WKYT Investigates: The negotiators on suicide watch

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - A group of 14 Lexington police officers hold the additional title of "negotiator." Lieutenant David Biroschik leads the unit. "If we can get past 45 minutes, we feel real good," he said.

The team's mission is to stop someone from taking their own life. "It doesn't work for somebody that doesn't care. All of my guys do care. For a suicidal subject, if they do hurt themselves, it's a personal failure on our part and we should be able to come in and get them out," Biroschik said.

They are called out to scenes, on average, just five to seven times a year. When officers have exhausted their efforts to get a suicidal subject to safety. "My guys will come in behind and they'll interview the officers that were there. I've got detectives and officers that will start running background on them just to help us get to know this person we're getting ready to talk to."

The goal, Biroschik explained, is to get the person on the phone. If the suicidal person doesn't have a phone, the negotiators do. It's a called a throw phone that's able to be thrown into a home through a window or door.

"It's very easy to get the person on the phone, very hard to keep them on the phone." "We'll make 100 phone calls in a two hour period. As they hang up, we'll call back. We want to keep them on the phone," Biroschik said.

He said its rare in Lexington to have a true hostage situation. But there are times when family stays with a suicidal person, thinking they are helping. "They kind of harm it sometimes. You don't want someone that's seriously considering harming themselves having a family member there where they can tell them goodbye and then kill themselves."

The success of the negotiators is easy to calculate. "You have a lot more dispatch phone calls for suicide than actual suicide deaths," said Justin Madden, reporter with WKYT's media partner, The Lexington Herald-Leader. Madden looked into the amount of suicide deaths in Fayette County.

"The scanner traffic, we hear it all day, all the time. Suicide calls or suicide threats or person threatening to commit suicide." State numbers show suicides are the third most autopsied death by the State Medical Examiner's Office.

Fayette County dispatch calls for a suicidal subject are typically more than 1,000 a year. But the number people dying by suicide in Lexington, according to the county coroner, are between 30 and 40 a year, and have remained that rate since 2009. Solid proof for Lexington's negotiation unit that their efforts are working. "It's nice to know you're doing something good. For all the bad things that we see, that we do on the job, it's nice to do something that's looked upon positively," said Biroschik.