Savannah police officers get hostage and crisis negotiation training

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    A 911 call comes in and police have a crisis on their hands. In some of those situations, police have to negotiate to keep people from getting hurt.

    Savannah police officers were trained in hostage and crisis negotiation on Thursday.

    They were put into a mock situation with a person who wanted to commit suicide. They were given the details of the original 911 call. The wife called in and officers responded to a potential domestic violence incident that turned into a crisis negotiation.

    Dennis Flynn is an instructor for crisis system management. He has more than 30 years experience as a police officer and crisis negotiator in Las Vegas. He came in to teach the training in Savannah and said the most important thing an officer can do is listen.

    "So what do you do, what do you say these people that they’re looking at the world and saying I no longer have a will to live? So what we are training these police officers to do is to just take a more empathetic approach, to become good listeners," said Flynn.

    In the mock scenario, the officers had to try to talk the suicidal man down on the phone. His wife was in the house with him, so they had to convince her to come out so she didn't get hurt.

    Lieutenant Hiram Rivera is the training director for SPD. He said using words before reaching for tools on their belt can have a more positive outcome.

    "We want them not just to get there and try to solve the problem immediately, but to learn to work in a group, learn to slow things down to the point where you’re not just listening to what people are saying but trying to understand what they are not saying," said Rivera.

    The officers were coached through the situation getting feedback throughout the training. They just talked to the person on the other end of the line and showed them they care.

    "We don’t want them to do anything irrational or something that we could talk them through if it just meant giving them some undivided attention for as long as it takes," said Rivera.

    911 dispatchers were also in the training since they are the first point of contact with the people in crisis.

    Trainers said the officers' goal in the end should be getting the person to cooperate and finding a long term solution for them, rather than putting them in jail.

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