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How Police Officers Talk A Would-Be Jumper Down


Vista Bridge with suicide-prevention fencing in place.

Vista Bridge with suicide-prevention fencing in place.

Beth Hyams / OPB

Officer William Ollenbrook says if he’s learned one thing in his nearly 20 years dealing with crisis situations, it’s that it’s impossible to predict when they’ll hit. He say the city might go weeks without being called to the scene of a would-be jumper on a bridge and then one day — as happened on a recent Wednesday — they’ll get two such calls: one on the Vista Bridge, and one on the Fremont.

Ollenbrook was the first officer from the Crisis Negotiation Team to arrive at the Vista Bridge. He relieved other uniformed officers who were the first on the scene. The man eventually came down off the bridge, but not until more than twelve hours had elapses, and after police employed a variety of strategies and tactics. We’ll talk with Ollenbrook about how those hours played out and the kinds of life and death decisions officers make in these delicate situations.

What questions do you have about how officers deal with crisis situations like these?

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