Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on June 9, 1974 · Page 185
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 185

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, June 9, 1974
Page 185
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Page 185 article text (OCR)

These CHS Slip Fanny Brawls- by Theodore Irwin LOUISVILLE, KY. E vidently violence, like charity, begins at home. The chilling fact is revealed in the latest FBI Uniform Crime Reports: one out of four homicides in the U.S. occurs within families. Spouse murders spouse in half of these cases. Moreover, too many police officers trying to intervene in a family fracas have been turned on and knifed, shot, clubbed, and even slain. What's being done about keeping family peace and preventing bloodshed? Louisville believes it has the answer. In a novel approach known as Crisis intervention, this is the first city in the nation to train its entire 790-member police force to act as mediators in pacifying violent domestic quarrels. A model training program for Louisville police has prepared officers to deal with family quarrels, origin of one in four U.S. homicides. Here, patrolmen George Langford and Charles Tingle answer a call. And it's done without cracking skulls and a minimum of arrests. Moreover, Louisville's plan serves as a model for other cities. "It's a concept, a kind of mental health first-aid, whose time has come," says Lt. James E. Oney, the husky, easygoing, 33-year-old director of the police training program. A typical case Here's how the Louisville cops handle a typical case: A neighbor phones police headquarters to report a brawl in an adjacent apartment. The radio dispatcher contacts the two-man patrol car on that beat. The pair proceed to the battle scene, listen at the door for sounds of gunplay, then knock, announce who they are and enter. Inside, they find the apartment a shambles. The wife, her jaw bruised, has . stopped screaming. Noticing "a butcher knife on a coffee table, one of the cops scoops it up. When the husband starts obscenely cussing out the visitors, one of them takes off his hat and politely asks, "Mind if I smoke? Some people don't like the smell of cigars." Stunned by such unexpected courtesy, the man subsides, the fight drained out of him. One officer then escorts the wife into another room for questioning while the other listens patiently to the husband's story. Then the couple are brought together, their stories compared. "She's always bugging me about money." "He always stops for beers before coming Louisville Police Chief Jack Nevins and Lt.~]ames Oney have pioneered improved police training. Policemen learn the tricks of intervening in family squabbles by working with actors, who simulate fights at practice sessions. home." "She keeps nagging, nagging, about my playing poker/' "I threw out his clothes, he got mad and hit me ..." The cops carefully avoid taking sides. After a half-hour the combatants' chance to air their gripes to someone impartial calms them down. They are asked to promise to go to a family social agency for counseling and given the address. "May we come back next week to see how you make out?" says one cop. As the police leave,, wife and husband shake their hands. Mayhem has been averted. Gave up the old way In sharp contrast^ to such remedial house calls, before touisville launched its CI. program about the only recourse police had was to advise the aggrieved to take out an arrest warrant. Veteran Sgt Roy Parsons recalls: "In the old days we never took time to listen because we felt we had more important things to do. For instance, we'd tell a raving and ranting husband to take a walk. In one case when he came back home and again whipped his wife, she shot him between the eyes. That isn't likely to happen any more in this town." The Crisis Intervention idea surfaced tentatively four years ago when Dr. James M. Driscoll, University of Louisville psychologist, suggested that a 12- man police unit be set up. Under a small feasibility grant from the Kentucky Crime Commission, these men were coached by university psychologists in tackling "conjugal disharmony." The unit's efforts, confined to one district, turned out to be so successful that the Division of Police decided to indoctrinate the entire force. Louisville's the place Why in Louisville? Wholehearted support has come from the young (34) Mayor Dr. Harvey Sloan, a millionaire, independent, enlightened and progressive, wide open to fresh constructive ideas, and from Chief of Police Jack Nevins, the first chief in the city's history with a college degree.Nevins, only 37, is sold on the importance of psychology and interpersonal relationships. For their intensive week-long CI. training, recruits and officers taking the in-service course study with specialists in alcoholism, drugs, handling of teenagers, facets of domestic conflict. Mock family spats are staged (sometimes with professional actors) in apartment settings equipped with two-way mirrors to observe how a student-officer intervenes, using psychological techniques. Emphasis on behavior modification helps cops recognize when a citizen needs referral to a social agency or mental health clinic. They learn to develop such skills as effective listening, drawing from antagonists the real roots of a conflict. They're educated to realize how they'll be regarded by a family as they step into a home. For practice, continued

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