great because it covered everybody.
And everybody participating in the process of this self look.
That's recommendable to any community, to take a self look of all
facets of the community, and based on that self look come up with
a plan. It's not like me looking at you and pointing out your
faults, but together let's see what we can do better here. That
was published in the newspaper, the results and the finding of
all those meetings. So they proved wrong those that felt it was
going to be covered up, because it was very obvious what happened
right there in the paper.
Did each of these task forces come up
with their own one year plan or was it coordinated?
Each came up with their own because
they were looking at different things, so they each came up with
their own, but combined as part of a whole. In essence, we were
working with another group in Houston, the Asian-African-American
task force, and we followed that model when we worked in Jasper.
The incident triggered off this thing in Houston that happened in
97, I think it was September of 97. Bringing the community
together, and having the elements work together, the store
owners, the Vietnamese, the black community representatives, and
law enforcement. What are the issues out there, what are the
potential problems and what could work, what's doable, so we got
it set in stone, and we sat down and worked out a plan to take
care of all the problem and issues. It involved training and
educating. It was difficult for the store operators of mom and
pop stores to take time off and go to the meetings so we decided
the meetings would be held in the stores. We were sitting on top
of crates and things, and the police did security survey's for
all the stores. We analyzed the friction points, what were
potential friction points and then developed plans to deal with
Give an example of a friction point.
When a customer comes into a store, the store owners follow
them around, and if you're an upstanding citizen, when you go
into a store, you don't want to be followed around, already
judged as a crook or a thief, so that creates friction. A
solution to that, based on a survey by the police, was the
community recommended two things, cameras which were expensive,
or put mirrors up, so the cashier could follow everybody around
just by looking at the mirrors. The people didn't feel like they
were being followed, but yet it met the concern that the store
owner had. Also, we developed a good neighbor program to tell
the community that not all Vietnamese store owners were bad, that
there was a lot of good ones there. A value statement was based
on all those friction points, and it was very basic. Every
corporation and every police department has a mission statement,
a statement of values, this is what we value, so we came up with
a value statement that the store would sign. First of all we
value our customers, we welcome them with a smile. Another
friction point was speaking Vietnamese when others are there. We
want to curb that as much as possible. But cognizant of the
effects it might have. We will agree not to limit that. Keep,
especially when they were selling bad foods, and not wanting to
offer returns, money back guarantees. These would be posted very
prominently. The task force was a resource to everybody, any
store could call the task force members rather than going out
there and arguing it out, there are volunteers available to
Any store within the seven or any store at all?
Just the seven because that's do-able. There was a request by
city council for them to go help in another part of town. So we
worked on a second plan, a new year's plan for the task force. A
lot of things in the process we suggested in Jasper that they
also go through this, and it's useful anyway, and a lot of
communities have done that maybe in one form or another.
Can this be done without a crisis to start it?
That's a good question and it would be better. In Houston the
triggering crisis was a shooting of an African American youth, a
student by a Vietnamese. He claimed he shot in the air as a
warning because rowdy kids had come to the store. For safety or
security reasons they had a limit of no more than three kids in
the store at the same time. A bunch of kids came in and somebody
broke the window and he thought he was being shot at so he fired
and hit a kid in the leg. The kid was far away, and the
community couldn't understand how shooting in the air could hit
the kid. There's was picketing and all kinds of things. It
would be better to do this on an ongoing basis, and communities
setting up a process to do this, and a lot of them have done
that. We have a booklet that we come out with, and it offers a
lot of ways of doing things. Best practices, what communities
are doing that others can be doing. So it's not necessary to
have an incident. Hopefully communities can do this before they
have an incident, so they won't have any.
Anyway I'm very proud of what Jasper has done, they work
well together, and they came together in a moment of crisis and I
think they may have overcome their problems. They are a very
religious community and not facetiously, but kind of the way I
put things sometimes with where do you want to be a year from
now, and as good Christians, there has to be work done on that.
In Jasper, we want to be there, but wishing is not going to get
us there, so here's what we need to do together. And that is the
plan. From the beginning they were working together, so we kind
of just fostered that a continuation of that, and there were some
critics as usual, the group still wants to be inclusive, they
want to have everybody participating. They've done well. We're
going to use them in Washington. They've agreed to go to
Washington with us. In fact both the Asian-African-American task
force in Houston and the Jasper task force. Plus groups
throughout the country. What we kind of do is show America that
people can work together and are working together to make it a
better America for everybody, and here are examples. You'll be
able to talk to them and see them, and they're just people.
Police officers, if I can brag about the task force in Houston,
were selected by the International Association of Chiefs of
Police, which is the largest law enforcement agency in the world
that deals with bettering policing throughout the world. They
got the civil rights award for this year. September first we're
going to get an appreciation award from the Houston Police
Department. The international meeting is being held in Charlotte
and I'll be out there with them. They're great people, police
officers going above and beyond the call of duty to work with the
communities. These two officers have second jobs, but they still
go on and work with the community on their own time. Or on duty
or off duty.