Thirteen different law enforcement agencies met at the former Botetourt Correctional Facility also known as Camp 25 in Troutville on Wednesday April 17. The group of forty plus, in teams of two, were there to practice Crisis Negotiations. Jon Perry with 41 years of experience is retired from the Virginia State Police, and coordinated the event. He belongs to a crisis negotiators organization that meets quarterly for breakfast in the Roanoke Valley to discuss what has happened, share what went right and what went wrong and what they learned from it. “Brian Emerson of the FBI is the spearhead of the organization,” said Perry. “Emerson is in touch with FBI at Quantico where the top information is gleaned in negotiation and profiling. We are thankful to the Virginia Department of Corrections for opening up this facility and allowing us to train here,” said Perry.
Five different scenarios took place during the eight hour training event. The first two were strictly occasions law enforcement might encounter on the streets of their jurisdictions. “We go to school to learn the tools of the trade where crisis negotiation is concerned and bring back to the parent organization to help our local, state and federal law enforcement,” said Perry. “We want to keep it in the news. If we don’t train people it becomes use it or lose it.” He also has input from Dr. Isaac Van Patten from Radford University. Perry also is adjunct faculty at VWCC in Criminal Justice. Recently he has been to the Eastern Shore of Virginia to profile an arsonist there.
Scenario 1: featured a “Jumper” an individual referred two in the organization as a “person in crisis.” Suicide is such a case. Said Perry, “Active listening skills are critical. Here is a person that is often hopeless and helpless. We have to establish a rapport. Build trust. we develop a relationship so that the person in crisis will follow suggestions made from the negotiators. We establish assurance and respect. ” In the sceanrio to officers were speaking with a distroaght individual at a railing.
Scenario 2: Domestic scene. Botetourt County Sheriff’s Office had officers on the site. Kim Saunders Wyrick, Greg Marshall, Lt. Jeff Stritesky and David Moyer. Perry said,Often in a doestic situation we may find someone who hs had a previous less than positive encounter with law enforcement. In the case today, the person in crisis is depicted as a male convicted felon holding his wife inside a house. We have to overcome his previous experiences in order to get him to a stage of assurance and respect. In the scenario, Botetourt negotiators were able to gain the release of the hostage as well as peacefully take the person in crisis into custody.
Scenarios, 3, 4 and 5 took place with in the correctional facility walls. Scenario 3 and 5 dealt with individuals barricade with in the facility walls. Perry noted, ” These people have an entirely different outlook. Our negotiators must be able to find an incarcerated person’s view point. Again active listening is critical.” Scenario 5 dealt with a pair of prisoners in the segregated area ( like solitary) that had overwhelmed a guard whom they were holding at knife point. John Garman who retired as Regional Director of the Virginia Department of Corrections said, “Often other law enforcement may be called in to assist. It is imperative the negotiators know the lingo of a prison population. “Who are you and what can you do for me,” is what the person in crisis is interested in.”
Scenario 4 Covered language– foreign language and culture within and outside of a the correctional walls. “This scenario could happen ion the street said Perry. Emerson from the FBI conducted this scenario. “A negotiator may not know the language or customs and culture of the person or persons in crisis. He said. “Correct interpretation and use of vocal tones can mean a great deal to the success of the negotiation. We access the religion or standards of the culture, their views on men and women, views on suicide before you ever get on the phone to begin the negotiations. We try to identify what is the loss, hear what they are saying and establish that we are here to help. We have to cover this in eight hours with 15 teams. In the Academy we send an hour and half just talking about it.”
The law enforcement involved at the Camp 25 Training session included: Botetourt Sheriff’s Office, Salem Police, Roanoke County Sheriff’s Office, Virginia Tech Police Department, Bedford County Sheriff’s Office, Roanoke City Police, Floyd County Sheriff’s Office, ATF, FBI, Virginia state Police, United States Penitentiary at Lee County, Western Regional Jail personnel, and Danville Police Department.