Updated Tue, May 7, 2013 8:00 pm
Athens Police Reserve Cmdr. Dave Malawista says most days he uses his knowledge of people and psychology to serve the public.
Malawista, who thought he gave up a career in the police force after college, has been working with the Athens Police Department for decades.
A former counselor, he now trains officers in behavioral services during a crisis, and teaches them how to deal with individuals with mental health issues.
Malawista studied psychology in both undergraduate and graduate school and worked in the field before teaming up with the APD. Now he uses what he knows to teach fellow police officers how to appropriately deal with incidents that involve the developmentally challenged.
“I always find it very useful to have both skill sets, particularly now that mental health centers have downsized,” he said. “You come across a lot more people with mental disabilities engaging in behavior that draws attention to them.”
And as the nation watches the story unfold about three Cleveland women who had been missing for more than a decade, Malawista offers some insight on the situation.
The three suspects and brothers — 52-year-old Ariel Castro, 54-year-old Pedro Castro and 50-year-old Onil Castro — are currently in custody, and many are wondering how and why something like this could happen, and who would do such a thing?
“The nature of that pathology is somebody is essentially going after control by dominating another individual,” he said. “Often the victims are taken as a sexual object for them. We don’t know what possessed them to do this, but the nature of their pathologies is they are people with severe character disorders. They’re psychopaths and bad people doing bad things who don’t feel badly about what they did and who were just thinking ‘I want this and I think I can get away with it.”
Malawista also pointed out the family relation among the suspects, noting a possible connection there.
“I was just talking to a colleague the other day and we were saying ‘the gene loads the gun but the environment pulls the trigger.’ Maybe it’s learned behavior, but more than likely it's both,” he said.
The psychologist and policeman says he has not experienced anything like the case of Amanda Berry, 27, Gina DeJesus, 23, and Michelle Knight, 32, who went missing in the early 2000's only to be found 10 years later in a Cleveland-area home. Cases like these, he says, are pretty rare.
“There’s no way to specifically prepare for this. When there’s someone who is a pretty bad psychopath and looks to own or control another individual then it becomes a question of how good are they at doing that and intimidating the victims from making contact with the outside world, and how effective they are at coercing them from attempting to make connections with the outside world.”
That’s what makes Berry's brave act of calling attention to the situation this morning so incredible, he said.
“For her to do that makes her braver than most people will ever understand,” he said.