By Carolyn Thompson
Growth of texting as crisis negotiation tool challenges police accustomed to taking voice cues
The suspect in a gas station robbery and 100 mph chase kept pointing his handgun to his head, and police negotiator Andres Wells was doing all he could to keep the man from committing suicide. But he kept cutting Wells’ phone calls short.
Then, about 10 minutes after the last hang up, Wells’ cellphone chimed. It was a text — from the suspect.
“Please call Amie,” the message said, followed by the number of the man’s girlfriend.
Wells was taken aback. In three years as a negotiator with the Kalamazoo, Michigan, police, he’d always relied on spoken give-and-take, taking cues from a person’s tone of voice, the inflections, emotions. He’d never thought about negotiating via text.