Savannah Police Department undergoing crisis training

SPD undergoing training to deal with crisis situations

CHATHAM COUNTY, GA (WTOC) - Just this week, police from several agencies worked together to arrest a suspect who they thought barricaded himself in a home after police say he shot two people.

Chatham Police handled the case on Whitemarsh Island Monday, and Savannah Police assisted.

Right now, Savannah Police are getting trained for incidents just like that - crisis and hostage situations. Training instructors have been in town all week.

This training is very detailed and gives officers a realistic scenario so they’ll know how to react if this ever happens in our area. The instructors say the tool of negotiating is more in-depth than someone may think, and it’s very important to have during a crisis.

“Everyone thinks a hostage negotiator is a used car salesman; that they can just talk, talk, talk, and it’s actually quite the opposite. You need someone who can be empathetic and lend a kind ear," said Dennis Flynn, Crisis Systems Management Instructor.

Lending a kind ear is what Dennis Flynn has done for over 30 years. He was with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department for 30 years and spent 18 of those as a hostage negotiator. He is now an instructor with Crisis Systems Management, who is teaching the course to local officers.

“What we are training the police officers here is to just take more of an empathetic approach, to become good listeners."

Around 30 officers from Savannah PD and other local law enforcement agencies are completing the week-long course. Thursday, the participants were given scenarios involving suicidal cases and had to interact with their team to try to find a solution. Wednesday’s focus was a hostage situation.

“It’s up to the officer on that scene and that team of officers that are working together to peel back all the layers; get down to the root of the problem," said Hiram Rivera, SPD Training Director.

Getting to the bottom of the problem takes time, and that’s the focus of this course. Rivera says to have so many participants in this course is exciting for him and for the department.

“Officers are hitting the streets knowing that there is another way to deal with the public, another way to deal with people in crisis. Yes, we have these tools here that come along with wearing a badge and uniform, but we have this tool here that we have had before we even became police officers. If we learn to use this tool right, it can help us from using many other tools," he said.

The course will wrap up on Friday. Rivera says he hopes everyone leaves with a better understanding of what it means to be a crisis negotiator.

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