Crisis Negotiators Challenge comes to Columbia

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COLUMBIA - The Columbia Police Department hosted the annual Missouri Association of Crisis Negotiators Challenge for the first time Thursday.

During the day long event, held at the Crossing Church, eight Missouri teams and one Arkansas team competed against one another in a protracted standoff negotiation crisis.

According to the training director of the Missouri Association of Crisis Negotiators, Deborah McMahon, the top three scoring teams will be recognized by the state of Missouri, and the winning team will proceed to a national competition in Texas.

McMahon said the scoring is based off of numerous factors determined by judges throughout the course of the day.

"We have judges that come in, they are evaluating their ability to build rapport, listen, mitigate the threat, you coordinate tactical issues and things of that nature," McMahon said.

The purpose of the challenge is to provide public safety units that have a regular crisis hostage negotiation team the opportunity to practice handling standoffs.

"It's a hard thing to go out a practice a standoff. You can go to plenty of standoffs, but to practice a standoff is a pretty unique, you know circumstance for them," McMahon said.

Lt. Eric Hughes, one of the judges for the challenge, said he hopes all participants walk away from the event with the best mentality.

"Confidence that they can accomplish the goal, which is to peacefully resolve the situation and you know try to save lives," he said.

Hughes said, too often, people seem to forget the gravity of the job of negotiators.

"These are real people in real situations and our goal is to help them out of it," he said.