Saturday, November 16, 2013

Life Of An Australian Police Crisis Hostage Negotiator

"All I wanted to do was jump" … ex-police negotiator Belinda Neil gained insight into her former role the hard way.Coaxing lives back from the edge and diffusing hostile situations are what police negotiators sign up for, but it can be almost impossible not to bring the job home. By Mark Whittaker  Belinda Neil arrives at the house, pumped after a high-speed drive with lights and sirens in the rainy night. The tactical guys with their overalls and sub-machine guns are setting up a cordon as Neil and her fellow police negotiator get a quick briefing outside. A guy called Ivan, armed with knives, has his ex-girlfriend barricaded in a room. A uniformed constable is in there, too. He'd put his gun down and gone in unarmed, attempting to defuse the situation. It's not clear now if he is a hostage, too. Neil is handed a ballistic vest, but it is too heavy for her to put on, so two officers lift it on for her…
...Neil is long out of the job now. But her extraordinary journey juggling the roles of police negotiator, homicide investigator, wife and mother shines a light on this little-understood limb of law enforcement: a branch of policing where honesty, teamwork and adrenalin collide.

She loved the importance of investigating murders, but negotiating was best. "You're helping everyone. The police, the victim and the hostage taker. I joined the police to help people." Still, these frontline jobs take their toll. Ironically, just as she accumulated the scars that would later lead her to the edge, she also gathered the skills to talk herself back from the metaphorical and literal precipice...

….In NSW, negotiators tend to be detectives who rotate through an on-call system. Victoria's 55 negotiators, on the other hand, are uniformed police attached to the Critical Incident Response Team. To improve response times, Victoria always has two negotiators in a car, 24 hours a day. They attend about 500 jobs a year.

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