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Lifeline on the Bridge: CHP's Kevin Briggs

Novato native has saved hundreds of lives by soothing distraught people on the Golden Gate.

Kevin Briggs is an unabashed fan of the "No I in 'Team'" concept. The California Highway Patrol sergeant from Novato has talked hundreds of potential Golden Gate Bridge jumpers not to attempt suicide, but he is the first to say he is not acting alone.

"There are many other people who contribute in that way," Briggs said Monday. "The Golden Gate Bridge staff has been vital to our success."

Why is he deflecting credit? Because there's a new video out (attached), produced by Yahoo Studios, that depicts Briggs as a savior to the troubled souls who venture out onto the 1.98-mile span to end their lives. Briggs has talked hundreds out of the jump and only lost one over the rail.

Briggs said he's starting to get a lot of attention because of the video, which was released last week after several months in the works. He said he was interviewed by a film crew at the bridge and at the CHP Marin headquarters in Corte Madera because someone had been turned onto a 2003 story about him in the New Yorker.

"What I'd like to get across now is the amount of people I work with and what they go through with these efforts," Briggs said. "We really do try to help the people out there. Each situation is independent of the other. I just try to get to the heart of the matter in each case, and I would expect my officers to do the same."

Briggs said among the unsung heroes are Michael Locati, the retired captain of the Golden Gate Bridge staff, and his wife, Lisa Locati, the current captain and another star of the 6-minute Yahoo video. The Locatis live in Hamilton.

Novato resident Kenneth Holmes retired in January 2011 after more than a decade as the Marin County coroner and remains a top authority on suicide prevention efforts on the bridge. He said the video just touches the surface of the myriad stories of the officers who have spent so many hours on the bridge trying to help those who have reached such a low point in their lives.

"I have known Kevin for many years and know first-hand of his compassion and dedication in trying to bring these lives into a different perspective," Holmes said. "He follows in a long line of officers who know the personal gratification of playing a part in successfully bringing someone back over the rail. He also has lived with the crushing demoralization that sometimes, no matter what he has tried, the person cannot be dissuaded from ending their personal suffering by leaping from the bridge.

"My hat is off to these champions of the human condition. When they first pinned on their badges they had no idea so much of their calling would be not in catching the bad guys, but in being thrust into the personal lives of so many unfortunate and desperate souls. Each of them deserves recognition for their tireless efforts."

Briggs has deep Novato roots. He was born in the city but moved to Novato at age 1 with his family. He attended San Ramon Elementary, Our Lady of Loretto Catholic School, St. Vincent de Paul High School in Petaluma and finished up at San Marin High in 1981. His kids attend school here, although he just moved to Petaluma.

"Novato is still a small town in my mind," he said. "It's neat even though it has grown."

The pressures of a holiday season can make December a particularly trying month, leading to lots of calls to the bridge, Briggs said. June can be rough because younger people are at a personal crossroads with high school or college.

"I try to get their name and see if there are family members, see if they have kids," Briggs said in the video. "I try to get them to raise their head up. A lot of times they are looking straight down at the water."

Briggs, who just turned 50, is a cancer survivor. He was diagnosed when he was 21 years old while serving the Army. That experience gives him some credibility in dicey negotiations on the bridge.

"I can say, 'Hey, I've been through some of this also,'" he said.

Alex Horvath December 11, 2012 at 05:18 PM
I watched the video -- and we are lucky to have someone like CHP Sgt. Briggs
Patty Maher December 11, 2012 at 05:19 PM
What an amazing man. I met Kevin last year when our two sons started playing on the same soccer team. I knew he was a good guy, but I never knew he was so incredible. Great story, Brent, and thanks so much for linking to the video. Now I need to go wipe my eyes.
Brent Ainsworth (Editor) December 12, 2012 at 07:29 AM
Former coroner Kenneth Holmes contributed some amazing comments to this story. If you read it earlier and didn't see him mentioned, check it out again.
Jerolyn Dolan December 12, 2012 at 08:06 PM
Several years ago, the daughter of a friend of our went missing from a night club. Her car was found in the bridge parking lot. After a thorough investigation, the local police determined that she jumped from the bridge - who will ever know "for sure" though. We were shocked to find out that, at that time, there were no cameras on the bridge, beyond the toll booths - has this changed?. It can't be that expensive to put cameras on the entire bridge as a monitoring device and also to give a record for those who are left behind to wonder what "really" happened when a loved one just "disappears".
Miche'le Nishikatsu December 22, 2012 at 05:46 PM
I'm so proud of you, sweet Kevin!! You've always been a beauty!!

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