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Alcohol Training for Police Officers - Behavior or Attitude Change?

NCJ Number
Journal of Alcohol and Drug Education Volume: 24 Issue: 2 Dated: (1979) Pages: 11-25
R H Ropers; R F Calkins
Date Published
15 pages
Part of a Michigan pilot project in response to decriminalizing public intoxication involved the training of police officers in Kalamazoo County in regard to problem drinking, the alcoholic, alcoholism, and police options under the pilot project.
The pilot project aimed to establish and evaluate hospital and nonhospital detoxification centers to test the provisions of a forthcoming Michigan law to decriminalize public intoxication. The major intent of the project was to gain the voluntary cooperation of police agencies in utilizing options other than jail when contacting the public inebriate. Those options included taking the public inebriate to the nonhospital detox center, the hospital emergency room, or home. All of the police officers attending the training were given pretraining and posttraining attitude questionnaires regarding their perception of how the disposition of the public inebriate should be handled; whether the forthcoming law was unclear, idealistic, humane, ambiguous, practical, and legally sound; and whether their attitudes toward alcohol were characterized by moral considerations, criminal issues, or disease characteristics. The data indicate that police attitudes toward alcoholism are not significantly affected by a training program. However, police attitudes and behavior toward the disposition of the public inebriate appear to be influenced by an information and training program. Through exploration of the possible causes and reasons for alcohol abuse and discussion of the options available to deal with alcohol abuse problems, police attitudes toward alcohol abuse situations can be modified in positive (nonpunitive) directions. If there are options available to them, police will actively utilize them. It appears that communities and States considering the decriminialization of public intoxication might have more success in implementing such a law if police officers are involved in an educational program which concentrates more on how to utilize newly available options than attempting to directly influence police attitudes toward alcohol use. Seven tables are provided.


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