Stress normal for negotiator Alan Chavers

By Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Alan Chavers laughs when he hears people talk about their stressful jobs because he lugs home a huge amount of work-related baggage.
A 12-year veteran of the Tupelo Police Department, Chavers has, for the past six years, been a member of the department’s motorcycle unit where he’s won several awards. As a police officer, Chavers said he faces stressful situations every day, but it’s a special duty he has that keeps him up at night.
Chavers, the department’s prime crisis and hostage negotiator, has the difficult task of being the last line of defense.
It’s often his voice a potential gunman or possible suicide victim hears on the other end of the phone saying, “Don’t do it; it’s not as bad as it seems.” These are words Chavers had to use just last week when he talked down a man in rural Union County who was holding a gun in his own mouth sitting in his dog pen.
While he was able to talk the man out of taking his own life, it came at the price of Chavers’ risking his own.
“This guy was a former police officer of 25 years who just felt things had gotten too hard,” Chavers said. “I had to walk in there with a man holding a gun to his head and convince him that I was there to help him. Things were tense at times and he even pointed the gun in my direction, but I had a job to do and that man is alive today because of it.”
Chavers displays a confident demeanor when dealing with crisis situations, but that’s what shows on the outside. On the inside, it’s his fears that keep him trying to negotiate with people who often want to give up on themselves, he said.
“It’s stressful,” Chavers said. “What if I can’t get the person to calm down and surrender? What if they hurt themselves or me? What can I say to make this person trust me enough to realize what he is doing is a mistake? These are some of the things that run through my mind constantly. It’s not easy.”
One of his worst nightmares as a negotiator became a reality at a small house in Sherman last April when Kim Cox was shot to death and there was nothing Chavers could do about it.
Police believe her estranged husband, David Neal Cox, shot her and then held the couple’s children and another child in the home for several hours, threatening to kill them too.
Chavers said talking to Kim Cox as she was dying and the hours that followed was “the hardest case I’ve ever had to deal with.” It was not something Chavers was able to push from his thoughts.
“I didn’t sleep for days,” he said. “Talking to her on the phone after she lay there shot was something I’ll never forget. But we did enough to get those children to safety. That day could have been so much worse.”
As Chavers patrols the streets of Tupelo on his motorcycle, there is always a calm over him. He knows he has two jobs to do as a Tupelo police officer and crisis negotiator, and he is aware of the dangers of both. But when the call comes, no matter if it’s for a traffic stop or to talk down a man standing on a building ready to jump, he knows he’ll be ready to do his job.
“If your nerves are bad, then this isn’t the job for you,” Chavers said. “Sometimes you are going to be in the line of fire, sometimes someone’s life is going to depend on what you do or say and you have to be willing to go in there and work knowing those things. I’m willing to do it.”
danza.johnson@journalinc.com