Jefferson Award Winner Talks People Down From Desperate Situations

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Jefferson Award winner  Kevin Briggs (CBS)

Jefferson Award winner Kevin Briggs (CBS)

(KPIX 5) – Law enforcement officers are duty-bound to protect and serve, but it takes special dediction to calm a highly emotional situation. This week’s Jefferson Award winner has spent more than 20 years finding the right words to say to those in despair.

Tourists bring home scenic photos of the Golden Gate Bridge. But Sergeant Kevin Briggs carries mental snapshots of life and death.

“It’s all the little things that occurred, both good and bad,” Briggs said reflectively, standing at Marin’s Vista Point at the north end of the span.

For more than 20 years as a California Highway Patrol officer, Briggs has talked hundreds of people out of jumping to their deaths.

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“It is an awesome feeling when you can assist someone,” he added. “There is another beginning of life. They can change.”

That’s what Briggs taught Kevin Berthia in 2005. The 22-year-old was a new father who lost his job, and felt too depressed to live.

“I was tired of dealing with the pain,” Berthia remembered.

For 90 tense minutes in the wind and cold, Kevin Briggs calmly and patiently talked him out of his desperation.

“He took the time to really get to know me for who I am and not judge me about my situation,” Berthia explained. “That was my angel that day. That was the only person that was going to bring me over that railing.”

“We use what we call active listening skills,” Briggs said. “All my focus will be on them. I want to hear their story. It’s a great feeling for me. He’s the one who did the work. He’s the one who took a lot more courage to come back over that rail.”

Today, Kevin Berthia says he’s happy as a warehouse clerk with two kids. Kevin Briggs recently met him again for the first time in 8 years when the young man presented the sergeant with an award from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

Berthia says Briggs means everything to him: “Honestly, he saved my life.”

But Kevin Briggs says not every case turns out well. Each crisis is emotionally exhausting. Today, he trains other officers to be the first on the bridge to help the hopeless. And there is a team of both CHP and bridge security officers ready to assist.

“There is hope out there,” Briggs said. “There’s a lot of hope out there, a lot of organizations. Please give it a chance.”

So for his work in suicide prevention, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Sergeant Kevin Briggs.

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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