Dayton, OH

Mediation Response Unit – Dayton, Ohio


The Mediation Response Unit (MRU) is the city of Dayton, Ohio’s alternative emergency response program that functions under the oversight of the Dayton Mediation Center. The MRU responds to non-emergency, nonviolent 911 calls and referrals with a team of trained responders who have experience and mediation certification in crisis response, de-escalation, conflict resolution, and community development. MRU, which was designed to respond to conflict-based calls from community members, also has its own direct line that residents can call. Staff offer on-scene de-escalation, connection to formal mediation, referrals to other organizations, and skills and support for navigating conflict.

The following information outlines MRU’s efforts since it began; it follows the sections of the toolkit. Readers can connect to other parts of the toolkit by clicking the headers for more details.

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Photo Credit: Dayton MRU

Community Engagement and Collaboration

  • After the 2020 murder of George Floyd, the city of Dayton started a community police reform process that included creating five working groups with community members and city officials. The community engagement working group recommended that Dayton implement an alternative emergency response program. As part of the program design process, the working groups and Dignity Best Practices—a consulting firm that helps local governments build innovative community responses—conducted community outreach to gauge the desire of an alternative response program.
  • MRU was designed based on months of collaborative, interagency sessions that ultimately recommended embedding the program within Dayton’s first response system. This required significant effort and alignment among the county’s Regional Dispatch Center, Dayton Police Department, Dayton Fire Department, and Dayton Mediation Center.
  • Prior to its launch, MRU staff intentionally engaged with community nonprofits and supportive services providers to foster trust and better understanding of the services that could be provided by MRU. This was also intended to encourage shelters, clinics, and youth homes to call MRU directly or first instead of 911 when their clients or residents were experiencing conflict.
  • The working groups and Dignity Best Practices incorporated community feedback into multiple facets of the planning process, from team uniforms to protocols for how responders enter a scene.

Needs Assessment

  • Dignity Best Practices and the Law Enforcement Action Partnership identified 911 call types that could be handled by MRU and not an armed police presence. Based on that analysis, they made recommendations to the community working groups and city officials to find ways to reduce the presence of law enforcement when there was a more appropriate response or the nature of the call did not require an officer.

Call Triaging

  • MRU can receive calls for service through multiple sources, including through 911 dispatch, MRU’s direct line, and referrals from law enforcement and the Fire Department/emergency medical services (EMS).
    • Most MRU calls originate as 911 calls for service and are dispatched to the MRU team.
    • MRU responds to the following 911 call types: noise complaints, neighbor disputes, roommate trouble, loitering, trespassing, barking dogs, peace officer request, juvenile complaints, party complaints, harassment, parking complaints, welfare checks, and a handful of other call types.
    • 911 calls are screened for violence, weapons, threats, and whether temporary protective orders are in place. If a call is deemed appropriate, dispatchers can transfer the caller to a mediation specialist for telephone support, radio dispatch of the MRU team, or the MRU team can self-dispatch.
  • MRU is integrated into the city’s first response system through access to electronic devices in police vehicles and the 911 call center, which allows the team to self-dispatch to a wider variety of calls when appropriate. MRU has also worked with the Dayton Police Department and Montgomery County Sheriff Department’s Regional Dispatch Center to create criteria for screening calls for appropriateness and safety.
  • Additionally, the Dayton Police Department can request MRU respond to a call, provide on-scene support, or recommend a call to the MRU team via radio referral.
  • MRU has a direct phone line, which can be used by residents requesting service. The MRU call taker can generate a new call for service in the first response system and dispatch the field team to respond in person.

Program Staffing

  • MRU includes a team of seven people: a coordinator and six mediation response specialists. The coordinator is responsible for staffing, training, updating protocols, and record keeping, while also responding to calls. The response specialists are the primary call responders operating in teams of two, and they also rotate filling the call taker role.
  • The professional backgrounds of the team are varied and include licensed social workers, experienced mediation specialists, a youth probation officer, detention and correction workers, crisis workers, and mental health professionals.

Use of Data to Inform Decision Making

  • MRU has access to Dayton’s first response system data and keeps its own internal reporting system. The program collects data to analyze the following performance indicators, among others:
    • Number of initial MRU responses;
    • Number of calls referred back to police by MRU;
    • Number of follow-ups and referrals to supportive services;
    • Number of responses based on call type, location, and demographics; and
    • Number of responses based on call origin, regional dispatch, police referral, and direct calls to MRU.
  • These data are used to assess trends in responses, identify disparities or inequities in access or outcomes, identify gaps in communities being served, develop trainings for any collaborating agency, and review and update policies as needed.
  • Additionally, data can be used to understand social health trends in Dayton through qualitative analysis for recurring themes or trends in 911 calls. This style of analysis supports the development of proactive outreach and engagement.

Safety and Wellness

  • MRU team members complete two weeks of field-based training, including situational awareness, defensive tactics, de-escalation, resiliency and self-care, mental health first aid, and other practical trainings.
  • The MRU team is outfitted with police radios for both safety and communication to allow for rapid access to support team members and detect accurate locations.
  • MRU trains its staff in screening calls for appropriateness based on multiple factors, including safety-based triaging.
  • Based on the nature of responding to conflict-based calls for service, there is an understanding that situations can evolve quickly, and based on escalation and environmental changes, the MRU can refer calls back to the Dayton Police Department if necessary.

Financial Sustainability

  • MRU is funded through the city of Dayton’s general fund, so no funds were diverted from other city departments to support it.