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Hostage/Barricade Management: A Hidden Conflict Within Law Enforcement

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 71 Issue: 5 Dated: May 2002 Pages: 1-7
Gregory M. Vecchi
Date Published
May 2002
7 pages
This article examines the conflict within law enforcement agency emergency response teams on how to handle hostage/barricade situations and whether to use tactical or non-tactical responses and ways in which to reduce the potential conflict.
Due to competing thoughts on how to best handle a hostage or barricade situation, conflict can occur between interagency law enforcement tactical teams. Differing perspectives between special weapons and tactics (SWAT) and crisis negotiation teams can influence the outcomes of these situations. This article discusses how tactical and negotiation teams must work together to resolve hostage or barricade situations (H/B) and the important role played by the on-scene commander (OSC). If an H/B situation is not managed in an appropriate manner, the potential for death or serious injury is a likely result. In the handling of this problem, agencies can use contemporary negotiation theory to focus on the importance of reducing and managing the conflict between the two teams by applying a three stage process, understand (fostering relationships), prenegotiate (setting the stage for collaboration), and negotiate (using collaboration and intrateam/interteam negotiation). On-scene commanders are recognized as having a tremendous impact on the possible conflict between tactical and negotiation teams because they determine how a department will address and ultimately resolve a H/B situation. In a H/B situation, tactical and negotiation teams must work together with the OSC to resolve the incident in the safest and most nonviolent manner possible using unique perspectives and skills.