Police say TVs calm individuals and reduce brawls

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Calgary Police Services has installed televisions in its holding cells to reduce disputes between the people in them. But so far, police in the province’s other three major communities haven’t followed suit.

While giving a speech at Mount Royal University, Calgary Police Services superintendent Richard Hinse revealed his department has been “conducting an experiment for the last six months…we have put TVs in our cells.” The reason: “to calm (individuals) and now they watch football.”

“What happens when men spend some time in an enclosed room? They start to look at each other and it’s a pretty simple ‘what are you looking at?’ and then we have brawls.”

In a follow-up interview, the superintendent said the idea to install television screens came from one of their own officers.

“It has been 100 per cent effective. Before we would have four or five brawls a night and now we’re down to nil.”

Administrative Staff Sgt. Jolayne Anderson said most newcomers are quite surprised to see the televisions.

“For the folks that are the first timers that come in, absolutely they are surprised that there are televisions in. It brings that automatic calming and that automatic comfort because there’s TV. TV is a universal language for all age levels.”

Hinse said the most popular television channel is the sports channel, especially if there is a big game on. He said there used to be a concern about what would happen in the holding cells if there was such a game on, but those concerns no longer exist.RussellStoryPhoto resizeThe Calgary Police Service installed televisions in its holding cells to reduce violence and calm individuals in them.

Photo by Cheryl Russell

“No, they’re saying at least they can watch something. Thank goodness I’m doing something other than looking at the wall.”

In addition to watching sports, the individuals inside the cells are also able to watch public service announcements that are run on the televisions during commercials.

“The self-help messages. So we have [the Safe Communities Opportunity and Resource Centre] downstairs, we can run that, we can run Crime Stoppers, we can run Alcoholics Anonymous. This comes through four or five times while someone’s here. So we go from an entertainment and calming to information on how to help… so it hits at a whole bunch of different levels, all of them positive, all of them cheap.”

Hinse said the TVs cost $700 initially and $150 per year. But they are a great long-run investment because they cut down on the costs associated with holding cell violence — such as transporting the injured to hospital and workplace injuries.

While Calgary has approved placing televisions in holding cells, other jurisdictions are hesitant to do the same.

Staff Sgt. Art Tamminga, of Lethbridge Police Services, said, “We have absolutely no thoughts or intentions on installing TVs in holding cells due to the reason that people aren’t in there long enough. For the most part, individuals are pretty calm and quiet.”

Edmonton Police Services and Red Deer Police Services also currently don’t have televisions in their holding cells.


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