Crisis Negotiations Unit
Sergeant Eric Owens
Crisis Negotiations Unit Commander
During the late 1970’s, the first Marion County Sheriff’s Office Negotiation Unit came into being. This occurred at a time when units such as this became a recognized necessity with progressive law enforcement agencies across the United States.
The first Marion County Sheriff’s Office unit was called the Hostage Negotiation Unit and was supervised by Sergeant Wayne McAteer. The other members included Frank Alioto and Patti Lumpkin. Since this was a new adventure there weren’t a lot of training resources or knowledge of how to effectively approach a resolution during incidents. Members generally depended on just being good communicators to do their job, a characteristic that has never really changed.
In 1984, Sergeant Larry Jerald assumed command of the Unit. The Unit grew to six officers including Pat McAvay, Bruce Munster, Patti Lumpkin, Dennis Strow and Phil McNamee.
There was more information available at this time about how a Team should be operated and thanks to Major Larry Jerald’s meticulous record keeping; we can look back to some important phases in the development and advancement of the Team.
Although there were incidents before, the first incident documented on record was on June 25, 1984. It involved a subject named Douglas Motts in Woods and Lakes. He had stolen his father’s police motorcycle in Largo, Florida and was armed with a riot shotgun. The session lasted eight hours.
It was also during December of 1984 that the Team received its first formal training. The Team traveled to St. Petersburg for three days of training with the renowned Frank Bolz and Harvey Schlossberg.
In July of 1987, the Team name was officially changed to the Crisis Negotiation Team which more accurately reflected their purpose. Also in July of 1987, the first piece of sophisticated equipment was obtained. Based on a model of equipment being commercially marketed, Ray Mulkey, of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office Radio Shop, made the same piece of equipment to include a throw phone making the PA system and bullhorn obsolete.
Although exact dates aren’t known it was about the same time that the Team was granted “part time” use of a vehicle. The Department had a converted ambulance that was used as a “Bat Mobile” for Blood Alcohol Testing during DUI enforcement. The Team was allowed to store equipment in the truck and use it when needed.
In 1996, a dedicated vehicle was assigned to the unit which is when the current truck was acquired. This vehicle was modified from a military ambulance to improve efficiency. We have recently purchased a new truck and will be in service in February 2007. In October of 2006 we were able to purchase a state of the art throw phone system with the assistance of homeland security grants. This system allows us to work hand in hand with the S.W.A.T. Team and keep the commanders on each scene very well informed of each incident that we respond to.
During the existence of the Team, the following have served as Team Commander (Ranks are current)
- Captain Wayne McAteer – original Team member serving as Commander until 1984
- Major Larry Jerald – became a Team member in 1982, Commander 1984-1989
- Captain Dennis Strow – became a Team member in 1985, Commander 1989-1996
- Chief Tom Wilder – became a Team member in 1986, Commander 1996-2000
- Major Kerry Crawford – became a Team member in 1987, Commander 2000-2003
- Lieutenant M. Wissinger – became a Team member in 1999, Commander from 2005 til fall 2006
- Captain Tom Terrell – became a Team member in 1994, Commander from fall 2006 til December 2006
- Lieutenant Tim O’Hara – became a Team member in 1999, Commander since 12/2006
The following have served as Team Members:
There are countless stories shared about Team incidents over the twenty some odd years of existence. Many will continue to be told while many more have not yet been scripted in life. While the future is uncertain, one thing about the past is well known. This team was founded on principles of commitment, responsibility, pride and dedication. These early attributes of our pioneers continue to be the cornerstone of our foundation.