The Negotiator Magazine

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Reader's Review

John Baker

The Elements of Police Hostage Negotiations: Critical Incidents and How to Respond to Them
By James L. Greenstone
263pp. New York: The Hayworth Press, Inc., 2004
Hardcover Edition: (US) $29.95 [Scheduled release date: December 31, 2004]

Dr. James L. Greenstone is a Police Psychologist and the Director of the Psychological Services Unit of the Fort Worth Police Department. He supervises the department's Peer Support Team, is the Coordinator of the Critical Incident Stress Management Program, and is a member of the department's Hostage and Crisis Negotiations Team. He has been in practice for 35 years, and has been a police officer for 22 years.

Dr. Greenstone is the Editor of the Journal of Police Crisis Negotiations, a well-recognized instructor and a prolific author in hostage and crisis negotiations and a member of many professional Boards. He holds earned degrees in Clinical Psychology, Education, Criminal Justice and Law.

His latest work is designed to provide "those basics that are needed by police negotiators in the field" (p. xix). It is by design a guide for use by law enforcement personnel on the scene of a critical incident, in the classroom for training and discussion and a handy reference for both the experienced officer and the novice. The author's goal is clear from the beginning as he tells the reader that the book "is what is needed to get the job done, and nothing more" (p. xix).

There is an intentional lack of theory, an absence of anecdotes and a determined concentration on the core elements of the job. This is a book of field-tested fundamentals, clear steps in the process and check-lists and worksheets to assist officers from picking their team members through first responder activities to debriefing and follow-up training exercises.

Readers of this magazine may well remember that this reviewer is not a fan of lists and numbered procedural steps. This is one of those books that is filled with lists and appropriately so. For ease of use and the coverage of basic information on this complex topic, however, this format is ideal. It is certainly a sign of our times, however, when 32 steps are enumerated for the sequence of time-related segments for the entire hostage negotiation process and 64 separate steps are listed for effectively handling the media who are gathered to report the activity. Alas, this is the world in which we live today.

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December 2004