Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012 | 2 a.m.
The minute she heard a suicidal man utter her first name, Metro Police Officer Brooke Lavin knew she was making progress calming him.
It was early one February morning in 2011. Lavin stood 40 feet away from the man perched on a ledge atop a Sam’s Town parking garage.
The man’s world had seemingly collapsed around him. He had lost his job, couldn’t feed his family and was a day away from losing his home.
He decided to give up. He called 911 and asked dispatchers to say goodbye to his wife and daughter.
That’s how Lavin, a certified crisis intervention officer, entered the picture. A Metro officer for about 11 years, she was patrolling nearby that day and responded to the dispatcher’s call for any crisis intervention officer close to the scene.
She wasn’t the first to arrive, but the one who was there already didn’t seem to be making much of a connection. Lavin slowly approached the man and did what she does best: started chatting away like nobody’s business. She offered her first name and asked for his. Their rapport grew from there.
“All these things added up,” Lavin said of the man’s burdened life. “He felt like a failure. The only hope I could give was, ‘Hey, I have these resources, and I have these ways to connect you.’”
An hour later, the man climbed down and clutched her hand.
“It took some time to build the trust, for him to really understand why I was there,” she said. “I was there to get him down and get him back to his family safe. His child deserved to have a dad.”
Lavin’s efforts earned her the honor of being named the 2012 International Crisis Intervention Officer of the Year. CIT International, a nonprofit organization that helps develop crisis intervention programs worldwide, presented Lavin with her award Tuesday at the South Point.
Lavin dismisses praise for her work. She shrugs her shoulders and calls it her job.
“I consider myself the lucky one,” she said. “I have all this knowledge and all these tools. Let me share it.”
Lavin is one of about 700 Metro patrol officers trained in crisis intervention. That number, which is about half of all patrol officers, has grown rapidly since the department’s first crisis intervention course in 2003.
Crisis intervention officers respond to situations involving mentally ill people or anyone else in emotional distress. This week, trained officers from around the world met at the South Point for the 2012 Crisis Intervention Team International conference.
The prolonged economic struggles in Las Vegas have led to an increase in calls requiring crisis intervention officers, said Lavin, who received her certification in 2006.
“I can’t imagine what it feels like to not be able to put a bowl of macaroni and cheese in front of your child,” she said. “That can basically bring you to your edge sometimes. We come across it more and more and more.”
Lavin, a recipient of previous Metro awards for her work, said patience is the key. One situation lasted two hours and 45 minutes, she said.
“It may not seem justified to you why they’re in crisis, but it is to them,” she said. “That’s what you have to keep in mind.”
She also believes in following through with what she promised each distressed person. After the Sam’s Town incident, Lavin comforted the depressed man at the hospital.
“You stay here,” she eventually told him. “I’ll be back.”
Her work wasn’t done. She had one more mission: delivering food and rent vouchers to the man’s family.