The Negotiator Magazine

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Giving the suspect the name of the SWAT officer outside who will be issuing directions once he has cleared the threshold and is outside may lessen the anxiety level of the subject. The suspect is aware SWAT has surrounded his home. CNT must fight through the TV image of SWAT - crashing doors, swinging through windows, looting and shooting. It will be up to CNT to assure the suspect all aspects of the surrender are under control and convey a "this is no big deal" attitude. It might be easier to calm the suspect by telling him to walk outside and listen to "Dave" rather than "SWAT Officer Jones."

What if the suspects want to meet with the negotiator after the surrender? In this day of many dysfunctional persons and the chances of repeat offenders, a kind word or face may make the difference in any future situations involving the same person. San Diego Sheriff's Department negotiator Mike Kick was called to the scene of a suspect threatening to jump off a cliff into the path of a passing train. Kick talked with "Donald" for more than an hour and finally convinced the mentally ill man to come down to safety. Six months later, Kick was called to the scene of a man threatening to jump off a freeway overpass. He was surprised to see Donald once again. The two talked and Kick once again convinced Donald to come down. Donald said he came down because he liked Kick and trusted him from the first incident. It's always important to leave any suspect on a positive note.

The surrender phase is the most dangerous time in any incident. It is a time of great unknowns for both SWAT and the suspect. Without continuously training and practicing together, SWAT and CNT will be like teenagers at their first dance - nervous and fumbling.

Sergeant Russ Moore is a 24-year veteran of the San Diego Sheriff's Office. He is a former SWAT team member and is currently assigned as a crisis negotiator.

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May/June 2005