Negotiations van helps keep crisis gear under control |

Negotiations van helps keep crisis gear under control

by Kurt Hildebrand

When it was painted red, it was a sign that help was on the way. Now that the former East Fork Fire & Paramedic Districts ambulance is painted black and in service with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, it is still there to help, but hopefully before anyone needs an ambulance.

Sheriff Ron Pierini and members of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Advisory Council unveiled the county’s new crisis negotiations team vehicle on Nov. 5.

The crisis negotiations team is deployed whenever there is a chance that talking can bring an incident to a peaceful conclusion, whether it be a barricaded suspect or a hostage situation.

The vehicle is a means of transportation for the people who do the work.

“We bring them out whenever our deputies face a high-risk situation,” Pierini said. “Surrender through negotiations is always our objective. We don’t want any violence and don’t want anyone to get hurt.”

Deputy Patrick Ryan described the old team vehicle as the “Scooby Doo” van. Members of the team were as likely to arrive in their own or a regular sheriff’s vehicle as to drive the van to the scene.

One advantage is that the new van can be plugged into an outlet, so the equipment can stay charged.

Prior to obtaining the van, equipment that allows officers to communicate with suspects had to be stored in offices where it could be kept plugged in. In an emergency, time could be lost while gathering the equipment.

There are about a dozen members to the crisis negotiations team, Capt. Mike Biaggini said.

Among the tools available to them are throw phones that allow negotiators to toss a telephone into a building where there’s someone they want to talk to; a wireless bullhorn; a console and headphones that allow a coach and others to listen in on a negotiator’s conversation.

“They can set it up and listen to the negotiations going on,” Biaggini said.

Pierini said the advisory council makes it possible for the Sheriff’s Office to purchase equipment that they would never be able to afford through the regular county budget process.

“We could never dream about purchasing those things,” he said. “They really make a difference.”

Advisory council member Bill Henderson said the credit goes to those people in the community contacted by the council who come up with the donations.

“This is one out of 100 of the things the Sheriff’s Office needs,” Henderson said. “There are way more needs than we have been able to fill. The list goes on and on.

The advisory council is a non-profit organization that raises funds for extraordinary expenses of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Department. The council is currently soliciting donations to help fund the purchase of mobile computer terminal units for 35 patrol vehicles including all patrol, investigations, command and incident support units. The terminals will allow the officers to tie directly to the county’s new public safety software operating system.

Contributions are tax deductible and can be made payable to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Advisory Council and mailed to P.O. Box 1002, Minden, NV 89423. For more information, contact Chairman Carl Malkmus at (775) 782-4931.