Thursday, February 12, 2009
Yesterday at a church near where I live, a man named Bill came in to speak with the pastor, Jim, who was conducting a men’s bible study class. Bill had psychological problems and was about to be arrested for an altercation with a neighbor. Jim suggested that Bill seek psychiatric assistance which caused Bill to go postal, shooting two people, then taking the pastor and five men hostage and forcing them into a room above the church lobby. I was one of the hostages in this SWAT team roll-playing exercise. Bill had us barricade both entrances to the room. Over the course of the next three hours, Bill threatened us, used Jim to shout down one of the two sets of stairs to the police. The police provided a direct telephone for Bill to speak to a hostage negotiator. He let one of the hostages go in exchange for some water being provided. Then another hostage was released for food. The negotiator tried to get more hostage released, but finally Bill put a gun to the pastor’s head and had the other three of us be a shield as he pushed us down the back stairs. The SWAT team appeared, told all of us to drop to the ground and “shot” Bill. Along with the other hostages I had to lie on the floor, be frisked and handcuffed and then released when it was determined I wasn’t the bad guy. It was quite an education being held prisoner and seeing how the negotiations progressed and how the SWAT team took action when the perp made a run for it. It seemed like it took a long time to provide the water and food. Afterwards I asked about this and was told that the police want to be careful before they provide anything to a hostage-taker and also want to make sure they obtain a concession in exchange for what they provide. I’ve attended both a police and a sheriff’s citizen academy and have now participated in three roll-playing training exercises. It’s a great way to learn about police procedures for my mystery writing.