The Crisis Negotiation Unit (CNU), formed in 1995, is an integral part of Sheriff’s Office Special Operations. As such, the CNU is responsible for the Sheriff’s Office Crisis/Hostage Negotiation Program. The mission of the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office Crisis Negotiations Unit is to provide negotiation services in situations involving hostages, suicidal individuals, or barricaded subjects encountered in fulfilling the operational objectives of the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office, or by the request of agencies within and outside the territorial jurisdiction of Mecklenburg County as approved by the Sheriff or his designee. The protection of lives and the overall well-being of all individuals affected in any situation, as well as the containment and apprehension of the hostage taker(s) or barricaded individual(s) are noted as the primary objectives.
The CNU maintains an immediate operational response capability to conduct and manage on-scene negotiations during any significant crisis event in which the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office is involved. This response capability is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The CNU is responsible for managing personnel and equipment assets and providing the requisite level of service necessary for the negotiators to successfully resolve crisis situations. During a crisis situation or critical incident, the negotiators have two primary responsibilities – intelligence gathering and negotiations. Negotiators responsible for intelligence gathering interview all available persons who have information relevant to the incident that is occurring. The information they gather is used to develop a background on the person to be negotiated with as well as to provide safety and tactically valuable information to the Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team (SERT). The negotiators use the information developed through intelligence gathering to attempt to reach a peaceful conclusion to the incident at hand by talking the person(s) involved into surrendering and, when applicable, releasing any hostages.
The Crisis Negotiations Team is a part-time voluntary unit, at present, staffed by a Unit Commander (Captain), an Assistant Unit Commander (Sergeant) and ten Negotiators (Sergeants, Deputy Sheriffs, and Detention Officers). All of these personnel work in various assignments throughout the Sheriff’s Office and are called on an as-needed basis for critical incidents. The incidents handled by the Crisis Negotiation Unit are often highly charged emotionally, and require an extraordinary amount of patience, self control, perception, and creative problem solving on the part of the negotiators. The Unit has consistently proven itself a professional, effective, and extremely successful component of the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office. The CNU has adopted the Latin phrase, Per Angusta in Augusta – “Through difficulties to great things” as its motto.
Negotiators provide an effective level of response by attending progressive external courses designed to enhance individual skill levels, and to attend professional seminars to exchange ideas on methodology, equipment and technique development. They have trained with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, The Institute of Police Technology and Management (IPTM), The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, & Firearms, as well as several recognized experts in the field of crisis negotiations. All Negotiators have attended a week long basic crisis negotiation course, and a week long advanced crisis negotiations course.
In order to accomplish their goal, the CNU understands it must operate as a team. They meet monthly in order to train and become familiar with the complex roles involved in a crisis negotiation call-out. Members also use this time to debrief past incidents. They discuss successful efforts and those which could be improved. This training experience is then put into service in order to safeguard the citizens of Mecklenburg County. Monthly training also routinely involves the Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team (SERT) and other law enforcement negotiators regionally and at times nationally.
The Crisis Negotiations Unit is responsible for establishing communication links using specialized equipment, obtaining background information, psychological profiles, and conducting witness debriefings during hostage or barricaded incidents. Most of the equipment utilized by the CNU is highly specialized and state of the art, highlighted by the Direct-Link 800 Series Crisis Response System, and a state of the art mobile platform.
The CNU is available for regional deployment, providing direct call-out and incident management assistance to requesting agencies. Most recently the CNU has assisted agencies such as the Greensboro Police Department, Guilford County Sheriff’s Office, Mint Hill Police Department, Huntersville Police Department, Matthews Police Department, Rock Hill (SC) Police Department, and the Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office.