PATERSON, NJ - While it’s not uncommon for first responders to see people during their most vulnerable times, for one group of Paterson police officers, highly trained in crisis and hostage negotiations, it happens “more than you know.”
On Tuesday, Mayor Andre Sayegh paid special tribute to Lt. Donato DeAngelis, Sgt. Angelo Gencarelli, and Patrolman Ivan Hicks for their swift actions Saturday to talk a distraught father who had threatened his own, and his four-year-old daughter’s, life off a second floor ledge on Godwin Ave.
“What you did was nothing short of remarkable, and we thank you for it,” Sayegh told the three as they sat in his city hall office.
The men recounted their story, saying that the most important aspect of their job is to “build trust” with the person they are attempting to remove from a dangerous situation.
In their most recent act of heroism, Gencarelli and Hicks responded to the scene in response to a prior call for a welfare check on the father and daughter. Faced with having to return his daughter, whom he’d only just met, and not knowing when he’d be able to be with her again, the man is reported to have barricaded himself in a second floor bedroom, before going out to an adjoining porch when police made entry. Following a dangerous jump to the neighboring structure, putting both his own and the little girl’s life in danger, the crisis experts were called into action.
Hicks, getting close enought to have a conversation, started to build a repoir with the man, with Gencarelli acting initially in a secondary role. Finally, though off-duty at the time, DeAngelis arrived, soon employing a tactic whereby the person they are in discussions with feels they are able to talk to others with more authority than the last.
With 10 children between them the officers were able to relate to the man on a personal level, they said.
"I talked to him father-to-father,” Gencarelli said. “We didn’t see him as a criminal, he was someone going through a crisis.”
“He just wanted to be listened to.”
Recountin that the incident at the home ended with a hug and a handshake with the man, not uncommon in the situations that are never predictable, the work of the negotiating team wasn’t over yet, and after helping the man put his daughter’s shoes on, all accompanied both to the St. Joseph’s Medical Center for further care.
“We told him we were there to help and we stick to that,” DeAngelis concluded. “We never lie, we rely on our credibility.”
While the man will face criminal charges for his actions it’s not about putting him in jail, all three highly trained men said. If given the opportunity, they agreed, they’ll work with the judge to get him the mental health help he needs.
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