The Community Relations Service is the Department's "peacemaker" for community conflicts and tensions arising from differences of race, color, and national origin. Created by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, CRS is the only Federal agency dedicated to assist State and local units of government, private and public organizations, and community groups with preventing and resolving racial and ethnic tensions, incidents, and civil disorders, and in restoring racial stability and harmony.
With passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, CRS also works with communities to employ strategies to prevent and respond to alleged violent hate crimes committed on the basis of actual or perceived race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion or disability. CRS facilitates the development of viable, mutual understandings and agreements as alternatives to coercion, violence, or litigation. It also assists communities in developing local mechanisms, conducting training, and other proactive measures to prevent racial/ethnic tension and violent hate crimes committed on the basis of actual or perceived race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, or disability. CRS does not take sides among disputing parties and, in promoting the principles and ideals of non-discrimination, applies skills that allow parties to come to their own agreement. In performing this mission, CRS deploys highly skilled professional conciliators, who are able to assist people of diverse backgrounds.
For more than 45 years, CRS has been asked to provide its experienced mediators to help local communities resolve conflicts and disturbances relating to race, color, or national origin. Each year CRS' highly skilled conciliators bring hundreds of community-wide conflicts to peaceful closure across America and its territories.
CRS lends its services when requested or accepted by the parties. The Service uses impartial mediation practices and conflict resolution procedures to help local leaders resolve problems and restore stability. CRS has no law enforcement authority and does not impose solutions, investigate, prosecute, or assign blame and fault. All CRS mediators are required by law to conduct their activities in confidence, without publicity, and are prohibited from disclosing confidential information.
CRS conciliators work with State and local officials and community leaders to provide a wide variety of services to address racial issues and prevent violent hate crimes committed on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, or disability. CRS' services include:
- Contributing expertise and guidance on methods and policies that calm tension and conflicts associated with race, color, or national origin or with preventing and responding to violent hate crimes committed on the basis of actual or perceived race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, or disability.
- Enhancing strategies of State and local governments and community groups to prevent and respond to civil disorders.
- Improving lines of communication between parties experiencing tension or conflict, including Federal, State, and local officials, community leaders and residents.
- Helping schools and universities effectively deal with incidents of tension or violence associated with race, color, or national origin or with preventing and responding to violent hate crimes committed on the basis of actual or perceived race, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, or disability.
CRS assists willing parties and explores opportunities to develop and implement local strategies that can help law enforcement, local officials, civil rights organizations, and interested community groups respond to alleged hate crimes and find ways to prevent future incidents.
State and local law enforcement officials and community leaders may contact CRS to request assistance in improving communication between law enforcement and community members in the aftermath of a hate crime. CRS may help facilitate dialogues between law enforcement and community members to increase mutual understanding about the investigative and prosecutorial process as well as the concerns of people in the community.
CRS improves community response mechanisms, by facilitating the development of community capacity to help prevent hate crimes with services and programs that include: conciliation, mediation, training, technical assistance, and other tension reduction techniques.
CRS may introduce the community to representatives of agencies that respond to hate crimes, including federal, state, and local law enforcement officials, local government resources as well as community organizations (advocacy organizations, and other service organizations).
CRS also responds to requests for assistance from law enforcement and community organizations for contingency planning and self-marshalling training before large protests or events to help keep events safe. We facilitate meetings between all parties involved, and serve as a neutral entity to ensure logistics are coordinated and that information is shared appropriately.