SWAT negotiator retires after 30 years, shares stories

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PHOENIX -- Jan Dubina has helped save hundreds of lives over the past 30 years as the voice on the other end of countless crisis negotiations.

Dubina became interested in law enforcement when she was just a teen. Her uncle was a cop and after a ride-along, she found her calling.

"In the beginning I had to prove myself," Dubina said.

Mostly because she was one of a few females, first on patrol for the Phoenix Police Department and later in the Special Assignments Unit.

"And really the reason I tried out for the Special Assignments Unit was more on a dare," she said. "I ended up making it."

The two male officers who dared her did not.

Dubina negotiated her way through the Lewis Prison standoff in 2004 that lasted for two weeks. Two guards were held hostage by two inmates while the world watched. She was one of 30 negotiators.

In 2007, Dubina spent several hours negotiating with Jacob Randles. The situation didn't garner national attention, but it stands out in her mind nonetheless.

On that November day, Randles was accused of sexually assaulting his female victim overnight and holding her hostage.

"I had to listen to her and keep calm while listening to her scream, begging for her life. And really what he wanted was for us to come in and shoot him," she said.

Officials eventually did. Randles recovered and was convicted of his crimes last year. The woman survived.

Feb. 23, 2006, George Curran took nine people hostage in the National Labor Relations Board. He was armed and angry. Dubina recalls that day as well, almost sympathetically.

"He tried to go to numerous places to have his story told and no one would listen to him," she recalled. "So he went up to the 18th floor and took hostages and thought 'somebody's going to listen to me now.'"

Dubina said in all of her negotiations, no two have been the same. Her roles ranged from authority figure to friend to mother. She said the secret to her negotiations is simply listening.

Occasionally, Dubina was the only hope for an innocent victim who was being held hostage. Most often she would be tasked to talk to suspects who had barely a shred of hope to hang onto and convinced them to choose life for themselves.

"Even though I may be talking on the phone, a whole team as well as the tactical team are all working towards the same goal to save lives," she said. "But you feel such a sense of achievement when the person does come walking out and their life has been saved."

Dubina retired from the police department in February and now spends her time traveling around the globe training others in the tactics of negotiation.