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Hostage negotiators are defined as people who negotiate with a person, or groups of people, for the release of a person, or group of persons (YourDictionary, 2012). These types of situations must be handled very carefully, as many lives could be at stake. It is imperative for negotiators to have consistent communication with the suspects, and even the victims if possible, but especially amongst themselves. If communication is lacking, it could completely flaw their plan and end up causing a problem or triggering a bad outcome. Negotiators must be able to develop some type of strategy and have other plans in place in case one doesn’t work in their favor.
Most hostage takers detain people against their will because they want or desire something and think that’s their way of getting it. Meanwhile, some do it as a shield of protection for themselves from law enforcement, because they know they wouldn’t intentionally harm an innocent civilian. There are many other situations that can be the cause, but those are just a few examples.
How it works
It is important to never say “no” to a hostage taker, as this can trigger something within them and might make them act accordingly. They may even feel they aren’t being taken seriously, so they might do something to prove a point. It is also suggested that they never be offered clergy, as this is their way of repenting and coming to terms with what they have done or are about to do. This usually does not produce good results in most situations I have seen and heard. Hostage takers usually fall within the categories of terrorists, criminals, or mentally disturbed individuals.
Negotiators can call in special teams, such as SWAT, to assist in these situations, especially if many people or weapons are involved. These teams can use special hand signals and nonverbal communication if they need to approach the subject(s) with a surprise tactic. Many negotiators have prior police and law enforcement experience but obtain additional certification to handle these types of events. Special training is required. According to a report from the FBI website, 85-90 percent of hostage negotiations end nonviolently, and the hostages are freed.
Hostage negotiations started back in 1972 when a New York Police Detective named Harvey Schlossberg recognized that special training was needed for intervention in hostage situations. The longest hostage negotiation recorded was in Iran, which lasted for 444 days, during which they held American personnel.
There are many advancements being made to make these negotiations more effective, including the use of new technology and more advanced hands-on training for personnel.
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