Christopher J. Murphy has been a Worcester police officer for nearly 21 of his 45 years. He spent 13 years investigating homicides and other major crimes as a detective before being promoted to sergeant in December 2013 and reassigned to the Operations Division. For the last ten years, Sgt. Murphy has also been a member of the department's hostage negotiating team, a specialized unit that is pressed into service about half a dozen times each year.
The 11-member unit made headlines and earned Police Chief Gary J. Gemme's praise Jan. 10 when its efforts led to the peaceful resolution of what authorities said was a hostage-taking on Holly Terrace. An armed man believed to have been under the influence of crack cocaine allegedly held his 6-year-old son captive in the family's home that morning. He had earlier fired two shots into the floor, according to police.
Sgt. Murphy and his colleagues managed to talk the suspect out of the house without any harm befalling the boy or his father.
Explain, in general terms, what a hostage negotiator does. The job title suggests you try to negotiate the safe release of hostages and the peaceful surrender of their captors. Is that always the case or do you deal with other types of situations, as well, that may not involve hostages?
"A hostage negotiator is one who is trained to speak to individuals who are in crisis, are barricaded, or are in need of assistance. It doesn't always involve a hostage. I think the majority of the time, it involves a person who is barricaded, and by barricaded, we mean behind a locked door. They are in some level of distress. It could be as simple as a police officer knocking on the door to make an arrest or investigate a crime and the person refuses to come out. But, you also have the people who are suicidal or in distress and often times, that comes over as a check-on-the-welfare call. It's our job to make sure they're safely brought to UMass mental health or to find some other kind of peaceful solution to their problem."
Take us through a typical response, step-by-step...
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