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Incidents such as an active shooter taking hostages, a kidnapping or terrorists seizing control of a building require an immediate response to prevent the situation from getting worse. However, local law enforcement personnel often lack the needed training to handle negotiations or storm a building with the least amount of hostage deaths possible (Cambria, DeFilippo, Louden, & McGowan, 2002). This is why negotiators, tactical team members, and health care/mental health professionals are brought in to prevent such situations from escalating to ensure the safety of the hostages that have been involved.

Negotiators in crisis situations are there to ensure the safety of hostages by establishing a dialogue with kidnappers, terrorists or robbers in such a way that they become less compelled towards violence. Negotiators act as a means for hostiles within a conflict situation to express their desires in a non-violent manner (Nichols, 2014). This can entail negotiating for safe passage out of a particular area, having specific demands met or even having food delivered to their location so that the hostages can be fed.

a.) Mistaken Assumptions
Due to the influence of mass media via movies and television shows, the perception of the general public towards negotiators during hostage situations is highly flawed. Negotiators are often portrayed as cops that have been assigned the role by a police chief since they seem to be the most competent. In fact, movies featuring Denzel Washington often portray him as a detective that has been given the role of a negotiator due to his supposed experience in such situations. [Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]

Nothing can be farther from the truth since, in essence, a hostage negotiator is more like a psychologist with police training than a cop that is pretending to empathize with the hostage taker. Hostage negotiation techniques are heavily influenced by the same methods utilized by psychiatrists and psychologists when it comes to engaging with patients. This often requires years of academic study and training to be accomplished. As such, the portrayal of a hostage negotiator as being interchangeable with that of a highly accomplished detective is highly flawed since its implementation in a real life scenario is likely to get people killed.

Hostage negotiators are mainly former members of law enforcement agencies (ex: FBI, DEA, or local police) who undergo numerous certification programs in helping them understand human thought processes. The goal of this training is to create a specialist that knows police tactics while at the same time has a background in psychological techniques and principals.

b.) What is the Role of a Hostage Negotiators?
The primary goal of any hostage negotiator is to defuse a crisis or hostage situation in such a way that none of the prisoners are hurt and the suspect surrenders without putting up any form of resistance. To accomplish this, negotiators utilize a combination of active listening, empathy, and rapport to establish a connection with the hostage taker so that they can understand the motive behind their current actions.

Greenstone (2001) explained the role of negotiators by stating that they act as an outlet for hostage takers. A hostage situation is often very stressful for those involved, more so for the hostage taker since their life is now in danger and they have no means of escape. This often leads to a state of irrationality where they are likely to engage in behaviors that could get the hostages killed (Greenstone, 2001). Negotiators resolve this potential problem by acting as an on-site means of psychological support by helping to calm the hostage taker down, informing them that they do have options and that they should show some level of cooperation with the police so that they can get out of this situation in one piece.

C.) How do they Fit into the Paradigm of Crisis and Hostage Situation Management?
Within the context of operations involving tactical team members and health care professionals, hostage negotiators act as a means of reducing possible deaths through nonviolent means. This can come in the form of reducing the number of hostages at a given location to lessen some possible deaths should a breaching situation occur or gain more information from the hostage taker through subtle manipulation so that the tactical team will have more accurate information regarding what is happening.

Information that the negotiator could gain through this type of interaction comes in the form of the number of assailants in the building, the current status of the hostages and where they could have been placed by the hostage taker (Greenstone, 2003). This helps the tactical team plan where they will enter the building and what sort of actions should take place to minimize any potential harm that the hostages may endure. Aside from this, there are also situations where hostages may have underlying health conditions (ex: Asthma) so that the negotiator would need to coordinate with the on-site medical team and the hostage taker so that those hostages could either be released or the needed supplies given to them.

Tactical Teams
Tactical team members are used as a more “direct” option when it comes to dealing with hostage situations. Their primary purpose is to protect the hostages by neutralizing a threat to their safety in whatever means they deem appropriate (Hammer & Van Zandt, 1994). This can often entail the use of breaching activities to get into a building to immediately suppress, apprehend or kill hostage takers or using snipers to eliminate them safely from a distance.

Tactical team members can thus be considered as being necessary during circumstances where negotiations break down, and there is no other alternative than to immediately neutralize the threat. However, it should be noted that, in some cases, the use of force can often lead to the death of several hostages and, as such, is often thought of as a last resort tactic.

a.) Mistaken Assumptions
Similar to what was noted in the section involving hostage negotiators, tactical teams are often portrayed incorrectly by Hollywood and the mass media. Hollywood depictions of operations involving a tactical team show little in the way of coordination between them and the hostage negotiator, and it is often seen that they go in through a broad range of possible entry ways so that they can immediately apprehend or disable the hostage taker.

The problem with this portrayal, as any member of a tactical team will tell you, is that bad intelligence can get people killed. Hostage negotiators and tactical teams work in conjunction with each other to avoid possible fatalities, from either the hostages or the team that is conducting the breaching activity (Borowsky, 2011). As such, prior to any operation that is performed, negotiators relay all information to the tactical team that they have been able to get from the hostage taker. This includes but is not limited to the area where the hostages are located, the number of assailants within the building and where the hostage taker is prior to the actual breaching event. [“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]

Not only that, the negotiator also assists with the operations of the tactical team by developing a psychological profile on the hostage taker and the likelihood of them giving up, resisting arrest or harming the hostages while the breaching operations is in effect (Nichols, 2014). This information allows the tactical team to go in and know what to expect resulting in a better overall outcome with the potential for fewer deaths and injuries.


b.) What is the Role of a Tactical Team?
A hostage situation needs the use of specialized personnel to prevent the potential death of civilians that have been taken prisoner. Evidence of this was noted in the 2010 Manila hostage crisis where inexperienced police officers were used to incapacitate a disgruntled soldier who took a bus of tourists hostage. Due to their lack of training and the use of subpar tactics, the result was the death of numerous civilians before the hostage taker could be pacified.

This incident shows that the use of ordinary law enforcement personnel in breaching operations where they lack the necessary skills and experience can be disastrous and, as such, it shows the need to utilize professional tactical teams to handle situations of this nature (Lincoln, 2011). The use of tactical teams is not the first choice for any hostage situation since their use is often an indicator that negotiations have broken down, and an effective intervention is necessary. Their role is to utilize special weapons and tactics to immediately breach a location, take down the perpetrator and ensure that safety of the civilians that were held, hostage.

Aside from this, there are also instances where tactical teams are there to make sure that the hostage taker does not escape. This often comes in the form of having snipers on roofs or posting patrols in potential areas where they could escape. Tactical teams often engage in a wide assortment of methods to ensure the capture of hostage takers, this can consist of high-risk raids into a building (ex: breaching operations), conducting manhunts within an area that a suspect could have escaped into as well as using vehicles (ex: helicopters) to reach areas that would other have been thought of as unreachable. [“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]

C.) How do they Fit into the Paradigm of Crisis and Hostage Situation Management?
Tactical teams act as a strategy of last resort for police operations involving hostages given the high potential that a hostage could be killed in the cross-fire. However, they perform a necessary function since they are the only ones that possess the necessary weapons and tactics to make a difference in this type of crisis. Aside from this, unlike hostage negotiators, the use of tactical teams is often subject to a wide assortment of restrictions that prevent their use, even when negotiations break-down.

This is due to the need for administrative approval before their use which can result in some of the hostages being placed in danger given the gap in time between receiving approval from their chain of command and the actual breaching event that occurs.  This is the main reason why hostage negotiators often operate under the assumption that tactical teams will not be able to immediately intervene should a hostage taker become unreasonable.

Mental and Healthcare Professionals
Healthcare/ mental health professionals are brought to a hostage situation after it has been successfully resolved to ensure the physical and psychological well-being of the hostages. During police operations when a tactical team invades an area to incapacitate a kidnapper, there is always the possibility that some of the hostages could be injured (Potter, 1999).

Health teams are there to give emergency medical assistance until the victims can be transferred to a medical care facility. Mental health professionals are brought in to help hostages with Post Traumatic Stress (PTS) that can arise after being subjected to such a harrowing situation. There are to ensure that patients have come to terms with what they experience and to recommend further psychiatric assistance in the future if they identify any potential long-term issues.[Need an essay writing service? Find help here.]

a.) Mistaken Assumptions
One of the main misconceptions attached to hostage situations is that once the hostages have been released, then everything is fine. The problem with this hypothesis is that it fails to take into consideration the possible psychological damage that being subjected to a hostage situation could have on a person. There is the possibility of having recurring nightmares or having some episodes of PTSD which can result in a drop in their quality of living. In cases like these, mental health care professionals are an absolute necessity to help with ensuring that the patients are properly evaluated before their release.

Aside from this, another mistaken assumption is that healthcare professionals are not part of the primary tactical team operation. Tactical Emergency Medics (TEM) often take part in breaching activities with the role of ensuring the survival of the members of the tactical team if they are injured or providing medical assistance to hostages that were caught in the crossfire. What the information in this section shows is that healthcare/mental health professionals do not take a passive role in hostage situations; rather, they are an integral and necessary aspect of operations of this nature.

b.) What is the Role of a Mental/Health Care Professional
Their role focuses on the provisioning of emergency medical care and stabilizing a patient until they can be successfully transferred to an appropriate medical facility where they can receive better treatment. This can entail either helping them with their physical injuries or helping them cope with their psychological trauma (Vecchi, 2002).

Aside from this, they often coordinate with the hostage negotiator to determine if any of the hostages need immediate medical assistance and, if so, arrange for a means of transportation that does not overly agitate the hostage taker. Other potential methods of assistance come in the form of mental health professionals assisting the hostage negotiator in developing a psychological profile of the hostage taker so that a negotiating tactic can be developed that is more “appeasing” to them.

C.) How do they Fit into the Paradigm of Crisis and Hostage Situation Management?
Medics and mental health professionals fill the role of providing the necessary medical and psychological care that hostage negotiators and tactical cannot. They are there to ensure the survival and well-being of the hostages after a situation has been resolved. They are an essential aspect of these types of operations since, without them, it is likely that preventable deaths would occur.

Extrapolating the Role of Negotiators, Tactical Teams, and Medical Professionals
What this paper has revealed so far is that negotiators, tactical teams, and medical professional all fill a niche role when it comes to resolving hostage situations. There is a level of interdependence between them wherein negotiators help the tactical team with intelligence gathering; the tactical team contributes to preventing deaths should the negotiator fail and the medical professionals assist in addressing the physical and psychological damage that hostages may receive. [“Write my essay for me?” Get help here.]

This shows a certain level of interdependence wherein none of the parties involved can achieve their respective goals without the assistance of the other members (Hatcher, Mohandie, Turner, & Gelles, 1998). As such, what this paper has shown is that a crisis team cannot operate without sufficient communication and collaboration among its member parts. Failure to do so is likely to result in a breakdown in operations which is going to get people killed.

This paper has shown why negotiators, tactical team members, and health care/mental health professionals are brought in to prevent such situations from escalating to ensure the safety of the hostages that have been involved. It has the revealed the interconnections between the different parties and why cooperation between them is needed to achieve success during a hostage crisis.

Reference List
Borowsky, J. P. (2011). Responding to Threats: A Case Study of Power and Influence in a           Hostage Negotiation Event. Journal Of Police Crisis Negotiations11(1), 1.

Cambria, J., DeFilippo, R. J., Louden, R. J., & McGowan, H. (2002). Negotiation Under Extreme Pressure: The ‘Mouth Marines’ and the Hostage Takers. Negotiation Journal18(4), 331.

Greenstone, J. L. (2001). The Role of Tactical Emergency Medical Support in Hostage and
Crisis Negotiations. Journal Of Police Crisis Negotiations1(2), 29.

Greenstone, J. L. (2003). How to Be a Mental Health Consultant to a Law Enforcement Hostage and Crisis Negotiation Team: Should I or Shouldn’t I?. Journal Of Police Crisis Negotiations3(1), 121.

Hammer, M. R., & Van Zandt, C. R. (1994). Crisis/hostage negotiation team profile. FBI Law     Enforcement Bulletin63(3), 8.

Hatcher, C., Mohandie, K., Turner, J., & Gelles, M. G. (1998). The role of the psychologist in             crisis/hostage negotiations. Behavioral Sciences & The Law16(4), 455-472.

Lincoln, E. (2011). Listen First, Ask Questions Latter. SB Magazine13(9), 100.

Nichols, J. (2014). Negotiating in the 21st Century: Bridging the Gap Between Technology and   Hostage Negotiation. Journal Of Applied Security Research9(1), 57.

Potter, N. (1999). Terrorists, hostages, victims, and `the crisis team’: A `who’s who’ puzzle.          Hypatia14(3), 126.

Vecchi, G. M. (2002). Hostage/Barricade Management A Hidden Conflict Within Law     Enforcement. FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin71(5), 1.

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By Hanna Robinson

Hanna has won numerous writing awards. She specializes in academic writing, copywriting, business plans and resumes. After graduating from the Comosun College's journalism program, she went on to work at community newspapers throughout Atlantic Canada, before embarking on her freelancing journey.

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