The Negotiator Magazine

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The Tactical Dance

Russ Moore

"Okay, what do you want me to do?" the tired suspect asked the crisis negotiator. ''I'm coming out." The weary negotiator replied, "Good. Here's what I need you to do ... "

The surrender phase of any tactical operation is the most dangerous time. The volatile and unpredictable nature of human behavior makes the conveyance of simple instructions paramount to the safe resolution of any incident. SWAT tactics will be dictated based on what the suspect is told and how clearly he/she understands those orders. It is vital for all tactical personnel to work as a coordinated unit. The only way this coordination is ensured is through continuous joint training involving both SWAT and CNT elements.

Establishing areas of responsibility is important to the mission. Generally, CNT will have communication responsibility with the suspect as long as the suspect is inside the house/building. Once the suspect leaves the home or clears the threshold of the door, the suspect is passed like a ballroom dancer and it becomes SWAT's responsibility to issue takedown orders. Of course, the situation may dictate CNT is placed within the SWAT perimeter and can assist SWAT by issuing the takedown orders from a position of cover.

The suspect's exit from the building must be as choreographed as a ballet between SWAT and CNT. No one likes surprises, and a surrender phase can be riddled with twists and turns. CNT should never get on the phone with a suspect without knowing how SWAT wants the suspect to exit the building in the event of quick surrender. Because the suspect may be under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol, or suffering from poor comprehension skills, it is important the negotiator uses simple language when giving the suspect directions on how to exit the building.

"Come out the front door, arms held over your head, nothing in your hands, and follow the commands of the guys outside." This command may seem very simple for a normal person to follow, but what if the suspect is under the influence or has other ideas? What if facts are assumed by SWAT/CNT?

The exit door needs to be clearly established among SWAT, CNT and the suspect. The "front door" can easily be assumed to be that door which faces toward the front of the house. This seems simple enough for everyone on scene to understand, but what if the family traditionally uses the rear door, which opens into the alley, and is the door the family has always called the front door? The last thing SWAT needs is for the takedown team on the front side, expecting the suspect to exit the "front door," to be surprised by the suspect exiting the rear door. Never assume anything.

This situation can be eliminated with very explicit directions. "Exit the door facing toward First Street and walk toward the blue Ford in the driveway." This style of giving directions is very simple and eliminates any misunderstandings concerning which door the suspect should exit.

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May/June 2005