Law enforcement and emergency personnel are trained to peacefully resolve hostage and suicide situations. Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers face additional challenges if the perpetrator shows signs of mental illness. WFYI’s Terri Dee speaks with IMPD Lt. Shane Foley about the importance of de-escalating dangerous situations and available resources for individuals in need of mental health assistance.
WFYI Reporter Terri Dee: Lt. Foley, what background or training is ideal for an IMPD officer who is tasked with communicating to someone who is holding a hostage captive or is suicidal?
IMPD Lt. Shane Foley: One of the main tactics we have is teaching our recruits and teaching our officers in de-escalation skills, and then tactics to keep them safe. So, depending upon the situation, we may try to isolate an individual, speak to them in a calm voice, try to rationalize with them. Then as soon as possible, get other resources on scene such as negotiators, and operators with the SWAT team who have more extensive skills to handle those types of situations. But our officers are trained in de-escalation. They're trained in mental health first aid, they're trained in numerous scenario-based training so that way, they have a variety of skill sets. No, we're not ever going to be able to train officers to handle every situation, because every situation is going to be different. There are always unique factors. But we hope with giving them all these different skill sets, that they will be able to use those skills to be able to handle most situations.
Dee: Ultimately, the goal is to resolve a hostage or suicide situation with no lives lost. Is there any type of post situation review or training revision when lives are not saved?
Foley: As a common practice with our officers, they do incident reviews; following incidents where there are lives lost, or there are lives saved. Because even when we do things that result in the desired outcome, there's always opportunities for us to look at situations as to what could we have done differently or what could we have done better. Whether it's tactics, whether it's communication, we want to ensure that the desired outcome in that situation is good.
Dee: In hostage or suicide situations that we see on tv, we usually see the person being led away, and it kind of ends there. What resources are available to a suicidal person or hostage taker, once they are taken away from the scene and the scene is resolved with no lives lost?
Foley: So, I think these are two distinct questions you're asking. A hostage taker; some of that might just be a criminal act. There might not be resources for us to provide them. The resource they might need is incarceration to ensure that they're not out doing this to other people. But sometimes, those might involve mental health issues. Suicide typically involves mental health issues. So, if we get to a situation where we do an immediate attention with someone, which is where we take him to the hospital for evaluation and possible treatments, our MCAT (Mobile Crisis Assistance Team) unit does follow up with them to offer them resources. We can't make people accept the resources beyond doing immediate attention. We can take them to the hospital and let the doctors evaluate them and determine if they need to remain in the hospital. What we can make people do is limited.
Dee: Lieutenant Foley, thank you for enlightening the WFYI audience with this information.