Police services need help. Here is one way.

The department secretary ran into the hallway. “Dr. Pawlicki, Dr. Pawlicki, resident physician and patient are yelling at each other. I’m afraid it will get violent. I jumped up and followed her to the locked psychiatric ward on the same floor of our offices at West Virginia University Medical Center Two tall men, clashing, ready to strike, a highly trained professional and a psychiatric patient, both on the verge of bloodshed.

“Jimmy,” I said, as calmly as possible, directing my attention to the patient. “You look really angry.” “You are damn right, I’m angry. This naked, empty idiot won’t let me use the phone. Facing the supervisory staff, the resident doctor stepped back and allowed his blood pressure to drop. At the same time, I listened carefully to what the patient said before hearing what bothered the resident doctor. Hearing both sides calmly voice their positions was enough to avoid the punches.

This memory came to my mind recently when reading a newspaper article that the Albuquerque, New Mexico Police Force was carrying out: “A Bold Experiment To Get The Police Out Of the equation for mental health appeals. It turns out that Albuquerque is not alone. Orlando, Florida; Eugene, Oregon; New York City; Los Angeles; San-Francisco; and Washington, DC, all have established or are developing similar programs. Responsibility is shifted from police officers to mental health specialists who are better trained in dealing with the mentally ill. It makes sense. Even in the most progressive police services, officers receive a few weeks of training to deal with these most difficult situations. Not nearly enough.

My experience, quoted above, is short-lived compared to what needs to be done in the real world. A paranoid schizophrenic, perhaps naked, both terrified and threatening, with passers-by presents a chaotic situation that deserves specialists.

These mental health teams can not only deal with seriously mentally ill citizens, but also drug addiction and homelessness issues otherwise dealt with by armed agents.

Another example of specialized soft skills used effectively in an otherwise violent situation is described in a book currently on the bestseller list, “Sons and Soldiers: The Untold Story of the Jews Who Escaped the Nazis and Returned with the US Army to Fight Hitler, “by Bruce Henderson. Shortly after American forces were dispatched to the European theater at the outbreak of World War II, military superiors realized they needed a different approach to obtaining information. valuable from newly captured German prisoners of war Threats did not work.

The military was aware of the existence of many newly naturalized German-American Jews eager to do their part to defeat the Nazi monster. The men were trained to be special interrogators. They spoke German without an accent, knew the German culture they had grown up in, and were able to interrogate by bonding and gaining the confidence of German soldiers captured on the front lines, often providing decisive information that turned the tide of battle for the allies. to favor.

The naturalized Jews born in Germany, named the Ritchie Boys for where they trained, eventually numbered nearly 2,000 and were sent in elite teams to join every fighting unit in Europe. A post-war military report said it had found more than “60% of the credible intelligence that saved American lives came from the Ritchie Boys.”

The Ritchie Boys stress the importance of having the right staff to respond to the problem. Police officers who are not trained mental illness specialists are not the right people to deal with someone with mental illness in distress.

So far, the results are encouraging in terms of the use of mental health professionals instead of police intervention. The mayor of Orlando recently reported “excellent results” from his six-month pilot program, and Denver’s one-year program showed “promising results.”

This option treats both people with mental illness safer and more humane and reduces the burden on overburdened police departments – a win-win situation.

Robert Pawlicki is a retired psychologist and a frequent contributor to the Savannah (Ga.) Morning News. He wrote this for InsideSources.com.


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