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No Nonsense Negotiations

The actions of the first officer on the scene of a hostage situation can mean the difference between life and death.

April 01, 1996  |  by Cecil Pearson

Intelligence Gathering

Extremely important information, both tactical and situational, may be gathered and passed from the first officer on-scene to additional responding units. As stated previously, the specific location of the hostage taker(s) and hostage(s), along with any demands, must be forwarded. Further intelligence may include but, not be limited to:

  • Description of suspect(s) and hostage(s)
  • Detailed drawing of incident location
  • Weapons present and/or available to the suspect(s) and any injuries

Remember that intelligence gatherings is an ongoing process that consistently must be updated throughout the duration of the incident. In addition, it is imperative to ensure that all involved personnel remain updated with current intelligence.  Effective gather of all pertinent information is vital to the successful outcome of a hostage incident.

A simple checklist may be utilized by the first officer on-scene of a hostage incident:

  • Locate the hostage taker(s) and victim(s)
  • Evaluate the incident and deploy necessary assistance
  • Communicate the pertinent information to all units involved
  • Isolate and maintain perimeter control of the incident
  • Evaluate civilian personnel

Verbal Diffusion

Sometimes, due to certain circumstances beyond your control, you may find yourself thrust into the position of actually negotiating with the hostage-taker. Possibly, the suspect initiates dialogue immediately upon your arrival. Or your agency may simply not have a trained negotiator to send to the scene. Either way, you may need to employ the following techniques when speaking with the individual:

Remain calm — The suspect(s) will probably be extremely excited, nervous and unpredictable. It will be your job to calm him down. Speak in a slow, unemotional tone of voice. Attempt to put the hostage taker at ease.

Strive to build trust — Get the suspect(s) to believe what you are saying. If possible, do not lie to him. If you find that you must lie (for instance, telling him the chief is out of town if he demands to see him), do not get caught. Make a "lie sheet" and make sure everyone involved is aware of every lie written on the sheet. Generally speaking, the sooner you build trust and rapport between you and the hostage-taker, the quicker the crisis will be resolved.

Listen to the suspect — By doing so you're allowing the suspect(s) to vent his emotions, thereby lowering his anxiety level and, in turn, calming the situation. Additionally, valuable intelligence may be obtained by allowing the hostage-taker free reign to say what he wants.

Do not argue with the suspect(s) — Try not to judge and/or condemn him, remembering that building rapport is a key step in negotiating.

Indicate you are not in a position to make decisions — The hostage-taker may attempt to make you grant certain demands made by him. Simply advise him that you are not in position of authority; therefore, you are unable to grant any demand without first checking with your superiors.

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