UPD holds tryouts for crisis negotiation team

Posted at 6:21 PM, May 29, 2013

MAGNA, Utah -- The Unified Police Department held tryouts Wednesday to select new members for their crisis negotiation team.

Sixteen people attended the tryouts. Sgt. Don Campbell, UPD, said the tryouts were designed to give them a taste of what they might be doing.

"Its purpose is to introduce these candidates to the idea of what crisis negotiation is about, which is life and death,” he said.

Campbell said crisis negotiation is a job that requires finesse.

"Establishing rapport, introducing ourselves, slowing the situation down, getting people to talk is very much a skill and an art,” he said.

The candidates faced several scenarios. In one a suspicious man grabbed a child and barricaded himself in. In another, a suicidal woman threatened to kill her baby as well as herself.

Campbell said the job doesn’t unfold the way it’s pictured in movies. He also said the jobs they handle are dangerous for all involved.

"There's a misperception sometimes that negotiators are back in the rear with the gear, you know, safely in the command post talking on the phone—where they may very well be is up on the ledge or up on the overpass talking to that jumper,” he said.

Many of the candidates were dispatchers, police officers or others who worked in related fields. Jonathan Bushnell was one candidate who tried out, and he said he sees the job as an extension of what he already does as a police officer.

"Every day when we're working out on the street as police officers, we deal with people with mental health issues, people going through crisis, people that need help—this allows me to take the skills I've learned in my job and apply it on a wider scale."

Candidate Dory Savage said the job requires a personal touch.

"It takes special skills to deal with people in crisis, to have empathy towards others, and to put yourself in their position so that they know people are here to understand them and want to help,” Savage said.

The tryouts were held at a Unified Fire Authority training facility in Magna. Only a few of those who tried out Wednesday will be selected for the team.