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I have only been a crisis negotiator for about a year and a half and I have been involved in about seven call outs so I am fairly new to the negotiations area. Based on my experience, I know that certain qualities have been critical for me.
First, you have to understand people very well and you have to be able to relate to them. People have always opened up to me, including strangers on the street. I believe I am approachable and that is a major factor in hostage negotiations.
Another important quality is that you have to really care about what is happening in a situation. You have to be a person who wants to help other people.
You also have to have a level head. You can't fly off the cuff and you can not take things personally. A calm demeanor is a key quality.
Crisis negotiations also require that you work well as a team member because many groups have to work closely together under stressful conditions.
I became a crisis negotiator as a result of one of my experiences in training to become a law enforcement officer. When I was in the police academy, we went through certain scenarios with actors to see how we reacted in various situations. One of those situations involved a trained negotiator playing the role of a man who was suicidal and had a gun to his head.
I was very confident about handling the situation and when it was over the actor pulled me aside and asked if I had negotiation training. "No, absolutely not," I told him. He said, "You went through all the steps you were supposed to do. How did you know?" I told him, "I just talked to you."
The negotiator suggested that at some time I might look into becoming a negotiator. I was interested and when an opening was announced in the Sheriff's Office, I jumped at the opportunity and applied for training in negotiation.
All the applicants appeared before a panel of negotiation team members and answered questions about how I would handle various situations a negotiator might encounter. Then, a lieutenant described a situation involving a bank robbery in which little kids were being held hostage. My job was to speak to the "bank robber" over a speakerphone in front of the panel. Totally out of the blue, I started dealing with the situation and finished number one on the list of applicants.
As a result, I started basic training in negotiations at the police academy in Phoenix. It was a week-long, forty hour class and I became a crisis negotiator. Now, I am looking forward to advanced training and someday to having an opportunity to attend the F.B.I. Academy at Quantico, Virginia.
I hope this helps answer your question,
You may contact Sergeant Rustenburg by e-mail at K_Rustenburg@MCSO.maricopa.gov
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Copyright © 2004 Kip Rustenburg
Copyright © 2004, The Negotiator Magazine