Crisis negotiation team receives grant for critical equipment upgrade

BROWN COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) A large donation from a local business is making a big impact on Brown County's Crisis Negotiation Team within weeks of receiving a grant.

The multi-jurisdictional Brown County Crisis Negotiation Team bought a throw phone with a $20,000 grant from Capital Credit Union (WBAY photo)

Capital Credit Union awarded the team $20,000 -- the largest grant it's ever given to public safety -- to replace outdated equipment.

The team says it would be hard to afford the technology without the community's support.

"It's commonly seen in the movies where there's a big box thrown that has a phone to it, and it's basically a land line that we can throw to someone," explains crisis negotiator and Ashwaubenon Public Safety Officer Zach Jackel.

It's called a "throw phone," and is rather simply a receiver of a phone in a big box with a clear lid so people can see there's a phone inside.

It's a critical piece of equipment for crisis negotiators when they're called to potentially dangerous situations.

"People going through a crisis have to communicate and vent... let their crisis be known and someone to talk to, and without this equipment it'd be extremely difficult to talk to someone," says Jackel.

Brown County's multi-jurisdictional team had been using 18-year-old equipment that only worked sometimes, forcing them to use their cell phones, where service was spotty, or they had to hold a recorder next to their phones.

All of that posed a threat to their safety and made it hard to calmly talk to someone.

"If SWAT is there, if it's a tactical situation, they're relying on the intel we're giving them, and if that's a hit and miss, it makes working relationships difficult," says crisis negotiator and Brown County Deputy/Bellevue Directed Enforcement Officer Trevor Bilgo.

He heard about grants from Capital Credit Union's Elevate Communities Program, and Jackel volunteered to write a grant request.

They were surprised to receive all 20,000 dollars the team needed to purchase all-new equipment.

"I think it speaks volumes, not only to Capital Credit Union but the community at large, that they recognize this as an issue and see we need the tools to help people," says Jackel.

Bilgo says it's made a big difference in the first two calls they've been dispatched to since receiving the donation.

"Now that we have it, it was like a new start," he says.

The equipment has other capabilities that can be helpful, like sending messages from family or friends to the person or people with which officers are negotiating.

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