Imagine driving down the street at top speed, weaving in and out of traffic, lights and sirens blazing — your senses are heightened and your heart beats wildly, it’s an adrenaline rush. Being a crisis negotiator is like that, except the adrenaline flows for hours as you think of anything you can say or do to diffuse a situation and prevent someone from taking their life.
Payson Police department negotiator Sgt. Dean Faust knows all too well what it’s like to sweat bullets. After more than 10 years and 18 negotiations, his shoes show the wear from incessant pacing.
“I am always pacing, moving around,” Faust said Thursday during an afternoon patrol around Payson.
“For everyone else on scene it can be boring, but not for me.”
During a recent call, Faust talked a man out of committing suicide after more than four hours. During that time, Faust paced in front of the home, rarely taking a break or stopping until the man agreed to come out uninjured.
“It is the most taxing, stressful thing one person can do,” Faust said. “You have to be a BS artist.”
No two calls are the same, but Faust uses some basic techniques to get inside a person’s head to defuse a situation. These include creating a bond and trust, learning what caused the person to get into that situation and avoiding topics that may upset the person.
“You first get background on the person and what put them there. You call family, friends to find things in life they cherish,” he said.
A hook, is something or someone that person thinks is important, worth living for, a child or parent.
“A hook is something you keep coming back to and a hot spot is whatever got them in that spot, which I avoid,” Faust said.
In the last call, Faust said it was difficult to connect with the man because he had no hooks.
His ex-girlfriend was the hot spot, so Faust knew he should avoid her, but for several hours, the man showed little emotion to any topic.
“The human element is what is difficult and challenging,” Faust said. “One thing that works for one person does not work for another.”
Eventually the man began talking about his hot spot, the ex-girlfriend.
“The minute I said you let her win, he started talking and thinking about it,” Faust said. “From there it was like building a home — it is all a process.”
Most people, like this man, want to commit suicide in the heat of the moment and the goal is to get them past that moment, Faust said.
“There is a difference between empathy and sympathy. I try to be empathetic and give them another view on things,” he said. ”That things aren’t as bad as they seem to be.”
It is harder to create a bond when drugs, alcohol or a mental illness are involved. If a person is schizophrenic and having delusions, Faust said he tries to reason with them, but never denies the images are there.
“I just tell them I do not see what you see, but I don’t deny it, cause they see them,” he said. “You do and say anything you can think of.”
Faust avoids bringing in family or friends who can escalate a situation.
“I don’t like to use them, because it just means there is closure, the same with a priest,” he said.
At the end of long and exhausting call, Faust said he is relieved and happy for the person when they finally surrender.
“I don’t keep in contact with people because it can bring up that bad time again,” he said. “When it is all done, there is this relief, so I am able to let them go.”
Faust still remembers his first negotiation. “I was talking a girl off a water tower on the Indian reservation,” he said.
“She was 30 feet up and I got her down through talking.”
Faust became a negotiator after attending two weeks of classes, 80 hours, from the FBI.
Instructors taught about mental illness, techniques and equipment.
If a person refuses to talk, police throw a 10-pound metal box with speakers and microphone into the building.
The box is indestructible so the person is forced to speak with police. On most calls, cell phones or land lines are used.
Payson has two negotiators on its special response team, Faust and Mike Varga.
“We rotate calls, but everyone I get is long,” Faust joked.
At the next community meeting in January, Varga and Faust will highlight negotiations, said Chief Don Engler.