Waterloo Police updating vital phone used in hostage rescues - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Waterloo Police updating vital phone used in hostage rescues

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(KWWL) -

Waterloo Police are getting a major upgrade in equipment. The department will soon have a new hostage rescue phone that will help them in moments of crisis. 

Police say they are getting a new hostage rescue phone system to replace the department's current phone, which is more than 10 years old.

The department says it's a vital tool that's more than outdated. Police say the phone practically doesn't even work, and the parts used in the model are so old, that they've stopped manufacturing them. 

Police stand-offs and hostage crises are not sights you see often. 

Waterloo police negotiators use their hostage rescue phone about three to five times a year. 

"It's one of those tools you don't use everyday obviously," said Waterloo Police Captain Joe Leibold. "It's a tool we hope never to use. But when we need it, we absolutely have to have it."

The hostage rescue phone consists of three parts. 

"The first piece is the black box, that's got the phone in it," said Captain Leibold. "That would be delivered to the barricaded subject. Doesn't have to be a hostage, could be someone suicidal. It's delivered to them either through the window or the front door or however we manage to get it into the residence. That provides a direct link of communication to the black box, which is where our negotiators would talk to them through."

Police say the phone is a critical tool for hostage situations, like the one in Waterloo in June 2015. Where police say a man barricaded himself, his wife, and his child inside their Waterloo home. He held his family hostage for nearly an hour before surrendering.

The problem is Waterloo police say that same vital tool used in these crisis situations has stopped working.

"The old one doesn't work very well," said Captain Leibold. "It's kind of spotty, and in a situation of high risk, we don't want spotty. We want it to work. Technology has gotten better. They run more efficient. They run better, they last longer."

The new phone will have updated technology and ultimately, be more reliable than their current one.

Police say they haven't chosen a manufacturer yet, but the estimated cost is $28,500. Half is coming from a grant from the Black Hawk Gaming Association. The rest of the money will come from seized property the department collected from previous crimes. 

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