Assignment 2: Training for Crises


Today, hostage situations have become a common trend. Traditionally, law enforcers used force to resolve such situations. The results have been the death of innocent people. To avoid such outcomes, people have opted for crisis negotiation strategy which has proven to be more productive. Various incidents such as hostage situation, non-hostage situation, barricade situation, and suicide attempt occur in crisis situations. Hostages are classified into different categories including mentally disturbed, criminals, stressed people, and prisoners. In an attempt to resolve the crisis, police negotiators play various roles. These include being an integrated member of a negotiation team, primary controller, an advisor, or a primary negotiator. For an effective negotiation, time is an essential tool. Taking more time is associated with high likelihood of the negotiation ending successfully. However, for a police psychologists to help the negotiation department to be successful, they must play the role of equipping negotiators with necessary skills of dealing with hostages mental problems. Skilled police psychologists are essential in a successful hostage negotiation.

Types of hostage incidents

In a crisis situation, various incidents are considered. First is the hostage situation that involve holding people hostage unlawfully. Under this situation, law enforcers seek to meet specific conditions or refusing to meet the conditions in an attempt allow the subject to surrender on their own (Urban Police Department, 2015). The second incident is a barricade situation where law enforcers believe reasonably that a subject is dangerously armed and maintains a concealment position and continues to resist law enforcers.

The third incident is suicide attempt where subjects try to commit suicide (Miller, 2005). The fourth incident is the non-hostage incident where a subject holds hostage specific people. The demands of the hostage taker are usually impractical and the hostages are usually at a high risk of facing violence. In this situation, the incident seems to be a hostage because even though it happens in a residential area as in the case of a non-hostage incident, the hostage-taker has a family friend in hostage (Miller, 2005). Other characteristics indicating that the scenario is a hostage incident is the fact that the subject requires law enforcers to facilitate his demands and that meeting the demands will lead to no harm on the hostages.

Categories of hostage-takers

Hostage-takers fall into different categories. First is the mentally disturbed people who result in taking hostages. Second is the criminals’ categories. Criminals who are interrupted in their mission seize hostages as a quick response to escaping. This is a common situation that law enforcers face. Other criminals seize hostages to be part of their criminal plan that gives them a surety of escaping safely from the law, and gaining ransom money for other purposes (Miller, 2005). The third is the stressed normal people who are intoxicated and fourth is the prisoners’ category while in revolt.

The prisoners may seize hostages as an escape plan or use it as a means of highlighting various demands such as regular visits, more food, and demand of basic needs. In this case the hostage-taker falls into the category of normal people who are stressed and intoxicated. In most cases, the prisoners aim at espousing a certain viewpoint (Miller, 2005). The awkward demand for some fast food and a case of beer suggests that the subject could be under severe stress or is intoxicated. However, there is a chance that the subject is a criminal who is motivated into taking people hostage to get away with the murder of the neighbour.

Role of police psychologists

A Police psychologist has various roles to play in a hostage crisis including being an integrated member of a negotiation team, primary controller, an advisor, or a primary negotiator. Psychologists consult with negotiators in the negotiation process by providing subject profiles.As an advisor, a police psychologist provides essential information on a subject after mental assessment (Logan, 2001). This provides negotiators with important information that promotes the negotiation process.A psychologist can play a role of a primary controller in crisis negotiation. To take over the role, a psychologist require experience working with police agencies and various other training. This way he or she is able to control the officers in charge of the process and oversee the whole process.

Police psychologists also can play the role of a primary negotiator. The role involves actual communication with the subject (Logan, 2001).In this scenario, as a police psychologist and part of the hostage negotiation team the optimal role will be consulting with team members by providing mental assessments and profiles of the hostage. The information will be helpful in understanding the subject and help in negotiating out of the crisis in the safest manner possible. The aim is to have the hostages out of the situation while they are safe.

The success of hostage negotiation and time

The success of a hostage negotiation depends on various factors and time is definitely one of them. Time is considered a valuable tool for participants in a negotiation process. Taking more time comes with various benefits. First, time helps in reducing emotional and tension volatility. Second, it reduces effects of intoxication. Third, it helps in building a relationship. Fourth, it promotes rational thinking. Fifth, more intelligence is gathered. Sixth, time reduces escape expectations associated with surrendering thoughts. By taking time, subjects allows negotiators to solve a situation while the usual operating level (Logan, 2001). Slowing anxiety and emotions diffuses the subjects into the negotiation process. Time is considered an indicator of success and when used wisely progress is experienced.

In this scenario taking more time ensures that negotiators are well positioned, information about the subject is collected, and an effective course of action is decided on. The likelihood of hostage negotiation ending successfully after a one hour standoff is usually very low. It is actually below 5%. After 4 hours the success rate increases considering that all participants have had enough time to think rationally and negotiate out of the situation (Miller, 2005). The likelihood of the process ending successfully after this time would be around 65%. The more time is taken the higher the rate of a successful negotiation. However, considering that the negotiation started past 3:15 p.m. taking too long may be a challenge in locating the suspect due to darkness. Therefore taking eight hours may have either positive or negative impacts. In this case, more time has a potential success rate of 50% considering that both sides are given enough time to get closer to where they want (Logan, 2001).

Negotiation plan

In this scenario, a team of armed law enforcers will be put in place as a precautionary measure in case the suspect decides to use force. This way damage can be reduced considering that incident is based in a residential area. Additionally, other people involved in controlling the situation will be protected from harm by this team. Another measure that will be considered is the availability of providers of first aid and positioning of emergence services. This way if the situation gets out of hand and some people are hurt which of course is not the wish of the negotiation, they will be given medical attention. After setting up the area, communication will proceed with a purpose of negotiating out of the crisis (Miller, 2005).

In case of a prolonged standoff various problems may occur including the subject getting irritated and killing the hostages (Logan, 2001). With darkness, it would also be challenging to observe the suspect which might give him a competitive advantage considering he knows the area better. To avoid such problems, intelligence will be gathered about him that will help in influencing him to give in. Various sources will be used in gathering information about the suspect including other family members, neighbours, colleagues, friends, and the owner of the house or the person who constructed the house. The required information includes the layout of the house, the mental state of the suspect, whether he is a drunkard or a drug taker considering that one of the demands is a case of beer, his relationship with the family, and the criminal record. The plan has a potential on 95% of ending up successful (Miller, 2005).

Suspect’s mental state

A psychologist is a professional in mental health whose role is to observe the behaviour of human beings and provide the interpretations of their mental thought processes. It is possible, for a psychologist to identify psychological disorders and motivations behind certain acts (Logan, 2001). In this scenario, although there is a probability that he is a common criminal who is trying to escape imprisonment for the murder, there are signs that he has a mental issue. One of the signs of severe depression is relying on alcohol, doing unusual activities, and strange appetite. In this scenario, the suspect is demanding a case of alcohol suggesting that he is an alcoholic or he has a great reliance on alcohol a sign of severe stress.

Second, he demands fast food, an awkward demand associated with severe stress. It could be that the stress of going to jail for killing the neighbour is so severe that the suspect is depressed. The awkward demands by the perpetrator in the incident indicates that he is in severe stress and probably intoxicated. Since the problem seems to the stress of going to jail, upon negotiating a better option like a reduced term because lying that a punishment would be avoided would be wrong will help in convincing the suspect to surrender with hostages unharmed. The negotiation that focuses on reducing the suspect’s severe stress presents a likelihood of a successful ending of the negotiation (Logan, 2001).

Police psychologists and preparation for crisis incidents

Police psychologists should play roles in preparation for crisis negotiations for successful outcomes. The first role is to be equipped with necessary skills in assessment of mental status. With such knowledge, the psychologists train other negotiators on issues relating to mental health issues and how to respond. Law enforcers are trained on how best to negotiate with suspects who are identified to have mental problems. The second role is to master how to determine the motivations behind certain behaviours. This way, during a negotiation process, the psychologist is able to establish a motive behind a hostage. Providing such information helps in deciding on the most effective strategy for negotiating out of a crisis (Urban Police Department, 2015).

The roles provide the department of crisis negotiation with necessary skills that ensure that the suspect or suspects as well as the hostages come out of the situation safely.For a psychologist to be part of a hostage negotiation team, they require key qualities and skills. These are excellent communication skills, observational and analytical skills (Logan, 2001). Additionally, one must have a background in law enforcement in relation to police functions as they would be working with police agents. With such background in addition to excellent skills in the mental health department, then a psychologist qualifies to be an integral part of a hostage negotiation team.


It is clear that skilled police psychologists possess information that helps towards a successful ending in negotiation. It is a fact that hostage situations have continued to occur in today’s world. To reduce damage caused by forceful strategy in resolving the situation, crisis negotiation is useful. However, for an effective negotiation, it is important to have skilled negotiators. Police psychologists play a key role in equipping police on necessary skills for effective negotiation especially when a suspect has mental problems. The ability of the psychologists to determine the mental state of a suspect and the motives behind their action, helps negotiators to determine an effective strategy of convincing the perpetrators to surrender without harming the hostages. It is important that innocent lives are protected by the law, and this is only possible if negotiation in hostage situations is done skilfully considering that hostage-takers can be sometimes irrational. Psychologists should therefore attend regular training on police functions and mental processes equipping them with necessary skills and knowledge in preparation for successful hostage negotiations.


Logan, M. (2001). What hinders or facilitates successful crisis negotiation. The University of British Columbia. Thesis, pp. 1-206. (The information in the source is based on research findings making it credible)

Miller, L. (2005). Hostage Negotiation: Psychological Principles and Practices. International Journal of Emergency Mental Health, Vol. 7, No. 4, pp. 277-298. (The source is an academic journal and hence reliable)

Urban Police Department (2015). Hostage and Barricade Incidents: Policy Manual. Policy 406, pp. 1-5. (The policy manual is an official document and therefore it contains facts making the source credible)