The police learning curve

Published 10:34 pm Friday, January 23, 2009

About 80 police officers from about 40 different law enforcement agencies converged on the Clanton campus of Jefferson State Community College for the first of many scheduled law enforcement classes.

The topic of yesterday’s class, which ran from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., was “Crisis Negotiating for First Responders.” Mark Bailey, director of safety and security for Jeff State, said the class was designed for patrolmen who arrive first on the scene of hostage situations or attempted suicides.

“What we want officers to do is try to de-escalate the situation,” Bailey said. “We want to get suspects to start talking so they will begin to reason with themselves so they won’t do anything rash or stupid.”

Bailey said people who are holding hostages or are attempting to commit suicides are not thinking rationally. Something had caused the suspect to get mad or unreasonable.

“If you get them talking, then you’re more likely to calm them down to the point where they can start coping with the situation. And then, they begin to think more rationally, which will diffuse the situation,” he added.

The class yesterday counted for six continuing education credits for the officers, who require at least 12 credits each year. Because of the location, the Clanton Police Department sent 10 of its officers to the class. The Chilton County Sheriff’s Department, Thorsby Police and Jemison Police all allowed officers to attend the classes.

Clanton Police Chief Brian Stilwell said having the classes this close would save his department a lot of money for class expenses, especially since this class cost only $20 per person.

“I can send 10 of my guys to a class, and it only costs the department $200. That’s much better than having to send them to classes in Birmingham, Montgomery or other places,” Stilwell said. “This is an excellent location for law enforcement to have classes because it is such a centrally located place. It will be an asset for our community.”

The next law enforcement classes will be in April and will focus on the fundamentals of criminal investigation.