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Oregon Detective Honored for Hostage Negotiation Skills

By Maxine Bernstein, The Oregonian

Portland, Ore. Detective Terry Wagner was awarded the prestigious Nathan Thomas Memorial Award on Monday for her extensive hostage negotiation skills and training, criminal investigations and volunteer peer support work. Try Our Classifieds

Wagner, a 23-year Portland Police Bureau veteran, has been a member of the bureau’s Hostage Negotiation Team since 1992. She serves as a hostage negotiation team leader, training other officers after completing a hostage negotiation course at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va.

She now works as a Central Precinct detective, but previously she specialized in investigating sex crimes against women and children. Wagner also volunteers with the bureau’s Employee Assistance Program, providing peer support to other officers.

Norm Costa, a co-chairman of the Chief’s Forum that chooses the award recipient, said Wagner was selected for her dedication to using communication skills to diffuse volatile situations.

“Her role as a detective, educator and negotiator has improved the partnership between the Police Bureau and our community,” Costa said.

The Nathan Thomas award is named for a 12-year-old boy who was accidentally shot and killed by Portland police in January 1992 while he was being held hostage in his home.

Nathan’s parents, Martha McMurry and Gregory Thomas, presented the award to Wagner. After their son’s death, they pressed the bureau to “value alternatives to lethal police tactics,” McMurry said.

“We challenge the Portland Police Bureau to continue to strive for excellence in these areas,” McMurry said.

McMurry described how the family remembers Nathan daily. Nathan’s younger brother, Benjamin, is now 19 and carries a wallet-sized photo of Nathan standing beside a snowman, smiling, she said. In their home, they’ve kept Nathan’s soccer uniform in his closet, and his poster of baseball player Bo Jackson on the wall of his room. They also use his room daily as an office.

“As Nathan’s family, we are very grateful for this recognition,” McMurry said Monday.

The Chief’s Forum, a group of community representatives who meet twice a month with the police chief, also recognized more than 30 members who have promoted community policing.

Receiving special recognition were Southeast Precinct Officers Joshua Howery and Craig Mendenhall, for disarming a suspect armed with a knife on Jan. 24, using “communication, teamwork and safe tactics,” Costa said.

Among the other winners were: Old Town-China Town Neighborhood Association President Howard Weiner for encouraging merchants to work with police to crack down on street-level drug activity; Senior Neighborhood Officer Jeff Myers for piloting a program targeting car prowlers in Goose Hollow in June 2002; the Keystone Warriors of the Wattles Boys & Girls Club for their volunteer work last summer, including the repainting of an old home in their neighborhood; Elders in Action volunteers for assisting nearly 400 seniors who were victims of elder abuse or crime; and Tonya Dickens, program director of Youth Gang Outreach, for her work in helping redirect youth toward positive activities.