At least four or five times a week, officers are called to the scene of despondent people looking for an answer to their problems, even if it means not living anymore, and Spokane Police are working to try and prevent them.
Unfortunately around the holidays suicides tend to reach a peak. Spokane Police responded to a man with a fatal gunshot wound Thursday morning at the Eagle Crest Apartments and Major crimes detectives responded to the apartments, located near 8th and Hatch, and determined the victim had taken his own life.
As a result of a recommendation by the Use of Force commission, all Spokane police officers, regardless of their rank, have to go through crisis intervention training. So fortunately, when a recently ended up standing atop the railing on the Monroe Street Bridge, patrolmen who responded to the scene knew what they had to do.
"You can see by the way he's moving his arms and moving around quite a bit, he was extremely agitated, extremely distraught," Spokane Police Chief Frank Straub said.
The man must have felt he had nothing to lose by dancing on the frosty railing, deliberately throwing himself off balance one more than one occasion. Police no doubt wanted to rush in and grab the man before he accidentally or intentionally fell, but their new training told them otherwise.
"Much of what we do it listening. A lot less talking, a lot more listening. Let him get it off his chest, let him say what he has to say. Try to assure him that we really are there to truly help him," Straub said.
That includes getting rid of distractions like stopping traffic and turning off all lights and sirens. They're also calling in the experts -- mental health experts -- to help police negotiators talk suicidal individuals out of killing themselves.
"The advantage is when they come, they're able to give us a complete history of this individual. They are able to tell us what type of medications he may be on or not on so they're a real partner for us," Straub said.
Because of privacy rules police cannot divulge what was the breakthrough that led the man on the bridge to get off the ledge and hand over his belonging to the officers, but somehow the patrolmen were able to literally reach him.
"Our officers put their hands out, it was a gesture of come to me. It wasn't an attempt to grab. It was come on down. We got this. You'll be safe and that's exactly what he did," Straub said.
Police never handcuffed the man, even in the patrol car that took him up to the hospital to a mental health evaluation. The police department wants people to know that being mentally ill isn't a crime and if someone you know is suicidal they will come and try to help them.