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Police add texting to crisis negotiation arsenal


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"Do you need anything? Water? Food?" Wells tried after another minute.

Finally, a reply.

At a glance

Standoff texts

Excerpts from the text exchange between Kalamazoo, Michigan, police negotiator Andres Wells and suspect Jesse Cook during a July 6, 2011, standoff. With 6 billion text messages exchanged daily in the United States, texting is becoming a more frequent part of police crisis negotiations.

WELLS, 2:14 a.m.: This doesn’t have to go down like this

WELLS, 2:15 a.m.: Do you need anything? Water? Food?

COOK, 2:16 a.m.: Water.

WELLS, 2:17 a.m.: Water is coming up. I’ll let you know when. Some guys with a shield are going to bring it up. They will not try anything. Don’t worry

COOK, 2:19 a.m.: Probably be messy if they do. I’m already nervous as (expletive).

WELLS, 2:20 a.m.: I know. Don’t worry. We don’t want this to be a mess. I’ll help you through it. I got Gatorade here. You ready?

...

WELLS, 2:22 a.m.: Roll the window down all the way. This guy throws like a girl. And please keep your hands visible. OK?

WELLS, 2:24 a.m.: Can you put both hands up where they can see them. So they know u wont shoot them

WELLS, 2:25 a.m.: They r scared that if you reach for the Gatorade by instinct the gun might get squeezed

WELLS, 2:25 a.m.: Can u just set it down for a sec. I promise no one will try anything

WELLS, 2:26 a.m.: They wont even get close

COOK, 2:26 a.m.: This is all I have left.

WELLS, 2:26 a.m.: I’ll help u through.

COOK, 2:29 a.m.: Thanks. He does throw like a girl.

COOK, 2:29 a.m.: : )

WELLS, 2:29 a.m.: Nice. : ) can I call u?

COOK, 2:30 a.m.: OK.

Cook surrendered 15 minutes later.

———

Source: Kalamazoo County Office of the Prosecuting Attorney

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"Water," Cook wrote.

"As soon as he wrote water, I thought, ‘OK, I can work with this,’" Wells recalled later. "We’ll get something figured out."

Wells asked Cook to roll down his window so an officer could toss a bottle of water into his SUV, which was disabled by tire-popping spikes laid by police.

"This guy throws like a girl," Wells texted, fishing for Cook’s state of mind.

"Thanks. He does throw like a girl," Cook wrote afterward.

Then a smiley face.

It was the cue Wells had been waiting for, proof Cook had relaxed enough to perhaps resume talking by phone, which had been the goal all along.

Looking back, Wells said having someone’s responses in text form could be beneficial during negotiations, providing a chance to show them to a relative or another negotiator for guidance.


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But the negatives, including the potential to be misunderstood and absence of emotion and real-time give-and-take, outweigh the benefits, he said.

"Can I call u?" Wells then asked Cook.

"OK," Cook replied. He surrendered 15 minutes later.



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