At the centre of a recent rash of armed and barricaded incidents in Winnipeg has been the Winnipeg police’s crisis negotiation unit, a team which focuses on bringing peaceful resolutions to potentially deadly situations.
Staff Sgt. Sean Pollock is the unit co-ordinator and has served part-time on the unit for seven years. Eleven officers make up the team, all of them part-time in the role, and many of the current officers in the unit have been a part of it for more than a decade.
“I started looking for opportunities to broaden my horizons,” Pollock said. “One of the areas that always fascinated me was crisis communications. It’s been a very enjoyable path to follow.”
The unit has been at three armed and barricaded situations in less than a month in Winnipeg, and Pollock said it’s rare they go to this many high-magnitude incidents in a short period of time.
“The last month has really been high-profile and high stress,” Pollock said.
“These types of incidents we’ve been dealing with have been quite noteworthy.”
Pollock was on scene at the Bannerman Avenue standoff Nov. 7, when a 16-year-old suspect allegedly fired several shots at police.
“It’s a moment when your training kicks in and you get down to business to come to a peaceful resolution.”
He said the unit is deployed several dozen times a year. Many of the recent standoffs have lasted for hours and Pollock emphasizes the importance of patience.
“Most of the situations we deal with are emotionally driven. And if you are giving an individual an opportunity to express and vent their emotion out, that often leads to a successful and peaceful resolution.”
“We do our absolute best to find something that the person wants to talk about and we do our best to find out exactly what’s brought them to that point.”
While the recent incidents all had positive outcomes, some don’t go as planned.
Pollock doesn’t expect the ongoing meth crisis to change the unit’s role in any way. He said they’ve always dealt with illicit drugs and are always training for any new challenges.
“Meth is one of those things that impact individuals in different fashions, but it’s always going to be a challenge that creates some wrinkles in the roadmap for us for sure.”
He says a positive outcome is a feeling like no other and it’s one of the reasons these officers are proud to do the job.
“When you take an individual who is having the worst day of their life and at the end of it, you are able to sit down with them… and they thank you for helping intervene on that worst day of their life.
“It’s a level of satisfaction and gratification that I don’t really know you could replicate anywhere else.”
WATCH: North End standoff ends without serious injury