Risks, Rewards Of Being A Negotiator

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Lake County Officials say despite the beginning, Wednesday’s stand-off did end peacefully.

Matthew Rumbolz, 37, was armed with a shotgun, but just before 4 p.m. he surrendered without incident.

While there were dozens of law enforcement agencies assisting with the stand-off, authorities say a negotiator with the Department of Criminal Investigation was able to establish good communication with Rumbolz, helping de-escalate the situation.

Police say that officer’s job is one of the most demanding.

“You’re tired, no matter if it’s short or long, it can become draining,” says Sioux Falls Police Officer Jim Larson.

Officer Larson has been working within the Crisis Negotiator Unit for more than 5 years.

“The general rule is anytime that SWAT is called out, we get called out,” he says.

When situations like the standoff between Matthew Rumbolz and area law enforcement happen, it’s the negotiators job to talk to the person in crisis out of crisis.

“The first thing is we are trying to get information about the incident that is going on, where it started,” says Larson. “We’re also going to get information on who were going to be talking to, maybe we’ll talk to relatives, neighbor’s friends that sort of thing, and then obviously we want to talk to that person directly.”

Larson says that communication could last an upwards of 36 hours to just 30 minutes.

“Generally, you’ll have one of our crisis officers talking to them,” says Larson. “We may, depending on how long it takes and that relationship works, we may switch off to someone else.”

He says they aren’t trained to use specific phrases, “because it depends on who you’re talking with” but they are trained to look for signs of a person harming themselves, the public or a law enforcement officer.

“Is it risky? Can be,” says Larson. “But usually we’re talking with the person in crisis and working with them and making sure it’s okay with them.”

Like the end of the Lake County stand-off, Officer Larson says the goal is to get everyone home safely.

“It’s very rewarding because if you’re able to de-escalate [the situation] and come out to a peaceful solution, you know that person is going to get help and that that person is not going to be a danger.”

Officer Larson says those in the Crisis Negotiation Unit go through monthly training.

But he says since it’s usually the street officers that get to a scene first, the police department is starting to train all officers on how to safely communicate with someone in crisis.

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