PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — Crisis negotiators in Maine have an important job: help calm a person and get them to safety to connect them with the help they need.
Sometimes negotiations, or standoffs, can be tense or stressful, especially if the person in crisis is in danger of possibly harming themselves or others.
Detective Sergeant Paul Thorpe has worked as a negotiator for 17 years, and is the chief negotiator with the Cumberland County Regional Emergency Services Unit, which is made up of a tactical team, and a team of six negotiators.
"It is very stressful. It's a very stressful job because you are going in talking to someone that you've potentially never spoken with before," said Det. Sgt. Thorpe. "A lot of times the biggest thought I guess or fear that a negotiator has for fear not to say the wrong thing to escalate the situation."
Thorpe said many of the people he has dealt with in these situations just want someone to listen to them. He said negotiators employ "active listening" techniques. The University of Colorado defines active listening here.
"That's one of our biggest tools. We are there, and we actually care about what they're saying, because we actually do. Our job is to get them out safely. We're not there to kick the door in or anything like that. It's not our goal," said Thorpe. "You've got to believe what you're doing is right and have your head in the right place. I want to get this person out safe and I don't want to tactical guys to have to go in and risk their lives going through the door. "
Thorpe said that many times, negotiators respond to the same person multiple times. He said in his experience in Maine, he has responded to three different people each multiple times.