On the 4th of May, the Police Negotiation Unit commenced Exercise Silvertongue, a 5 day training program designed to refresh the skills of existing members.
Over the 5 days, two separate 3 hour exercises were conducted each day. To facilitate this 30 negotiator positions were needed and 40 role player positions had to be filled at varying times throughout the week.
The logistics involved in coordinating such an exercise, whilst keeping the operational impact to a minimum was an extreme challenge.
The 10 different 3 hour exercises were designed to provide realistic training to the Negotiators. Some of the scenarios exercised were:
— A domestic dispute in an urban house. This involved an intoxicated couple arguing that escalates into a firearm incident. Shots are fired.
— A motel cleaner inadvertently enters a motel room, only to discover a clandestine drug lab in full operation. Police respond however the offenders threaten to blow up the room if approached.
— An estranged father travels from interstate to locate the school where his 6 year old child attends. He goes to the school with suicide or murder/suicide intentions. A school teacher notices the person with a knife and the school went into lockdown.
— A drug affected fishing trawler captain stabs a backpacker crewman after days of arguments. The Captain intends to kill him out to sea and throw the body overboard. The victim manages to get a message to Police.
All of these scenarios were based on real life incidents and were designed to cover a broad range of situations. The different mediums needed to negotiate also varied greatly, this included face to face, telephone, loud hailer, radio, throw phone and social media.
The week involved 35 Police Negotiators, 7 Metropolitan Patrol Group members, 5 Water Police members, 6 AFP members and 7 Customs Officer. Of the Negotiators, 12 were from out of Darwin with the furthest travelling from Finke in Southern Command.
Overall the week was a great success. It was a big week with lots of interagency and intra agency co-ordination. The Negotiators benefited greatly from the experience which helps to improve the overall capability of the Unit.
It is hoped that Exercise Silvertounge will become a yearly event. It was a week of extreme hard work, but also had ridiculously funny moments, extreme stress and high pressure. As a Police Negotiator, you are at the pointiest end of the Police response. It is an extremely stressful role and currency training like Exercise Silvertongue is critical to prepare somebody for that job.
Special thanks goes to 1/C Mat Lea-Smith, aka EXCON 2, for helping make everything run smoothly and S/C Kris Jockers for coordinating AFP and Customs involvement.