If you need statistical illustration of how tough 2020 was, look no further than the number of callouts of the Eugene Police Department’s Crisis Negotiation Team, which tripled that year.
CNT activity was off the charts in 2020, with 124 callouts. By comparison the prior, busiest year to date was 2019 with 40 callouts, followed by 29 callouts in 2018. This year, CNT’s longest stretch without a callout was a mere 14 days between January 1 and January 15, but since then CNT has averaged at least two callouts per week. This year, 18 times CNT has had multiple callouts in a single day, and the most callouts CNT has had in one day was three, which has occurred twice in 2020. Most notably, CNT has seen a spike in suicide intervention calls in 2020. So far this year CNT has responded to 28 suicide intervention calls wherein the involved person was either armed, actively attempting suicide, or the scene was otherwise deemed too dangerous for other community resources. This is a dramatic increase from the 11 similar suicide intervention calls CNT handled in 2019.
The EPD Crisis Negotiations Team is a highly skilled and specially-trained team that is available to address critical, crisis calls such as barricaded subjects, armed suicidal subjects, hostage situations, and high-risk search warrants. Their mission is to establish communications with people who are in volatile crisis situations and create rapport that will help lead the individual to a peaceful resolution. In critical incidents, including those involving armed barricaded subjects, CNT works closely with SWAT to resolve the situation without injury to officers or community. However, more commonly CNT responds to assist patrol in de-escalating situations involving individuals in severe mental or emotional crisis.
An Example of CNT Response
Crisis and hostage incidents are known for being high-risk, unpredictable, tense, and emotionally driven by individuals who may feel violence (or threatened violence) toward themselves or others is their last recourse. In these incidents CNT’s skill set are brought to the scene to help the person in crisis to find and work toward a peaceful resolution in what can initially look like an impossible, no-win situation. For instance, in August of 2017 a man in a manic state began shooting a gun inside his local hotel room (believing he was under attack by the mafia) endangering the lives of guests in neighboring rooms as bullets penetrated the adjoining walls. During the incident while patrol, SWAT, and Metro Explosives Disposal Unit worked to safeguard the lives of guests, CNT de-escalated the male and negotiated with him for more than five hours. During that extended time CNT convinced the male to put away the gun, and ultimately surrender peacefully to police custody.
How is the Team Created?
CNT is an ad-hoc team in the Special Operations division. As such, each team member has a regular assignment whether in patrol, investigations, or other facet. However, in addition to their normal duties, CNT members are on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to aid other units within the department. The team is currently made up of one sergeant, 11 negotiators (nine EPD and two UOPD), one intelligence analyst, and two tactical dispatchers. Over the past several years EPD has partnered with UOPD and created a joint negotiation team. This valuable partnership not only helps ensure there are available negotiators for the City of Eugene, but also extends CNT’s crisis skills to student populations in the area as well.
Who is Selected for the Team
When selecting members for CNT, EPD looks for employees who display outstanding levels of patience, poise, and empathy, have exceptional listening and communication skills, and thrive in group problem-solving scenarios.
What Kind of Training Do CNT Members Have?
CNT members attend the FBI Crisis/Hostage Negotiation Course where they receive instruction in areas such as; fundamentals of crisis negotiations, suicide risk assessment and intervention, active listening skills, abnormal psychology, and high-risk indicators. In addition to the class instruction, prospective negotiators are evaluated during live action scenario-based trainings throughout the 40-hour course. As a team, CNT meets twice monthly for ongoing training, skill building, specialized equipment training, and scenario based training. Quarterly, CNT conducts joint team trainings with other EPD Special Operations teams, as well as regional partnering negotiation teams such as LCSO, Salem PD, OSP, and the FBI. CNT Members also attend the yearly Western States Hostage Negotiation Association (WSHNA) and/or the National Tactical Operators Association (NTOA) conferences to study the latest in industry best-practices, specialized team skills development, and high-profile national case studies.
CNT Mobile Response Vehicle
During critical incidents you will often see the CNT mobile response vehicle on scene. This vehicle is used not only to transport the basic and specialized equipment negotiators need on scene, but also provides a mobile workspace for negotiators who are often on scene for hours on end working toward a peaceful resolution. Having a response vehicle ensures they have the vital communications equipment and workspace they need, all ready to go at a moment’s notice.