December 01 , 2007


Officers train in crisis negotiation


Photos by Bob Ellis/staff photographer
Members of the Cortland Police Department Tactical Team have guns drawn on a person during a crisis negotiating training program held Friday at the former Armory on Wheeler Avenue. Several Central New York police departments trained in negotiating during a crisis situation such as a hostage situation, a domestic incident or a suicidal threat.

Staff Reporter

Four city police officers sat around a table facing a closed door.
“You sound angry,” one officer said to a man who was screaming and swearing on the other side of the door.
The city police officers were trying to negotiate with the man, who took over a school and was holding hostages.
The scenario was one of eight played out during a crisis negotiation training held Friday at the former National Guard Armory on Wheeler Avenue that is used by local police and fire agencies.
The Cortland City Police Department hosted the training that was put together by the FBI’s Albany Division, which conducts the training twice a year.
“The city is extremely excited and grateful about the FBI coming to our location to conduct this training. It is the highest caliber training,” said Lt. Paul Sandy, of the city police. “We have been attempting to attend schools for years, but they are so sought after the classes fill up so quickly.”
A total of 32 people from police agencies in Cortland, Tompkins, Broome and Onondaga counties participated in the 40-hour training, which included four days of classroom lectures in which participants learned communication techniques used to defuse crisis situations peacefully and one day of crisis situations drills.
“It began Monday with four days of classes and then the fifth day is a tactical exercise where they utilize what they have learned in mock scenarios,” Sandy said.
The city police had five officers being trained in crisis negotiation, while the Cortland County Sheriff’s Department had two and SUNY Cortland University Police Department had one officer.
“It is good for the department because of availability. You can never predict when a crisis will arise,” Sandy said of the number of city officers being trained. “Also, crisis negotiation is a team concept and by having more people trained it is easier to maintain that team concept.”
Sandy added that having officers trained from agencies throughout Central New York allows for a core of resources.
“It allows us to draw on our neighboring agencies,” he said.
Special agent and crisis negotiation coordinator Gregory Hautau, of the FBI’s Albany Division, said each team had 45 minutes to negotiate with the “bad guys” before they are critiqued on their use of skills learned in the classes throughout the week.
“The focus is the use of communication skills learned throughout the week to de-escalate and work toward a peaceful resolution of any crisis,” he said. “Situations range from suicidal, domestic situations gone bad, emotionally disturbed people or true hostage situations in which law enforcement responds to resolve the situation peacefully.”




Empire Zone case goes to Albany

County, owner of Riverside Plaza present arguments to judge in capital

Staff Reporter

ALBANY — In what might end up being a landmark case, representatives from Cortland County and the owner of Riverside Plaza argued Friday afternoon in an appeals hearing over whether the plaza should lose its Empire Zone benefits.
Under the state Empire Zone program, Riverside Plaza owner 81 & 13 Cortland Associates, which is headed by Joe Cipolla, gets about $80,000 a year in tax breaks.
Cortland County officials say the company has not come close to projected investments and additional jobs to merit those breaks. But Cipolla begs to differ.
The administrative law judge presiding over Friday’s hearing, James Horan, said after the hearing in February he will make a recommendation to the state commissioner of economic development on the company’s Empire Zone fate.
The state commissioner will then make a decision. If the state commissioner decides Riverside Plaza should lose its Empire Zone benefits, 81 & 13 Cortland Associates will be the first company in the state to be pushed out of the program, according to Stephanie Zakowicz, a state Empire State Development Corp. spokeswoman.
The Empire State Development Corp. oversees the Empire Zone program, which gives tax breaks to businesses based on job and investment projections.
“We really applaud them and appreciate their efforts in the whole thing,” Zakowicz said Monday about the Cortland County Empire Zone Board, which voted a year ago to recommend the state rescinding Riverside Plaza’s benefits.
On Friday Cortland County Empire Zone Coordinator Karen Niday and Empire Zone Board Chairman Tom Brown, with the help of William Osta, council to the Empire Zone program, maintained their recommendation.
They said 81 & 13 Cortland Associates has not invested any of the $4.1 million it promised when it entered the program in 2003, or at least had not provided documentation it has done so.
Also, the company only created one full-time job, a maintenance person, or at just least provided proof of creating one job, they said. It had promised to create two full-time jobs.
Cipolla said at the hearing, which lasted from 2 to 4:30 p.m., his company has invested close to $2.9 million in Riverside Plaza since it entered the Empire Zone program, and created at least two jobs.
One job was the maintenance person, another position was created for his father’s wife to work with a contracted leasing brokerage company and the contract with the brokerage company contributed toward jobs, he said.