Drama students (left to right) Megan McCool, Jackson Fraser and Anna Starkl, with Crisis Negotiators, Cpl Jill SWANN (Comox Valley RCMP) and Cst. Mike ETELE (Nanaimo RCMP).

Drama students (left to right) Megan McCool, Jackson Fraser and Anna Starkl, with RCMP Crisis Negotiators Cpl Jill Swann from the Comox Valley and Cst. Mike Etele from the Nanaimo. (Photo: Westshore RCMP)

A Colwood high school partnered up with the RCMP last Wednesday to help train crisis negotiators.

Royal Bay High School drama students were prepped for their roles by their drama teacher before crisis negotiators were seated in the school’s theatre with their backs turned to the stage.

Negotiators had to use their listening skills and limited information they were given, in order to determine the best course of action, and to figure out what they were going to say.

“What’s interesting is to see is the negotiators learn through the scenarios with the students. We are side-by-side, acting in these super realistic situations. It’s important for us to learn about crisis so that it can be addressed for what it is,” said drama student  Jackson Fraser in a release.

After each scenario the students and negotiators debriefed. Students provided constructive criticism to the negotiators, discussing matters like tone of voice and specific references that made the students either like or dislike the Negotiator during the scenario.

Crisis Negotiators debrief a scenario with the class. Acted out by drama student, Rachel Hansen, (Photo: Westshore RCMP)

Crisis Negotiators debrief a scenario with the class. Acted out by drama student, Rachel Hansen (bottom left) (Photo: Westshore RCMP)

Cst. Nancy Saggar with the WestShore RCMP says the training helps both police and the students.

“[The training] is invaluable… the students got to perfect their acting skills and got to be part of something that could impact someone’s life. They were heavily invested in this and wanted to make sure the emotions they showed were accurate,” said Cst. Nancy Saggar with the WestShore RCMP.

The annual training event is in its fourth year and takes place across the Island. The Island has 12 RCMP Crisis Negotiators who receive specialized training through the RCMP that is aimed at peacefully resolving tense situations.

“The main goals is to de-escalate critical incidents… safety is paramount. This ranges from incidents like hostage taking and bank robberies to people experiencing mental health issues or someone who has fallen on hard times and is looking to take their own life,” said Saggar.

“It was a lot of improv that went in, obviously the negotiators didn’t know what scenario they would face…. and not being able to see, they are acting as if they are blind… similar to having to call in… we tried to recreate that scene and mentality.”

RCMP members who want to join the team are required to be a frontline member for a number of years and will have the additional duty on top of what they are already doing.

Crisis Negotiators are under the framework of the Critical Incident Program and are called out along with the Emergency Response Team during incidents.

“The students made it difficult for the negotiators and really helped them,” added Saggar .

Julian Kolsut