The Montgomery County police training academy, where markmanship and crime solving techniques traditionally have gotten the major emphasis, plans to inaugrate a new curriculum to train officers in complexities ranging from law to psychology.
Among other things, the next class of 30 recruits, starting in March, will be required to learn the difference between the symptons of an epileptic seizure and those of a drug overdos. They will be taught not only how to arrest an unruly teen-ager, but also the psychological and sociological causes fo juvenile delinquency.
The aim of the curriculum, one legacy of recently ousted Montgomery County police chief Robert J. diGrazia, is to turn recruits into law enforcement officers who do some of the work of social workers, psychologists, doctors and lawyers.
According to Phyllis P.McDonald, acting director of the training academy, Acting Chief Donald E. Brooks, who was unavailable for comment last night, received a copy of the new curriculum just last week and has not yet told her if he intends to make any changes in it. Maj. Wayne Brown, second in command in the police department, said last night he had not yet had a chance to look at the curriculum.
Details of the program, released yesterday, present a picture of police officers as men and women who not only patrol neighborhoods, make arrests and give out traffic tickets, but also act as troubleshooters within the community. In this role, officers are expected to put people in touch with the social services that can help them.
Louis Mayo, director of training and testing for the National Institute of Law Enforcement, called Montgomery's program "one of the most innovative police training programs in the nation."
Mayo said the Montgomery program recognizes that the "primary duties and activities of policy officers are in dealing with human beings in a crisis situation."
Thus human relations trainings will take up about 20 percent of the 890 hours of training the new recruits will receive, according to McDonald.
The rest of the training will deal with traditional police functions such as arrest prcedures, instruction in the criminal code, techniques of gathering evidence at crime scenes, techniques of interrogation, the use of weapon and emergency first aid skills.
The aim of the human relations training is to give officers "the kinds of skills they need to be able to control behavior without using force. But if they need to use force, they'll have those skills too," McDonald said.
The recruits themselves will be asked to do some self-analysis as well, pinpointing their won attitudes and prejudices toward power and authority, toward leadership, women, racial minorities and ethnic groups, according to Dr. Ronald I. Weiner, associate dean of the School of Justice at American University.
Weiner, who helped develop the new curriculum, insists that the emphasis on community service does not downplay the traditional role of the police officer as crime fighter. "The crimw fighting aspect of the job will be enchanced by their learning how to scope out a community better."
However, one police sergeant who asked not to be named, expressed concern over what he called the "social studies" emphasis in the training. "I hope it doesn't get to the point where an officer puts his life in danger because he stops and rationalizes (about the situation) . . .
"I think understanding people and being compassionate is very important, but you can't be that way when a guy is coming at you with a knife. You can't say, 'Let's talk about it.'"
Mayo, however, said the Montgomery program merely reflects trends in modern policing. Now, according to several studies, "the vast majority of calls (to the police" are social service calls. Very few have anything to do with major crime." He said an analysis of the Uniform Crime Report show that an officer usually receives only one or two calls per week on major crimes.