Inside look at SCMPD Hostage Negotiation Team
SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Last Thursday, the Savannah-Chatham Metro Police Department safely ended a 10-hour standoff with a gunmen at an apartment complex on Grove Point Road.
Robin Fallin, 66, is charged with simple battery and aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer. Hostage negotiators communicated sporadically with Fallin for hours until he walked out of the home and was arrested.
WTOC got a closer look at the SCMPD Hostage Negotiation Team (HNT), which is made up of 13 members, all of which have 15-20 years of experience.
"I would not consider anything that we do routine, every situation is different," said Lt. Jeff Olson, the commander for SCMPD HNT.
Every time they respond to a call, the person they are dealing with is different. Lt. Olson was a key player in ending that 10-hour standoff.
"A lot of times it is fear, it is confusion. They may have made a poor decision in haste and then it is our job to convince them that it does not need to get any worse," said Lt. Olson.
The team must be on point every minute because situations can change just as fast.
"You got to know yourself, you got to know when you are reaching that stressful point. You have to maintain your own control, pace, pitch," said Sgt. Hiram Rivera. "Many times we will start working with one negotiator but they are just not making the proper connection and we will switch out."
The SWAT and the bomb squad are on standby but the goal is for them never to be used. They will not use force or tactical moves unless they feel it is needed. That means that situations like this can go on for hours or even days.
"If someone is not hurting themselves, or hurting others, than time is on our side," said Lt. Olson.
The officers that make up HNT have 15-20 years of experience and have gone through hours of training.
"There is a compassionate and empathetic side to negotiating that is unique from other departments," said Sgt. Rivera.
The team can communicate with the person inside by cell phone, PA system or they have a way to send in a rescue phone.
These special operations units used remote-controlled robots to view inside the apartment and attempt to communicate with the suspect; however, Fallin fired multiple shots at the robots and disabled them.
At one point, Fallin also fired several shots in the direction of police officers on the exterior of the apartment. Although Metro officers never returned fire, they did deploy CS tear gas rounds into the suspect's apartment in an attempt to force him out of the residence.
"Our goal is to continue working toward a peaceful resolution," said Lt. Olson.
"This is a great example of our officers' professionalism and their use of evolving police principles," SCMPD Chief Jack Lumpkin said. "We kept the residents safe, the officers safe and ultimately the suspect safe. Our SWAT was ready for any eventuality, but our communication and patience paid off in the end. This was an excellent ending to a potentially bad situation."
SCMPD Hostage Negotiation Team responded to nearly a dozen calls in 2015.
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