Box 4, Folder 4, Document 66

Dublin Core

Text Item Type Metadata


Rumor Control
During Civil

By Walter L. Webb
Staff Member
International City Managers’ Association

“The entire Loop is in flames!” . . . “Rap Brown is
here!” ... “Everybody is looting at Milwaukee and
Ashland.” . . . “Stokely Carmichael has just landed by
submarine from Lake Michigan.” .. . “Twenty thou-
sand Negroes are marching on the Loop, the streets
are deserted, and all the shoppers are locked inside
the department stores!”

These are just a few of the rumors that spread like
wildfire across Chicago within a five-day period last
April. If these savage rumors had gone unchecked,
“they could have done the city far more damage than
Mrs. O’Leary’s cow,” one observer has commented.

Inevitably, rumors will multiply during periods of
tension and anxiety. Civil unrest, for a variety of rea-
sons, is shaking our social order. In such a situation,
innumerable phantoms roam and haunt the city.

That is why the shattering power of rumors is
being closely examined, perhaps for the first time in
history. Computers on the campus of Brandeis Uni-
versity are beginning to check all kinds of informa-
tion about rumors — the time of day they pop up, the
typical circumstances, etc. — in an effort to pin down
their birth, life, and death.

And public servants in several major cities — per-
haps most notably Chicago — have developed tech-
niques for quashing rumors as soon as they pose a
threat to community stability. This report, based
largely on the Chicago experience, is intended to aid
local officials in their efforts to fight rumors, particu-
larly in times of riot and civil disorder.

The Psychology of Rumor

There are two requirements for a rumor to grow:
(1) It must contain information that is important, in

one way or another, to the hearer. (2) The details
must be cloudy. Yet, beyond these basic “rumor-
facts,” it is surprising that so little is known about
rumors, for they have profoundly affected man’s his-

Armies have clashed and governments have top-
pled on the basis of unfounded rumors. Nero, for
example, did not really fiddle while Rome burned; it
was a rumor deliberately spread by his enemies. The
United States certainly had no plans, in 1958, to re-
store the dictator Perez Jimenez to power in Vene-
zuela, yet that rumor touched off the deadly “anti-
Nixon” riots that disturbed hemispheric relationships
for years.

Because rumors have always spread like a dread
disease through man’s organizations, one expert sus-
pects that they fill some deep-felt need in human
society, despite the fact that they can rip the fabric
of that society in short order.’


The one new factor in the field of rumors is their
speed of transmission. Nowadays, of course, rumors
spread more quickly than in the past, thanks to the
telephone. But essentially they are the same as always
— falsehoods masquerading as truths.

“We live in a world of instant communications,”
says Dr. Dana L. Farnsworth, who for many years has
observed the effects of mass tension on mental
health. “Yet this simply means that unfounded
rumors can spread as rapidly as the truth.”

Dr. Farnsworth, who is chairman of the Council
on Mental Health of the American Medical Associa-
tion, points out that rumors inevitably breed more
rumors in a deadly spiral. “Rumors blur the edges of
truth, thus making people feel still more insecure. And
because insecurity is the soil in which rumors grow,
any rumor simply increases the likelihood of the
emergence of still more rumors.”

Why do citizens play with fire by passing on ru-
mors? One authority has suggested that rumors may
be to society what daydreams are to individuals. As
such, they could be wish fulfillment or fear fulfill-
ment. Psychologists have long demonstrated that hu-
mans often see what they expect to see, what they
wish to see, or what they fear to see.

’ Aan effective technique for illustrating how rumors grow
is to simulate a rumor. The process is quite simple. An ob-
server of a given situation reports to a non-observer what he
witnessed. The non-observer then passes on to another non-
observer what he was told, this non-observer in turn reports
to another non-observer, etc. The “story” as it ends up is
often humorously different from what the actual witness
originally reported.

The Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B'rith has prepared
a rumor clinic based on the above “laboratory-rumor”’ princi-
ple. The clinic features a film strip to illustrate the situations
to be reported and passed on. Information about the clinic
may be obtained from regional offices of the League.

“Uncertainty increases the vulnerability of the in-
dividual,” states Dr. Farnsworth. “During a period of
tension, the individual becomes highly suspicious.
The more lurid the story, the more likely it is to be
believed. Because of their very uncertainty, rumors
are more likely to be believed than fact.”

Apparently, too, there is an inner compulsion that
forces many citizens to pass on a rumor. “When a
person hears a rumor,” continues Dr. Farnsworth,
“he then has (or at least feels he has) unique informa-
tion. This makes him an important person in his own
eyes. He feels good toward himself, even though the
rumor may be terrifying. But he can only continue
this feeling of goodness, of importance, if he imparts
his unique information to someone else.”


No riot occurs without rumors to incite, accom-
pany, and intensify the violence, noted the late Gor-
don Allport of Harvard, considered the foremost
authority on the nature of rumor.

The National Advisory Commission on Civil Dis-
orders (the Kerner Commission) found irrefutable evi-
dence that rumors not only caused the rapid spread
of last summer’s disorders, but in some cases actually
touched off those disorders. Here is what its report

“Rumors significantly aggravated tension and dis-
order in more than 65 percent of the disorders
studied by the Commission. Sometimes, as in Tampa
and New Haven, rumor served as the spark which
turned an incident into a civil disorder. Elsewhere,
notably Detroit and Newark, even when they were
not precipitating or motivating factors, inflaming
rumors made the job of police and community lead-
ers far more difficult.”

The Tampa incident was a clear-cut case of a ru-
mor causing society to devour itself. In the earliest
stages of unrest, a deputy sheriff died. The wire serv-
ices immediately sent out a news flash that rioters
had killed the man. The rumor spread. Within 30 min-
utes reporters discovered the truth — that the deputy
had died of a heart attack. By then it was too late;
the city was in turmoil.

Another rumor, the following day, compounded
the problem. Tampa police headquarters was informed
by semihysterical rumor-listeners that 20 Negro men,
bared to the waist and carrying clubs, had assembled.
Actually, the men turned out to be construction
workers simply doing their job. Yet the rumor had
already done its damage. It took the National Guard
and intense efforts on the part of community leaders,
both Negro and white, to restore order.

Patricia Q. Sheehan, the mayor of New Brunswick,
New Jersey, confirms the deadly power of rumors.
During the disorders last year, she observed, it seemed
“almost as if there was a fever in the air.” The press,
radio, and TV reported that guerrilla bands were

roaming the streets — an unfounded rumor that
struck terror into white communities.

“Rumors were coming in from all sides on July
17th,” she reported to the Kerner Commission.
“Negroes were calling to warn of possible disturb-
ances; whites were calling; shop owners were calling.
Most of the people were concerned about a possible
bloodbath.” The thought crossed her mind at that
time that “we are talking ourselves into it.”

On the campus of Brandeis University, in
Waltham, Massachusetts, the new Lemberg Center for
the Study of Violence hopes eventually to feed com-
puters with all sorts of information about riots —
rumors, times of day, temperature, triggering inci-
dents, etc. — and find relationships that may help in
predicting violence.

Center officials note that rumors are obviously not
the sole cause of riots. Their causes are many and
deepseated. But once riots have begun, rumors can
make them worse.

The Center’s preliminary findings, according to
Miss Terry Knopf, research associate, indicate there is
a pattern to them. First, there are general and vague
predictions of impending trouble. ‘Whites,’ “Ne-
groes,” “Army,” or “police” are said to be arming
and preparing. These reports keep tension high. Next
come specific rumors that prepare and trigger action.

Rumor Control Operations

Perhaps the nation’s best-run rumor control opera-
tion last summer was set up by the Chicago Commis-
sion on Human Relations. With its dedicated band of
rumor-quashers — professional social workers, clerks,
typists, volunteers — the Commission operated with
such success that its techniques are being copied by a
good many cities around the country. The Commis-
sion’s “Rumor Central” — as the operation was
named — was singled out for commendation by the
Kerner Commission.”

As reported by Raymond J. Siewert, supervisor of
Rumor Central, the best method for quashing rumors
is simple: “The bald truth, good or bad, is the only
way to fight a rumor.” Yet the bald truth must be
instantly available to the public — and it is here that

? MIS has received information on rumor control centers
in more than 25 cities. Since the Chicago Rumor Central
incorporates principles widely used elsewhere, this report fo-
cuses primarily on the Chicago experience.

Other cities which MIS has learned have either set up, or
intend to set up, rumor control centers are:

Phoenix, Ariz.; Hartford, Conn.; Atlanta, Ga.; Decatur,
Ill.; Wichita, Kan.; Louisville, Ky.; Baltimore and Salisbury,
Md.; Boston and Springfield, Mass.; Detroit, Flint, and Grand
Rapids, Mich.; Kansas City, Mo.; Plainfield, N.J.; Buffalo,
Rochester, and Syracuse, N.Y.; Dayton, Toledo, and Y oungs-
town, Ohio; Oklahoma City, Okla.; Erie and Philadelphia, Pa.;
Houston, Tex.; Norfolk and Richmond, Va.; and Seattle,
Rumor Central’s techniques are being looked to as a

The Commission has published a full description
of how Rumor Central operates. Since the description
is reproduced in full as an appendix to this report, the
following section presents only an overview of the
operation, noting particularly the key factors to its


Chicago’s Rumor Central — which on a limited
scale operates throughout the year — consists in times
of crisis of a telephone hookup manned 24 hours a
day, field workers who gather factual information
with which to combat rumors, and others who try to
spread the truth in danger areas. The Central phone
number is widely advertised in the press and on TV,
and citizens are urged to call and check the truth of
any reports they have heard.

The system met its first big test in the wake of the
assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Rumor Cen-
tral was besieged with calls. Two telephone lines
quickly proved inadequate, and three others were
added. Thousands of calls continued to swamp the
lines, while delays ran to a matter of hours. Ten lines
finally were opened and volunteers brought in from
seminaries throughout the city. For the three days of
the riot, 15 people answered the calls, 24 hours a day.
If the facts were not known, the caller’s number was
taken, the situation investigated, and the citizen was
called back promptly.

“It’s really a simple technique,” reports James E.
Burns, director of the Human Relations Commission.
“We answer questions, calm people, deny rumors, al-
lay fears, and try to protect people by keeping them
out of the danger zones. We have to have the trust of
the public, and we must have accurate information on
what’s going on.”

During the height of the April disturbances, Ru-
mor Central in the Commission offices resembled a
military situation room. At least five telephone lines
were reserved for residents’ queries. Other lines were
kept open for periodic reports from Commission field
workers who were circulating in troubled areas.

A wall-sized map of the Chicago area, with a plas-
tic overlay, was used to pinpoint trouble spots. Areas
where sniping occurred were marked with a blue
grease pencil, blocked-off streets were marked in
black, burning sections in red, alternate bus lines
around tense sections in yellow, and so on.

One-third of the 27 professionals on the Commis-
sion staff are Negroes, many of whom were spending
long hours in the riot areas talking to neighborhood
leaders and trying to calm the situation.

To make certain that the information is correct,
Rumor Central has its own network of intelligence
courses. When any kind of civil unrest breaks loose in
Chicago, trained Commission staffers immediately


January 1969 — Vol. 1 No. L-1
Editor: Walter L. Webb

Management Information Service reports are
published monthly by the International City
Managers’ Association, 1140 Connecticut Ave-
nue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036. Second-
class postage permit pending. Copyright © 1969
by the International City Managers’ Associa-

Views expressed are the opinions of the
author and do not necessarily reflect the policy
of ICMA. No part of this report may be repro-
duced without permission of the copyright

Subscription rates (including inquiry-
answering and additional services) are based on
population of subscribing jurisdiction and will
be furnished on request.

This report is intended primarily for sub-
scribing jurisdictions above 25,000 population.
Concurrent monthly reports, prepared primar-
ily for jurisdictions below 25,000 population,
are available from Management Information
Service. ;

race to tlie scene of the disturbance and promptly
phone in on-the-spot reports. One man is dispatched
to police headquarters to monitor all calls, another to
the fire department. Still other staff members per-
form liaison work with the mayors’ office, city agen-
cies, and private organizations dealing with civil

One good intelligence tool, Commission staffers re-
port, is simply a city phone directory cross-referenced
by location. When a call comes in asking about
trouble in a certain block and nothing is known about
the situation, a Rumor Central staffer will call citi-
zens at random in that block, identify himself, and
calmly ask if there are any signs of a disturbance.

New facts, as they come in, are immediately
typed, copied by machine, and distributed within two
or three minutes to all phone operators so they will
have the latest situation reports at their fingertips.

The Chicago experience points up several easily
overlooked factors that many cities have found im-
portant in establishing a rumor cental. Among them:

®A separate phone number for rumor control is
desirable. This not only frees the police department
from overly used phone lines but — perhaps more
important — creates a “climate of trust” between the
rumor-inquirer and the rumor control center. During
civil disorders, citizens — particularly non-white — of-
ten suspect that information given over police depart-
ment phones is purposely distorted to make the city
government look good.

® Rumor central must be trusted by citizens to tell
the truth. It is desirable, if possible, for non-whites to
handle the rumor inquiries of other non-whites. Some
cities report a greater climate of trust by having a
non-governmental agency (such as the Urban League)
man the rumor control center.

@The center should operate round-the-clock.
Imagine the hysteria that could be caused by a rumor
that even the rumor control center had been knocked
out! (i.e., “I phoned, but they didn’t answer.”’)

® The “call-back”’ technique should be used. Not
only is it important for the center to phone a caller
when new information is available about his request.
It is also helpful to ask callers to phone the center
back when they have new information on a rumor
they heard.


The ultimate success of a rumor control center de-
pends on how rumor calls are handled. No amount of
accurate information will despel fears if the contact
between rumor central and the inquirer is unsatis-

Officials of the Chicago Rumor Central note that
their personnel manned phones only two hours at a
stretch, because “it is an exhausting experience to
deal by telephone with hysterical or frightened per-

Recognizing the need for skilled response to rumor
calls, the director of the rumor control center in De-
troit, Michigan, issued special rumor-response instruc-
tions to his staff. The instructions distinguish the
types of calls received and suggest general responses.
The following briefly summarizes these guidelines:

Rumor-Response Guidelines (Detroit)

Crank Calls. These are defined as calls in which the
caller is either abusive or wishes to offer suggestions
for solving city problems. The staff should courte-
ously hang up if a caller is abusive, obscene, or insult-
ing. If callers want to offer suggestions, the staff
should be courteous, refrain from debate, and termi-
nate the conversation as soon as possible.

Gossip. This would include information dealing with
a person’s personal life (e.g., “Is going with
__?’) In response to such inquiries, the staff
should state the function of the rumor control center
(e.g., an attempt to clarify distorted information, par-
ticularly concerning racial incidents, and to prevent
the spread of rumors) and point out that personal
information is not a part of this function.

Requests for Irrelevant Information. Persons often
call with rumors or questions not related to racial
incidents. When possible, give a courteous answer to
the question and state the function of the rumor con-
trol center, emphasizing that this type of request is

not included in the center’s function.

Rumors or Questions About Individuals, Organiza-
tions, or Agencies. Some callers will ask specific ques-
tions about other agencies 6r organizations (e.g., Will
the police strike?) These persons should be referred
to the agency or group in question.

Speculative Rumors. Persons sometimes call with
vague rumors or questions about future racial inci-
dents which cannot be investigated. Some of these
callers may be fearful, some concerned, and some
hostile. In any case, get as much information as the
caller is willing to give and respond in a way similar to
the following:

“There are no facts to substantiate this statement
as anything but a rumor. Riots are not inevitable, and
no one is able to predict what will happen in the
future. The city is prepared to handle any situation
that occurs, and we believe that the public good can-
not be served by repeating rumors such as these.”

Copies of the mayor’s television speech are ayail-
able for use in responding to these inquiries.

If the caller does not accept this statement of the
city’s position, no further questioning, discussion, or
explanation should be offered. The call should be ter-
minated with the statement that the center has made
a written report on the information and it will be
turned over to field investigators. Ask that if the cal-
ler gets any additional information, he turn it over to
rumor control for investigation.

A person may call with information about a future
event with specific facts that can be investigated.

In such cases, the staff should get as much infor-
mation as possible, including a copy of any literature
being passed out if available, and explain that it will
be given to the field staff for further investigation. If
this information has already been obtained, relate the
facts to the caller, clarifying any distortions. These
calls should be catalogued in a central information
file (e.g., three x five-inch cards identifying the inci-
dent in detail, along with a report of subsequent in-
vestigation) available to every staff member for use in
verifying rumors. If the caller wishes-to leave his
name and phone number, the staff should offer to
call back with information uncovered.

Rumors on Past and Present Issues and Events. A
caller might ask a question or give information about
an incident which has already happened or is happen-
ing at the time of the call.

In these cases, obtain information and follow the
same response procedure as with future-event rumors
noted above. Particularly, combat distortions with
the facts available and, where necessary, state that the
incident is still under investigation, the appropriate
authorities have been notified and are acting in re-
sponse to the distortions, and this is all the informa-
tion we have at this time.

In general, the staff should be particularly aware
of the need to probe each call and try, if possible, to
convert the caller from believing the rumor as fact to
recognizing its source and questioning the reason for
its being spread.

Public Information During

Rumor control is but a facet of the broader prob-
lem of managing public information during disorders.
At a special meeting in mid-1968, sponsored by the
National League of Cities, public information special-
ists compared notes on how they handled the infor-
mation needs of the public and press during last sum-
mer’s civil disturbances. Major points made at the
meeting are summarized here as a guide for planning
rumor control operations within the context of a fo-
tal public information program for civil disorders.°

© Single information source: Many cities believe it
important to have a single central headquarters for
presenting information to the press and public. Most
of these “‘press centrals”’ are located either in city hall
(one city uses the council chamber) or in police head-
quarters. But several cities favor two information cen-
ters — one in the field for riot control information
and another in city hall for major policy statements
by the mayor and other officials. The two-center
approach is definitely advised for best control of

© Adequate staffing and equipment: City infor-
mation specialists or trained police officers of high
rank should man the press centers. Enough telephone
lines and facilities for radio and television coverage
also must be planned for.

© Intergovernmental coordination: Plans must be
made early to assure early coordinated release of in-
formation by local, state, and federal officials, prefer-
ably from one central point.

© Background and comparative data: Several cities
have found it useful, particularly in dealing with out-
of-town newsmen, to have background handouts pre-
pared on what the city has already done to alleviate
some of the stated causes of riots. Comparative data
regarding the number of arrests, crimes commited,
and fire calls during “normal” periods also are helpful
in giving perspective to incidents occurring during

® Advance conferences with news media: Most

: Copies of Public Information and Civil Disorders, con-
taining a meeting summary and texts of typical city emer-
gency public information plans, may be obtained for $2.00
each from the National League of Cities, Department of Ur-
ban Studies, 1612 K Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20006.

cities recommend holding conferences with news
media representatives to get — if possible — agree-
ment on how riots would be reported, particularly
the handling of rumors. Some cities use a 30-minute
voluntary system of withholding reports that a dis-
turbance has occurred in the hopes that it can be
controlled in that time. Many reported success with
getting news media cooperation in first checking their
information with press central officials before broad-
casting or printing it. Most of the public relations
officials agreed that trying to get a total press-radio-
TV embargo on disturbance news was impractical.

© Press identification: Some cities have special
color-coded badges and identification cards for news-
men which are issued at press headquarters. Outer-
garment and vehicle emblems often are requested by
newsmen to prevent their being picked up by police
after curfew hours have begun.

Planning is perhaps the biggest need in meeting the
public information requirements during a civil disor-
der, the meeting concluded. In addition, many of the
specialists stressed the need for city officials to recog-
nize the public relations aspects of their operations in
normal times if crisis announcements were to avoid a
“credibility gap.”

Each of these recommendations can complement a
rumor control center and alleviate its problems.

Rumor Versus Rumor

During the height of last summer’s riots, one caller
had a curious request for Chicago’s Rumor Central:
“What are the latest rumors?”

Actually, it was not a completely foolish question,
for rumors can be used effectively to counter riots.
Rumors of peace, order, quiet, and racial cooperation
might prove more than helpful. After the death of
Martin Luther King, for example, Mayor John Lind-
say of New York spread the rumor that New York
City was quiet. By covering up actual violence on
Friday night, many observers feel that the mayor
probably stopped outbreaks of arson and looting on
Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

Indeed, fighting rumor with rumor may well be
the most effective technique available to city officials
for heading off civil disorders. The calm, restrained
voice of top city officials over TV and radio as ru-
mors of riots are forming is essential to maintaining
citizen calm.

Yet in the final analysis, it is the individual citizen
who determines the life, growth, and death of a ru-
mor. He can pass it on, he can embellish it — or he
can question its validity.

“In a potential panic situation,” advises Dr. Farns-
worth, “remain cool and collected.” It is a difficult
prescription to fulfill, but city officials must take all
possible steps to fight the deadly consequences of
citywide panic.


Recommended Procedure for Setting
Up a Rumor Control Central*

Basically, Rumor Central consists of ten
telephones connected on a sequential hunt
system, personnel to man the telephones, a
good system of communication with the po-
lice and fire departments and various other
private and public agencies with staff in the
field, and two men to check out rumors and
to receive incoming reports from these de-
partments. The operation can be expanded
or decreased in size as the volume of calls

There are five basic considerations in set-
ting up a Rumor Central. These are:

. Publicizing the telephone number

. Physical equipment

. Personnel

Clearly defined procedures

. Adequate system of communication
with the police and fire departments and
other sources of intelligence



Once the decision had been made to
establish Rumor Central, the City News Bu-
reau, a central news-gathering agency, was
notified. Information about the service went
out on its lines to all member media. The
press was given the Rumor Central number
and was told that it was a number where
citizens could report incidents, check out
rumors, and obtain other information rele-
vant to civil disorder. We received excellent
cooperation from the news media. In addi-
tion to using the information as a public
service announcement, many included it as a
news item.

* This appendix is excerpted from Ru-
mor Central, issued by the Chicago Commis-
sion on Human Relations. The recom-

mended procedure is that used by the Com-

mission’s own Rumor Central.

Physical Operation

The operation should be centralized and

Telephones. One phone number and from
two to ten phones connected on a sequen-
tial hunt, so that if the first is busy, the call
is relayed to the next line. Preferably, the
connected phones should not be lines used
by the agency in the course of normal busi-
ness. Two separate phones to be used exclu-
sively by research staff responsible for re-
ceiving police reports and checking rumors.

Large Map. Street map of the city, visible to
all phones, covered by clear plastic, on
which verified incidents can be recorded.

Blackboard. Also clearly visible to phones,
on which verfied quiet areas and the nature
and progress of incidents may be recorded.

Telephone Notebooks. Notebooks to be
placed at each phone for telephone person-
nel to use as resource material in answering
questions. Each should include a street map
of the city to be used in routing callers
around disorders and xeroxed copies of re-
ports and newspaper clippings giving details
about curfew regulations, agencies distrib-
uting food, and other pertinent information.

Contact Notebooks. One for each staff re-
search man which includes all important
phone numbers to be used in checking out

Forms. (1) Log for personnel to tally incom-
ing calls and record the content of impor-
tant ones. (2) Incident report forms for re-
cording all verified police and fire depart-
ment information, these to be compiled in a

permanent log. (3) Rumor check-out forms
for telephone personnel to give contact re-
search staff requesting that he check out a


During the peak of disorders, Rumor
Central was manned 24 hours a day. Person-
nel were assigned to day shifts, 8 a.m. to 6
p.m., or night shifts beginning at 6:00 p.m.

In the evening, staff remained on duty
until the number of incoming calls began to
dwindle. Then the Commission answering
service took over, usually around 2:00 a.m.,
relaying to a staff person at home only the
most important calls. The following person-
nel are recommended: :


Telephone Personnel. One per phone, plus
several extra to relieve them. To supplement
staff, we enlisted the help of volunteers, pri-
marily graduate students.

A volunteer should have a good knowl-
edge of the physical geography of a city and
the location of major streets, an understand-
ing of the problems that can occur during a
disorder, and an authoritative, reassuring
telephone manner.

All telephone personnel, staff and volun-
teers, received an initial briefing on the cor-
rect way to answer the phones and subse-
quent briefings before each shift to fill them
in on answers to current questions and de-
tails of on-going disturbances.

Research Contact Men. Several staff mem-
bers clearly identified as such to the tele-
phone personnel and permanently available


to take incoming police and fire reports and
check out rumors.

Clerk. To record all disturbances and verify
quiet areas on the blackboard, keep the map
up to date, reproduce and circulate informa-
tion, and keep a permanent log of police
and fire reports.

Field Staff. As available and necessary, to go
to the scene of reported trouble and feed
back information. During the height of the
trouble, we stationed a man in the police
department where he could listen to all in-
coming reports and relay up-to-the-minute
information to us. In the future, we plan to
have our own radio receiving equipment so
that all incoming police reports will be re-
ceived directly by our office.

Typical Calls and Procedure
for Handling

Incident Calls. Many people call to report an
incident or find out if a rumor they have
heard is true. For example, “I can see smoke
and hear sirens from my apartment at___
Can you tell me what is happening?”

If a fire in that vicinity is recorded on
the blackboard, the person answering the
phone simply gives the caller the facts.
“Yes, there was a fire at . It is under
control and the police have dispersed the
people who gathered.”

If there is no report on the board, the

operator records the location and nature of
the rumor and relays it to the contact man
to check out. The caller may wait for con-
firmation, but most are satisfied with an an-
swer like, “Thank your for reporting it; we
are now checking it out.” Once the informa-
tion has been checked out, the facts are
given to all telephone personnel.

Information Calls. These include a wide
Tange of questions concerning curfew, loca-
tion of the National Guard, and agencies dis-
tributing food and clothing. Many of these
questions can be anticipated and the an-
swers explained prior to any shift and
included in the phone notebooks.

One frequent kind of information call is
on travel within the city. “I have to work
tonight and usually travel south on Western
Avenue. Is that route safe?” The operator
will refer to the big map and his street map,
then cither answer, “We have no report of
trouble in that area. You shouldn’t have any
problems,” or “There have been fires on
that street and traffic is being rerouted. You
might detour and take Damen.”

Good Communications System

A Rumor Central operation is valuable
only to the extent that the information dis-
seminated is correct. Consequently, good
outside contacts and efficient means of re-
laying information to telephone personnel
are essential.

The potential outside contacts should be
identified prior to the establishment of a
Rumor Central and their phone numbers re-
corded so that any staff member can check
out rumors. These sources may include the
police and fire departments, city youth
agencies, .social centers, and other institu-
tions that might be in the area of trouble or
have access to dependable information. Con-
tact must be made with these agencies in
advance, letting them know they will be
contacted and requesting that they report to
Rumor Central if they have information.
The research men should also establish a
schedule for making routine checks with the
police department to obtain relevant re-
ports. Contact was made with the police de-
partment at least every 20 minutes.

If field staff are available, they can be
dispatched to trouble areas to report regu-

Good communications within the opera-
tion depend upon the clear definition of
responsibility and communication proce-
dures. The research contact men are perhaps
the most vital part of the operation. All tele-
phone personnel should know who is on
duty to check out rumors and should sub-
mit written requests for information to
these research men. After any report is
checked out with the police department, the
information should be recorded on the
blackboard for all personnel so that duplica-
tion of checking is avoided.

public items show