Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Jumper Squad

I've re-read this article twice:

Each year, the [New York] Police Department receives hundreds of 911 calls for so-called jumper jobs, or reports of people on bridges and rooftops threatening to jump. So far this year, that number is on track to surpass last year’s total, 519. 

The department’s Emergency Service Unit responds to those calls. The roughly 300 officers in the unit are specially trained in suicide rescue, the delicate art of saving people from themselves; they know just what to say and, perhaps more important, what not to say.

The officer’s goal is to form a rapport with the person and seize upon the one emotional chord that will get him or her to climb down from the edge. “You have to understand and extend yourself because your obvious goal is to save someone’s life,” Inspector Lukach said. “So if you have to give a little, you give a little. That’s the sacrifice you make.”  
Not only is this grueling, emotionally taxing work, but the officers are usually quite successful. As one explains, the jumpers who are determined to go through with it don't usually linger long enough for calls to be made and a rescue operation to get underway. If they're stalling, there is a good chance they can be talked down.
The man wanted to know what would happen if he came down. The officers know to be truthful. “In my experience, you don’t want to lie to somebody like that,” Detective Keszthelyi said. 

The detective told him that he would be escorted into an ambulance and taken to a hospital, where he would be evaluated and assigned a social worker and therapist. The man thought it over and then said: “I want to give it another chance. I want to come down.” 

Detective Keszthelyi and other officers secured the man to their safety lines and walked him off the beam and down the ladder. “He was honestly one of the nicest kids,” the detective said in a telephone interview two hours after the rescue. “He was just in a bad place, and it didn’t seem like he had anybody to turn to. I felt really bad for him.” 
It also discusses something I wrote about over four years ago, on suicide and preventative measures on things like bridges, high rise decks, etc., and that is the instant regret that those who do jump feel at the moment they go over the railing.
There are those who, even after having been rescued, do not seem grateful. “Maybe they will down the road,” said Detective Darren McNamara, who recently dived into the Hudson River and swam out to a suicidal woman. As he grabbed her, according to the detective, she looked at him flatly and said, “Why did you do that?” 

And while potential jumpers often wait for officers to arrive because they may want to be talked out of killing themselves, there are those who never give officers the chance. Detective Canale recalled a man who leapt from a lower stretch of the Verrazano and struck the rocks below. The man was still alive when the detective got to him, though many of his bones were broken, his internal organs ruptured. 

As the man’s shattered body was secured to a long board and he was administered oxygen, the man, in some of his final words, said he regretted jumping, the detective recalled. “I can’t get this right, either,” the man said, according to Detective Canale.

The old cliche about suicide being a "permanent solution to a temporary problem" is a cliche because it's true.

Kudos to the NYPD cops on these jumper squads. Sad to think that in these days of ideological budget cuts (and doltish governors who refer to law enforcement as "welfare queens") their work, and public safety in general, is being undermined by moron politicians.

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