This paper analyzes the historical background of hostage situations, identifies effective negotiation strategies through case studies, and recommends methods for resolving hostage situations without lives being lost.
Since hostage-takers generally hope to achieve certain political, criminal, or social benefits by taking hostages, this suggests that they are attempting to communicate with targeted authorities about what they want these authorities to do. Although governments may have a “no-concession” policy, negotiators should always be allowed to communicate and negotiate with hostage-takers. This does not imply that concessions will be made to the hostage-takers, but it does open up the possibility that through communication, the hostage-takers will understand the futility and the adverse impact on their cause of killing the hostages. Proper preparation for hostage negotiations is the responsibility of police agencies. Every police agency should have a hostage negotiation unit, and the negotiation team should be instructed never to compete with the tactical team. Further, the negotiation team should consult with the behavioral science unit in the department in order to better understand and assess the behaviors of hostage-takers. This paper also recommends greater cooperation between the police and researchers in order to facilitate basing negotiation tactics on empirical studies about the tactics that have and have not helped to save the lives of hostages. The four case studies evaluated in showing the importance and techniques of successful negotiation in hostage situations are the terrorist hostage-taking of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic games, the Balcombe Street siege in London in 1975, the Iranian Embassy siege in London in 1980, and the Branch Davidians Standoff in Texas in 1993. 1 table and 28 references
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