KSAT goes 1-on-1 with San Antonio police Crisis Negotiator

Head of team shares insight into dangerous calls

When most people think of a police standoff, they likely envision a team of SWAT officers suited up with their guns, but the tools most likely used to diffuse those situation are words -- coming from the mouths of SAPD's team of negotiators.

"Every call that we get involved in death is right there," said Sgt. Edward Klauer, Crisis Negotiation Detail Supervisor.

One such call came on the morning of Sept. 9 when a man shot an officer in the head at the Super 8 Motel on North Saint Mary's Street at Interstate 35.

"Our main goal is to get there and slow things down," Klauer said. "On the Super 8 Motel, I think we did a minimum of 268 phone calls in."

The team's mission is to communicate with the suspect one way or another, Klauer added. 

"You may not want to talk to us, but you're going to listen to us," said Klauer. "You may not talk back, you may not answer, but you're going to hear it."

While only one negotiator may be on the phone, an entire team is working simultaneously to research the suspect and formulate what to say or what not to say.

In the most serious cases -- like at the Super 8 -- a team of psychologists that trains with SAPD Crisis Negotiation is on scene to help.

"We need to know just exactly what happened. And how did it get us here today? What happened today?" Klauer said.

Time is one thing the team uses to their advantage.

According to Klauer, statistically, the longer they can keep someone communicating, the more likely they are to surrender peacefully. But that's not always the outcome.

On July 22, a man upset over misplaced guns shot himself to death only minutes into what would become a four hour standoff on the 7400 block of Peaceful Meadow.

"They either want to die, or often times have shot somebody or killed somebody, or they want us to kill them," Klauer said. "We're trying to make somebody do something they don't want to do."

So far in 2013, SAPD has handled 21 standoffs in which crisis negotiators were involved. Klauer estimates on average that the team is involved in 26 calls annually.

One person involved in one of the 21 calls in 2013 committed suicide before negotiators arrived. One person was shot and killed by police.

All 19 others have been peaceful surrenders.

For a list of recent stories Myra Arthur has done, click here.

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