Sometimes, small-city police departments make a mistake when they try to keep up with the hardware and programs available in larger urban areas. But when Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger established a crisis negotiation team, he provided local residents with an important, life-saving service.
Unfortunately, it did not work last weekend, when a 53-year-old man jumped from a fifth-floor balcony at an apartment building.
Firefighters and police, including members of the negotiating team, tried to persuade the man to surrender to them. They were in contact with him and had established at least some rapport, as evidenced by the fact they provided him with food at one point.
But, wielding a large knife, the man jumped anyway. At last report, he was in a Morgantown hospital, being treated for serious injuries.
The situation was the first in which the negotiation team had worked as a group, though some individual members have used training previously. A few cases in which people were talked out of actions that might have harmed them or others have been recorded.
Again, the team was not able to prevent the Wheeling man from jumping last weekend. But, sadly, such crises often end badly.
Schwertfeger's creation of the team gives Wheeling police a tool that, in all likelihood, they will use to save lives in the future. This is one situation in which the chief was right to emulate departments in larger cities, to serve local residents and sometimes protect them from themselves.