Crisis negotiation officers are often on the front lines when it comes to responding to citizens with mental health issues. More than 100 officers from law enforcement agencies across the state gathered on Wednesday in Moore for crisis negotiation training.
A mental health crisis can come in many different forms, sometimes a crisis can happen in a very public place. In recent months, Oklahoma City police, Oklahoma Highway Patrol troopers and Stillwater police officers have responded to a person threatening to hurt themselves while on a bridge or on a building.
Most of the crisis negotiators in the training have come face-to-face with someone in distress.
“They are making a permanent solution to a temporary problem,” said Sr. Cpl. J.D. Byas, Dallas Police Department.
Byas was brought to the training to show Oklahoma law enforcement techniques in rescuing a possibly suicidal person.
“So as soon as we get a call someone is on a bridge getting ready to jump, there’s a reason why they haven’t done it yet,” said Byas.
Byas said the most important skill a crisis negotiator can have is listening.
“When you find yourself talking more that means you’re not listening,” said Byas. “So, by listening we’re able to convey that we understand what they’re telling us and we repeat it back to them so we heard it right.”
Where an officer stands can also make a difference between life and death. Byas demonstrated with two officers by positioning them standing side-by-side rather than one on each side of the citizen can help make the person feel more at ease. The position also gave the person an exit besides jumping off a bridge or running straight to an officer.
Once they have negotiated a safe ending, the citizens are typically taken to a hospital for mental health care.
“You’re not there to take them to jail,” said Byas. “You’re there to get them out and then get them some professional help.”
The next statewide crisis negotiator training is set for October.