Lieutenant Eric Owens Crisis Negotiations Unit Commander

Lieutenant Eric Owens
Crisis Negotiations Unit Commander

Crisis Negotiations Unit

During the late 1970’s, the first Marion County Sheriff’s Office Negotiation Unit came into being.  This occurred at a time when units such as this became a recognized necessity with progressive law enforcement agencies across the United States.

The first Marion County Sheriff’s Office unit was called the Hostage Negotiation Unit and was supervised by Sergeant Wayne McAteer.  The other members included Frank Alioto and Patti Lumpkin. Since this was a new adventure there weren’t a lot of training resources or knowledge of how to effectively approach a resolution during incidents.  Members generally depended on just being good communicators to do their job, a characteristic that has never really changed.

In 1984, Sergeant Larry Jerald assumed command of the Unit. The Unit grew to six officers including Pat McAvay, Bruce Munster, Patti Lumpkin, Dennis Strow and Phil McNamee.

There was more information available at this time about how a Team should be operated and thanks to Major Larry Jerald’s meticulous record keeping; we can look back to some important phases in the development and advancement of the Team.

Although there were incidents before, the first incident documented on record was on June 25, 1984.  It involved a subject named Douglas Motts in Woods and Lakes.  He had stolen his father’s police motorcycle in Largo, Florida and was armed with a riot shotgun.  The session lasted eight hours.

It was also during December of 1984 that the Team received its first formal training.  The Team traveled to St. Petersburg for three days of training with the renowned Frank Bolz and Harvey Schlossberg.

In July of 1987, the Team name was officially changed to the Crisis Negotiation Team which more accurately reflected their purpose.  Also in July of 1987, the first piece of sophisticated equipment was obtained.  Based on a model of equipment being commercially marketed, Ray Mulkey, of the Marion County Sheriff’s Office Radio Shop, made the same piece of equipment to include a throw phone making the PA system and bullhorn obsolete.

Although exact dates aren’t known it was about the same time that the Team was granted “part time” use of a vehicle.  The Department had a converted ambulance that was used as a “Bat Mobile” for Blood Alcohol Testing during DUI enforcement.  The Team was allowed to store equipment in the truck and use it when needed.