Police Psychology | An Unsung Hero

Posted: June 7, 2016 in Stories
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Police Psychology | An Unsung Hero

by Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D.  ABPP


This weekend I was working on a cement block retaining wall, the ones that look like rocks but are really just carved cement.  I needed to do about 50 feet of wall but I figured being 60 next month and having gotten over open heart surgery, and being fat and in the wrong shape (round instead of square), I would do ten feet at a time, about two hours of work, I figured.  First I had to rip out big eight-foot landscape ties, then dig a trench about 7-8 inches deep, fill it full of bluestone pebbles rocks to 4 inches left, put in the block, level them and WALLA, I’m done.   Simple.  Eight and a half hours later, with two trips to Home Depot I was exhausted and couldn’t even carry the last blocks to the wall.  I needed a chainsaw for the landscape ties.  I had to make two cuts on each one so I could carry them.  I had to sharpen the blade after every cut.  I need four times as much rock as I had.  Digging was an adventure, who knew every rock in the free world came to rest in my front yard, and leveling the blocks in an unlevel yard —  I am not built for this kind of work!  And no one will notice the difference.  And I thought about my occasional friend Jim Dougherty when I was finished.

We lost a good one, a real hero, this Tuesday.  No not that way, Jim Dougherty retired.  Jim ran Marworth Treatment Center and came to my attention in the late 90’s when he asked me if I would help him establish a treatment center for police officers and first responders.  He came across my name when I was doing a tour of field offices for the FBI teaching Keeping It Simple and he wanted to know if I thought an alcohol and drug rehabilitation center could be maintained for law enforcement.  Jim said Marworth had a program for medical professionals, doctors and nurses that had taken off and he wanted to run one for law enforcement.  He had luck with the Pennsylvania police and wanted to expand.  We talked and I decided to go up to Marworth and see what Jim was trying to develop.  Quite honestly no one had maintained a program for law enforcement for any length of time, although many had tried.

Marworth was two and a half hours from my office on a drinking policegood day.  On a day with traffic it could be four or five hours.  Most days were days with traffic, and that first visit was no exception.  It is in Waverly Pennsylvania, just about 30-40 minutes above Scranton.  I passed fields of deer, not just a few but 30-40 in one field I counted, as I made my way to the campus.  Lots of them and I thought just what my cops need, drunk cops driving on a road full of deer.  Then I arrived on campus, down a long entranceway and this huge sprawling mansion appeared.  Not a house, but a mansion surrounded by woods.  The building was more of a building that belonged at Notre Dame, my alma mater, in the old part of campus.  Or perhaps it looked like a regal old golf course, not a rehab.  There was a building on the right also a little away down the entranceway that was long and thin, which I later found was like a dormitory that housed beds for families that came up.  And I had the thought, wow “is this what comes from drinking a lot.  I shouldn’t have slowed down after college.”

A gentle man came out to greet me.  Jim Dougherty.  He showed me around.  Everyone was pretty happy, in fact they seemed really happy.  We went to classes and they were attentive.  Groups — and they were involved.  Now I’ve been to rehabs all over, and the happiness was not as profound as this.  I was living in New York, so I figured it was a Broadway show, so I stayed a few nights to see the real thing, the backstage.  I kept asking patients and staff if they liked it and I got, “it’s a lot of work, but this place is great.  I mean it is what I need, but I’d rather be home if I was not drinking.”  I couldn’t find a dissatisfied staff member, and I talked to just about everyone.  The food was even decent in a down home country way.  There was a gym to work out and Jim showed me plans to expand and put in a new exercise place.  Jim was the nicest man, and everyone staff in all greeted him like he was their best friend, or a kindly father figure.   I couldn’t find one unhealthy thing about it, and it was sort of annoying it was so wholesome.

I did a couple of trainings up there and then a few more for Jim outside of the area to cop groups that Marworth sponsored.  Even Geisinger Hospital, the organization behind Marworth, had me do grand rounds for them at a couple of their centers.  I became part of a family, and it wasn’t a police family, but a hospital family.  I got wrapped up in Jim’s circle.

I started sending my cops up there and every one came back and said good things.  Then I had a couple whose insurance didn’t cover the rehab and I would talk to Jim and he would say, that’s alright I will give them a scholarship.  Four weeks in a hospital on a scholarship for free!  I was stunned and the union guys didn’t know what to say when I told them.  We all had that open-mouthed stare.  When I was president of the Society for Police and Criminal Psychology in 1999, and Jim decided he wanted to sponsor a lunch for everyone in the Society at the annual conference.  When I asked why, he said only “it was for cops who should be supported.”  He was our first sponsor at the Society and sponsored the Society for the 13 years while I was the executive director, and has sponsored the IACP, the APA Psych meetings and even was the first commercial sponsor to sponsor this blog.

There had been many times over the years when Jim said the census for cops was way down.  Everybody gives up in those times.  When I talked to Jim he said cops and first responders still need this place, and we’ll be there for him.  His staff still got paid in the low times.  After 9/11, forget about it, Marworth was right there and still commemorates this terrible event.  I went through two expansions with Jim and the place looks marvelous keeping the same old mansion feel.  I sort of lost touch with Jim over the years, although Marworth has been our rehab facility because they do such a nice job.   I heard they were second only to the Betty Ford clinic in low recidivism rates, but I never searched out the study.  It doesn’t matter to me.  What I do know is my cops go there and damn few don’t get better, with a disease that takes many.

So, what does this have to do with a frustrated fat shrink building a block wall?  When you think of a hero, usually you think of a single act of heroism, like saving a life or something.  You think of people who sacrificed themselves to do something great.  You don’t usually think of someone building something enduring over time and having a smile on his face.  You don’t think of a man that saved lives every day since he opened the place.  I planned to build my wall in two hours; Jim planned his over almost 20 years.  He endured hard times and always gave a smile.  He never lost sight of his goal to have a respite for law enforcement officers even though it was hard at times.  He sponsored things with little or no return and put himself on the line, not only for individuals but for the profession.  That’s a hero to me.  We lost a real hero when Jim Dougherty retired.  Jim and his wife Sherry will be going to Baylor Lake in Pennsylvania and becoming a better fisherman while he reads and enjoys life.  I, for one, want to thank Jim Dougherty for what he has done for the first responder.  He is a real hero for first responders.


Site Editor:  Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP

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  1. Marla Friedman says:

    Well said, Thank -you.

  2. Guy Seymour says:

    A very well written clearly heart felt tribute, Gary. I have had a few cops go to Marworth over the years, although most of my similar referrals went to the OnSite Academy in Massachusetts. Truly a loss with this retirement and I agree with you he was/is a real hero.

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