By Philtrina Farquharson | Contributing Writer 

According to researchers at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Black Americans are more than three times as likely than white Americans to be killed by police during a police encounter. These rates of deadly police encounters in the U.S. were higher in the West and South and showed very high differences between treatments based on race. 

A simple traffic stop should not equal a death sentence which is why Lenay Richardson, conflict management & mediation expert, is working to bridge the gap and diffuse negative interactions between law enforcement, city officials, and civilians. 

The LA native started her career as a bank examiner, she held this role for more than 25 years. Over time, she would realize that this job would prepare her for her new journey focused on conflict resolution within the community.  

“I learned a lot including how to develop relationships. You have to be able to explain to a bank manager or bank president what your issues are if you have any issues, and how to fix them. “That is basically what dispute resolution is,” said Richardson. 

As a Bank Examiner per the job description, she would ensure financial institutions were appropriately handling their money while operating legally and managing unexpected losses. Beyond these tasks, Richardson developed and perfected many soft skills needed for the role she is in today to be able to protect civilians and break the negative stereotypes surrounding the Black community. 

She currently works with Centinela Youth Services, a non-profit offering pro bono mediation services. This organization works with local youth to provide counseling; physical and mental health, academic, and developmental intervention. In addition to aiding youth, Richardson is set to begin mediation with the Los Angeles Sheriff’s office to create a communication bridge between civilians and officers. 

When working with these community organizations, she emphasized that “Conflict is always around. How you deal with conflict makes all the difference,” said Richardson “You want to get to a point where you are calm, you can speak rationally, and make rational decisions because when you’re upset, it can be hard to get to the root of the problem”.

With hopes of starting her mediation clinic in the future to offer legal advice, Richardson wanted to fulfill her dream of attending law school and she did just that a few weeks ago. 

Richardson recently started Trinity Law School and she believes that now was the best time to do so. As a single mom of 2 and the lack of virtual options back then, Law school did not seem obtainable. “Now that my kids are all grown up and I can attend school in my living room, this makes it easier to achieve,” said Richardson. 

Since starting, she has been enjoying her classes, and thus far, she has learned that mediation is an intricate part of the law because you have to be able to talk to your client. You have to know who your client is and what their issues are. “This is why I got into mediation ,and law school is helping me make that connection and help bring resolutions to problems big and small,” said Richardson.  

When asking Richardson tips for conflict management she said, If you are upset, stop and take a minute and that minute can make a difference in your de-escalation and outcome. With the recent uproar for justice and the senseless killings of Black people at the hands of the police, any work to combat this is always a win for the community. 

Observer Group Newspapers of Southern California Inc. coverage of local news in Los Angeles & Kern county  is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.