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Negotiating Skills: Dealing With an Alcohol-Impaired Hostage Taker or Barricaded Subject

NCJ Number
Law and Order Volume: 48 Issue: 4 Dated: April 2000 Pages: 123-126
Arthur A. Slatkin
Date Published
April 2000
4 pages
This article provides guidelines for negotiating with an alcohol-impaired hostage-taker or barricaded subject.
In dealing with an intoxicated person, a negotiator must consider that the subject may have a mental disorder that might compound the effects of the intoxication. Subjects with a chronic alcohol dependency present unique health concerns in a protracted siege. An immediate concern and principal management objective is to discourage the intoxicated person from further drinking. The negotiator can suggest that it is in the subject's best interest to curtail his drinking, because he might accidentally endanger himself or pass out and lose control of the situation. Active listening is the basic medium by which a negotiator communicates with a subject in crisis; however, given impaired cognitive thinking in an intoxicated subject, the negotiator will have to be more active and directive in the negotiating process, acting as an alter ego for the subject. The negotiator must be careful not to communicate impatience, although the negotiations will often be frustrating. The negotiator should speak slowly, repeat words, use simple constructions, be brief, and avoid abstractions. The focus should be on venting anger, soothing hurt feelings, and bolstering the weak ego, along with the encouragement of rational self-control. Action techniques, along with the negotiator's slow, deliberate, soft, reassuring speech and manner can be used to calm, pace, de-escalate, and restrain an agitated subject. 6 references