As an SWAT crisis negotiator in a very busy city for six years, I have seen our male negotiators and female negotiators do an outstanding job talking people down.

There have been situations where male officers talked a suspect down and I thought, if I was the one negotiating I probably would not have had the same impact. On the flip side, I have negotiated with suspects that did end up surrendering peacefully, I believe, because they were talking to a female.

I have had many experiences on patrol and SWAT call-outs where being a female definitely benefited in my negotiating with the suspect and eventually getting him to surrender peacefully or to do what I wanted him to do.

While working patrol, I stopped a vehicle for a traffic violation and found that the female driver had a No Bail warrant. When my assisting unit arrived, we got her out of the car, handcuffed her and placed her in the back seat of my vehicle. Unbeknownst to me, the traffic stop was in front of her family's house, and they started coming out to the front.

Soon after I placed the female in my vehicle, her husband, a very large (approximately 6-foot-5-inch, 350-pound) man came out of the vehicle and began yelling and walking toward my vehicle. My assisting unit immediately pulled out his baton, and I all I could think was, "No baton is going to work on this huge man."

So I whipped out my verbal skills to calm him down. He was obviously upset that his wife had just been handcuffed and put into a police car. I began talking to him in a calm tone and explained what we were doing, and that I needed him to stay away from our car and walk over to the sidewalk.

All the while, the other officer was yelling at him to get onto the sidewalk with his baton ready, so I kept one step in front of the other officer so the man could focus on my words, not the officer's yelling. I continued to repeatedly tell the man that he needed to remain calm for his wife and that we would figure everything out.

After what seemed like a long couple of minutes, I was able to calm him down, get him to walk over to the sidewalk away from our vehicle, and he then actually began to cry. The family standing in the front yard remained calm as well.

The main thing that kept running through my mind was that if we have to go "hands on" with him, then the family is going to be a major issue, because they were all very large people as well.

Luckily, my decision to use words instead of "tools" on my gun belt saved everyone a major incident and a potential use of force.

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Dina Zapalski
Dina Zapalski

Dina Zapalski

Sgt. Dina Zapalski is the public information officer for a Southern California department. As a sergeant, she has worked patrol, internal affairs. As a detective, she worked burglary, child abuse, backgrounds and DARE. She was also a SWAT crisis negotiator.

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Sgt. Dina Zapalski is the public information officer for a Southern California department. As a sergeant, she has worked patrol, internal affairs. As a detective, she worked burglary, child abuse, backgrounds and DARE. She was also a SWAT crisis negotiator.

View Bio
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