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What to Do If You Are Taken Hostage

Anything can happen to police officers today. Be prepared for the time it happens to you.

January 01, 2001  |  by Cecil Pearson

In this day and age, hostage incidents have become almost commonplace. Hostage-takers and criminals in general view us as "symbols" of an institution (criminal justice system) or a way of life that they despise. Whichever the case, our only response is to be trained physically and mentally to confront the issue of survival. The intent of this article is not to make you paranoid but to make you prepared. What follows is a list of tips to aid in your preparedness.

Be Human

There are no guarantees that I can give to law enforcement and corrections personnel who might fall victim to a hostage situation. If taken hostage, you should avoid turning into the "super cop." Remember, you pose a threat in the hostage-taker's mind simply because you are an officer. Therefore, be human in your demeanor. Project the image of a person who can accept adversity with dignity. Do not display bravado—this may provoke cruelty from the hostage-taker. Nor should you show cowardice—this may provoke contempt. Understand that orders and directions will be issued to you by the hostage-taker and that you will have to comply with them, willingly or by force.

Communicate

While you are being held hostage, there will probably be times when you and the hostage-taker speak to each other. Generally, speak only if spoken to, and never provoke your captor. Do not become argumentative or give the hostage-taker any reason to grow angry. Attempt to answer any questions truthfully. Above all, do not attempt to negotiate with the hostage-taker. You may inadvertently interfere with trained negotiators from the outside who will be endeavoring to fain rapport with and the trust of the hostage-taker.

Set Goals

Depending upon the total length of the incident, personal goal setting is an essential survival technique. A hostage must place in his mind certain obtainable items that he or she wishes to accomplish. Certain tasks, such as eating and exercising (if possible), are vital in maintaining a healthy outlook and preparedness for a rescue attempt. Although the major goal for a hostage is survival, these minor obtainable goals are also vital.

Have Faith

As a hostage, you must never doubt that you will be rescued. Understand that officers and trained negotiators have perfected their talents to a point where these types of incidents have been brought to a successful conclusion time and time again. Truly believe that given time, the incident will be terminated and you will be safely released.

Time Is On Your Side

The first two hours of any hostage incident are the most dangerous.  Tension, stress and anxiety are all extremely high in the hostage-taker, hostage and rescue personnel. As time progresses, the hostage and his captor have the opportunity to emotionally bond and, in general, calm down. As a hostage, understand that the longer an incident lasts, the better prepared a rescue attempt will be. While negotiations are actively taking place, assault plans are being drawn and reviewed.

Cooperate

Always consider yourself a target for the hostage-taker. You are always a threat. Keeping this in mind, you must not become more of a problem than you already are. Attempt to do the things that you are ordered to do. Simply put, behave yourself and be the best hostage you can be.

Avoid Windows and Doors

Make an effort to locate yourself away from windows and doors.  Naturally, if a rescue attempt is initiated, these two avenues are the most commonly used entrances. Further, if there are additional hostages, try to remain as close together as possible. This facilitates better communication among the hostages and better control by the rescuers if an assault is made.

Tags: Officer Psychology, Officer Hostages


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