I have been digging into the hostage taking of an empty VTA train the other day. I was pretty shocked to read this event, where the only hostage was an empty train, extended for 12 hours.
So I started asking around to find out what happened that they couldn’t get a sole person off the top of an empty train for an entire shift. It seems everyone in the county showed up to play a role, right down to the sheriff calling out Judge Manley for his moment in the spotlight.
I noticed in videos and images that the man had a blanket. I asked around and found out that this hostage taker, who’s only motivator to get off that train was discomfort, who had nothing trade, was given that blanket some time prior to the 4 hour mark of the “stand-off”. Wha what?!
So this guy, with no hostages or other means of leverage, traded what for a blanket? He was cold? So hold the blanket and a hot chocolate up and tell him these are yours as soon as you come down. How long do you think the cold, shirtless guy is going to be able to take looking at a warm blanket and a hot chocolate with his name on it? Probably not another 8 hours.
I thought that was the end of the story… but someone teased me, “Don’t you think you’d get hungry after that long?” I looked at them, disbelief growing in my eyes. They went on, “None of the deputies out there for 12 hours got any food; the sheriff did nothing to support the guys on the perimeter for the entire event.”
I suspect my eyes glazed a bit; the usual “I’m not sure I want to hear this or if I can take this quietly when I do hear it” look. Sure enough, the next words, “they bought the guy on the train a pizza, while everyone else stood there and watched him eat.”
At that point, you’re no longer negotiating. You’re standing there begging, hoping the guy you just put in charge of the situation will grace you with a good decision and come down — the half-naked guy who took over a train.
Seriously? WTF is wrong with this office? Who the hell trained the negotiators in a manner that they thought giving up their ONLY leverage, this guy’s discomfort, was a good idea? TRAINING, TRAINING, TRAINING! I am honestly sick to death of that word, but until the sheriff and her top people buy a clue at how important TRAINING is in law enforcement, I have to keep repeating it. Of course Sheriff Laurie Smith, who helps create the state POST standards, knows better than all of us how these situations are handled and what kind of training various special operations personnel should get. These were visionary and progressive tactics, right? Please.
The administrators let their guys on the line go hungry for 12 hours because failure to fully train personnel to do their jobs extended the standoff by trying to give the spoiled, angry child on top of the train everything he wanted so they could give everyone from the sheriff’s office, probation, mental health, and courts the opportunity to come out and get their moment in the spotlight. Train guy must have loved all the attention he was given by our public services.
To be fair I suspect this is not just due to a complete lack of training in negotiations, but also a complete failure at the admin level to even begin to understand Incident Command procedures.
Sadly the media, as usual, sucked this up. Twitter, FaceBook and Instagram feeds are littered with videos and images of the incident, but never a question of what they’re seeing. Is it any wonder the level of incompetence in our county government can exist when the media can’t even manage to question events that happen right in front of their eyes?
Commuters and community members who had their lives disrupted by this grand show of incompetency should be appalled.