Telephone communication is the preferred method of contact with a hostage taker or barricaded person. A popularly accepted method of doing this is by using a throw phone, a much safer way for police negotiators to communicate with bad guys than doing it face to face.
“Throw phone” is a generic term dating back to the early 1980s. This was during the days before cell phones were readily available, so telephone contact was limited to existing phones in the barricaded area. Throw phones were also needed for locations such as wooded areas or public restrooms where landlines just didn’t exist. At that time, in some hostage incidents, amenities such as landline telephone service, as well as water and electricity, were turned off or controlled by the police.
In the case of telephones, service was cut off remotely by the telephone company at police request or by officers on the scene. While one team member worked to obtain a court order for legal concerns (federal electronic surveillance statutes are collectively referred to as Title III Applications; state laws vary, and in certain states a court order/warrant may not be needed), another police officer would climb the pole and isolate the telephone communications to that building.
This provided a reason for police to introduce their throw phone. Considerations included which telephone pole controlled a particular house, and whether it would be a safe operation. This was judged by how far the pole was from the house, and whether SWAT could control the line of fire (if you can see the house, those in the house can see you).
Years later, as telephone companies converted to all-electronic central offices, new phone numbers could be quickly assigned to a barricaded area from a remote location. The new number was known only to law enforcement and prevented others such as the media or family members from getting through.
Throw phones came as replacements for home-made, rigged-together phone systems. In time, commercially manufactured throw phone kits were purpose-built for crisis management. Today, the increased popularity of cell phones has replaced landline telephones in many households. With standoff situations becoming more and more common, it is important to keep up to date with the latest crisis management technology.
Controlling Suspect Communications
In establishing control over a suspect’s communications, the negotiators usually determine the carrier for a suspect’s landline or cell phone, and establish contact with that carrier’s law enforcement liaison. Each such company has its own protocol and they have to have justification for their actions.
The Pasco County, Fla., Sheriff’s Office Unified Crisis Management Team (CMT) is made up of members of the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office and the New Port Richey Police Department. The agency has been using a Crisis Response Telephone™ (CRT) from Rescue Phone for over 12 years. They took the opportunity to review the new QUAD Crisis Response Module.
Using their current CRT, negotiators can conduct a conference call with another person who knows the suspect and could be helpful in resolving the incident. In the command vehicle or wherever the CRT is set up, command staff also monitors the conversations in real time using specially designed amplified speakers. Knowing what the suspect is saying and doing can save lives.
In addition, the primary negotiator’s headset can also be muted if he doesn’t want the suspect to hear what he is saying to others in the command vehicle or the command center. There is an automatic call button that will ring until the controlled phone system or throw phone is picked up.
According to Detective Kip Mello of the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office CMT, the QUAD Crisis Response Module would give them an added advantage; the CMT negotiators don’t have to hook into a copper phone line at a friendly house, something that is especially difficult in the middle of the night. Rather, they would operate using the built-in QUAD Bluetooth® Wireless Technology interface. This is one of the greatest advantages the QUAD has over the agency’s current CRT.
For both the CRT and the QUAD, delivery of a wired throw phone is accomplished by SWAT or tactical team, because there are substantial risks in an operation that involves tactical flexibility. The throw phone is tossed from behind cover and can involve broken doors or windows.
Rescue Phone Inc.
Sergeant Sam Hicks (retired, served from 1969-1992) is a veteran of the Prince George’s County, Md., Police Department, and was the agency’s first Hostage and Barricade Communications Specialist certified under Maryland law. He is the founder and president of Rescue Phone, Inc., a company that specializes in turnkey equipment designed to meet the needs of law enforcement agencies around the world.
Over the years, Rescue Phone has provided negotiator telephones and training to thousands of state and local law enforcement departments as well as federal agencies including the FBI, ATF, DHS, and negotiators in over 25 foreign countries. Rescue Phone has the distinction of being the only manufacturer with systems in place in all 56 field offices of the FBI.
According to Hicks and his team at Rescue Phone, Inc., in creating the QUAD they combined everything they have learned over the past 32 years about what negotiators want and what law enforcement professionals need into a compact, easy-to-use, and affordable system.
The QUAD handles all forms of telephone contact: traditional copper-dial tone lines, cell phones, throw phones, and line capture. It digitally records the event, and keeps command staff and SWAT personnel aware of exactly what is occurring in the barricaded area as it happens. It sets up quickly and was designed for ease of operation during stressful negotiations.
Two new features make it an even better negotiator telephone system. Added is a built-in cell phone interface so the user never has to spend time looking for a copper-wire, landline-equipped, friendly house to use as a crisis command post. Negotiators can simply pair their cell phone to the QUAD and they are ready to make the call.
And now there’s a safer way to get a message from a family member or friend into the barricaded area. First the message is recorded; then the recorder is plugged into the QUAD TPI message input jack and the operator pushes the “play” button. The audio message feeds directly to the throw phone with no background noise, and control is maintained at all times.
The QUAD package consists of the negotiator’s console; a fully enclosed, lightweight negotiator headset; three dual-ear headphones for support personnel, a cell-phone Bluetooth interface, a Pelican®-protected throw phone with a stainless steel cable, TPI (Third Party Intermediary) message input, command speaker with 50-foot cord, digital audio recorder, a 1,000-foot wire spool, and all of the necessary plugs, cords and adaptors.
A “Rescue Phone® QUAD Operator’s Manual” and a “QUAD Hook Up Chart” are part of each QUAD package. The package comes ready for immediate use, and all of the accessories store in the Pelican console case so there are no extra bags to lose or leave behind.
Printed directly on the face of the control panel are instructions and icons that are easy to follow for quick reference. The primary-colored, square, push-button controls have light-up features to guide the operators. These seven buttons do the following:
The top, yellow off hook / call button indicates when the barricaded person has answered the throw phone or wants to initiate a conversation with the negotiator. When this button is used to call, the throw phone will begin automatic ringing cycles, and will continue until the suspect picks up the phone or the cancel button is pushed.
The lower yellow conference button is used to patch the suspect from the throw phone to an outside phone line. In this case, the suspect must negotiate this privilege and give the negotiator the phone number to dial. The QUAD operator then dials it for the suspect.
The top red ringing / cancel button when lit indicates the console is ringing the throw phone. It will stay lit until the throw phone is answered or the cancel button is pushed to automatically stop the ringing.
The bottom red hold button is used to place an outside phone call on hold. It may also be used to separate parties on a conference call. The top green monitor / on button controls special features located in the throw case delivered to the barricaded person. The bottom, green phone line button is for outside calls. When the light is off, the phone line is hung up and the negotiation team QUAD operator may receive incoming calls. The white button is the master power control.
Other features of the QUAD include input jacks for outside phone lines, an all-metal wire spool, coiled recorder cord, a Plantronics® headset used by the primary negotiator, a jack for the secondary negotiator’s headphone, a cell-phone charger port, and a Negotiator MIC-on Lamp.
A wireless interface pairs with a Bluetooth-enabled cell phone. Once paired, the negotiator presses phone line and dials the number for the barricaded area on the QUAD’s dial pad. With the new TPI Input feature, pre-recorded audio messages can be played to the suspect through the console.
The negotiator can stop, rewind, or replay the recording at any time by using the controls on the recorder. By using the conference button, the suspect can be allowed outside phone contact; conference calls may be dialed with or without the suspect being on the line.
The QUAD Crisis Response Module is Rescue Phone’s latest negotiator console and incorporates today’s most advanced technology available. With the new Bluetooth feature, one might think of the QUAD as a CRT on steroids. The price for the QUAD Crisis Response Module is $5,995.
Jim Weiss is a retired lieutenant from the Brook Park, Ohio, Police Department and a frequent contributor to LAW and ORDER. Mickey Davis is a California-based writer and author.
Best of Rescue Phone
QUAD Crisis Response Module
The QUAD™ Crisis Response Module is the newest generation of hostage negotiator telephones offered exclusively by Rescue Phone, Inc. It has been designed to handle all four methods of communication: 1) using a traditional copper landline in a friendly house; 2) pairing with a cell phone; 3) target-location line capture. The existing phone in the barricaded area is disconnected from the service provider and controlled directly by the QUAD; 4) as a hardwired throw phone.
Since hostage/barricade situations are dynamic and never predictable, the QUAD is designed to be prepared for anything that might happen. This new system, like all previous Rescue Phone systems, is modular. It never has to be returned to the company for “upgrades.” Rescue Phone designs its products to “add on” to existing equipment; that’s what makes their systems so unique.
Cellular Response Console
The Cellular Response Console™ (CRC) serves as both a force multiplier for law enforcement agencies with a traditional throw phone system, and as an economical communications bridge for departments on tight budgets just starting negotiating teams. It was designed so officers responding to a situation can take advantage of modern cell phone technology combined with features such as digital audio recording and command staff monitoring found in more expensive throw phone consoles.
Using the CRC, an officer’s cell phone can be paired using Bluetooth® Wireless Technology; the conversation then takes place using a comfortable headset. A command speaker allows other officers and SWAT personnel to hear negotiations. And, with the additional headphones supplied, a coach can listen in and offer advice to the negotiator to help guide the conversation and help end the situation safely.
The Landline Eliminator™ adds all the benefits of cell phone independence and portability to older throw phone systems purchased before the popularity of personal cell phones we have seen over the last 10 years.
Using Bluetooth Wireless Technology, a cell phone is easily paired with the Landline Eliminator. Once connected, a normal dial tone is supplied to the negotiator’s console, the barricaded person’s phone number is dialed up, and the call goes through.
The Sentinel™ SVS is Rescue Phone’s next-generation video system. It has been uniquely designed specifically for Command and SWAT personnel. The advanced features and details of this system can be found by contacting Rescue Phone directly.
Sentinel Throw Phone
The Sentinel’s Pelican-protected throw phone has many tactical features that greatly enhance intelligence gathering.