A disaster averted by calm

Published 11:44 pm Wednesday, February 17, 2010

If anyone ever doubted the ability of the Selma Police Department to handle a crisis, the nonbelievers should have stood on the Edmund Pettus Bridge Tuesday afternoon.

A Greenville man threatened to jump off the bridge. He had been wronged by someone. He wanted justice.

The police swung into action. They closed the bridge. They called for backup.

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Police Chief William T. Riley negotiated with the man. He spoke calmly, attempted to find some kind of bond with him — they both are veterans — and granted reasonable requests.

Riley presented a nonthreatening demeanor. He spoke firmly, but softly.

Admittedly, Riley said, the police department doesn’t have specialized training in these situations other than basic police training.

At one point Riley had the Selma Fire Department bring its search and rescue boat up to the east side of the bridge in the event the man jumped.

Certainly these were tense moments for the officers of the police department, the emergency medical technicians and firefighters.

But cool heads prevailed. The man is getting the help he needed and although some were inconvenienced, what might have been disastrous was averted by calm.