NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - Crisis negotiators are on the front lines in some of the most intense situations. They are called in to negotiate with individuals who may be threatening to end their life, or someone else’s.
“Just being able to talk to somebody on what they feel is the worst day of their life and possibly the last day of their life,” said Whitley.
Being a negotiator is a skill that not many want the burden of, but one Kevin Whitley has taken on for years. He was recommended for the job when his partners realized how good he was at de-escalating situations.
“You just have to be able to empathize with somebody and really see the world through their perspective," said Whitley. "Understand that even though you might not have been in that situation you can see life through that perspective and relate to some of the feelings they’re going through. Circumstances are different for everybody, but emotions are the same.”
The New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office has eight negotiators on their team. Whitley says he’s only been called out once in the past year, but as a patrolman, he’s been able to use his experience to mitigate a situation before it turns ugly.
“Its super stressful, especially if you talk to somebody for a long time,” said Whitley. “You feel like you’re a part of that person’s life, you’ve interjected so much, and you definitely wear that weight if it goes bad."
Whitley says he credits his family for being his rock when times get hard.
“But at the end of the day you have to remind yourself that if you’ve done all that you can do, and you’ve put it all out there, then the outcome just is what it is,” Whitley said.
On the other hand, when everything goes well, Whitley describes the feeling as euphoric. He says he feels like he’s making an impact on not just one person, but also family members and friends in that person’s life.
“Just knowing that you positively impacted that person’s life that day," said Whitley. "I think that’s why the majority of people get into this line of work in the first place. And as a negotiator, you’re really in the seat where you can affect some of the most change on some of people’s worst days.”