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Balance is the Key: Conducting Successful Hostage Negotiations

NCJ Number
Law and Order Volume: 50 Issue: 3 Dated: March 2002 Pages: 102-106
Ray Birge
Date Published
5 pages
This article describes the importance of good police management of critical incidents.
The number one reason for many of the most flagrant failures in tactical operations is the imbalance within the crisis response teams’ decision-making components. There is no place where chain-of-command becomes more important than in the management of these incidents. The compelling need to act requires a structured system to force what the courts have dubbed a “deliberative process for decision-making.” The most common error made in negotiation situations is trying to hurry the process by rushing into problem solving before establishing a measure of trust. The key is balance between negotiations and tactical. Rank can inhibit healthy conflict because rank structure does not invite people to challenge the ideas and decisions of those in higher ranks. The critical link to decision-making in hostage and barricade situations is that the Crisis Negotiation Team (CNT) Leader and the Tactical Team Leader are of equal rank. The CNT Leader position requires a well-trained and confident supervisor who is a trained negotiator. The Assistant Team Leader (ATL) must be a trained negotiator, the team manager during an event, and present with the negotiation team during the event. The ATL and the CNT Leader determine who will be the Primary Negotiator, but initial intelligence should assist in that determination. The Primary and the Coach or Backup position are a pair, even though staff availability may not always allow for this to occur. The Chronographer must be combined with the Backup. The Chronographer maintains a hand-written chronological log of events that is a key source for evaluating the progress of negotiations and memorializing events that establish exigent circumstances. The Intelligence Coordinator is responsible for gathering unfiltered negotiation intelligence such as personality type, fears or dreams, hobbies, and relationships, and immediately upon arrival at the incident reports directly to the CNT. The quality of Incident Command’s decisions depends on the quality and the balance of the options they require be provided to them by their Tactical and Negotiation Team Leaders.