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Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

OLEO collaborates with the Sheriff’s Office to offer an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) program to resolve disagreements by talking through an issue with a neutral third party facilitating the discussion. It is an alternative to the traditional complaint and disciplinary process that must be entered voluntarily by both parties and allows the parties to resolve complaints themselves, rather than depend on the judgment of others.

A complaint may be considered for ADR if an incident resulted from a failure to communicate, or a lack of communication and the allegation would be better resolved through talking and listening, rather than through a formal disciplinary process. Examples of such cases include, but are not limited to:

  • Discourtesy 
  • Rudeness  
  • Use of profanity  
  • Racial profiling 
  • Procedural issues related to pedestrian, traffic stops, or police action  
  • Vehicle operations (e.g., speeding, use of sirens, code responses, etc.)

Some reasons complainants choose ADR:

  • To be fully heard and understood. 
  • To hear the employee’s perspectives. 
  • To speak directly to the employee, rather than having the complaint decided by others. 
  • To give the employee feedback. 
  • To prevent similar incidents. 
  • To regain the confidence in law enforcement services. 

Some reasons Sheriff's Office employees choose ADR:

  • To be understood. Sometimes the employee can’t always explain their actions while in the field. 
  • To hear the residents' perspective. 
  • To speak directly with the residents, rather than having someone else decide the outcome of the complaint. 
  • To improve relations with the community. 
  • To resolve the complaint outside of the disciplinary process.

If you wish to request ADR with a Sheriff's Office employee, contact OLEO at 206-263-8870 or

Learning more about the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) process:

In order to go to ADR, the person making the complaint must be interested in pursuing it. The Sheriff's Office employee designated by the complaint must also agree in order for the mediation to proceed. Potential ADR cases are then reviewed and approved by the OLEO Director and the Commander of the Internal Investigations Unit.

The mediator is a neutral third party trained and experienced in helping people talk through and resolve their differences in constructive ways. OLEO has selected trained, professional mediators with significant conflict resolution backgrounds. The mediator will:

  • Explain the process and ground rules and answer any questions.
  • Listen to both sides of the story.
  • Ask questions to clarify what happened and help identify central issues.
  • Help keep the discussion focused, productive and non-threatening.
  • NOT take sides, place blame, or pass judgment.

Not necessarily. ADR can work even with people who are very upset. The mediator is trained to help people resolve conflict in constructive ways.

ADR is confidential; all participants sign a legally binding confidentiality agreement. The contents of an ADR session are not subject to subpoena or discovery, and courts have upheld the mediator-client privilege. The one exception is where mandatory reporting requirements apply for certain admissions of criminal acts by any party.
It is part of the mediator’s job to control a session from deteriorating to verbal attacks. While there may be some venting on both sides, verbal abuse or threatening conduct are not acceptable in ADR. The mediator may separate the parties, work with them individually, or elect to terminate the ADR.
No. You may not have done anything wrong. In any case, what you say is up to you. Some participants do apologize, but it is their choice.
Either party can leave the session at any time. No one is compelled to reach conclusions or agreements.