The Negotiator Magazine

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The literature on suicide indicates that vindictive good-byes are not common. Vindictive good-byes may not be common but that does not mean that the crisis negotiator will not see a vindictive good-bye. One suicidal subject made certain the negotiator could see him before putting a gun to his head and committing suicide. Another subject hanged himself from an overpass that he knew was on his estranged wife's route home from work. Another subject instructed in a suicide note that his ashes be spread on the driveway so that his wife could continue to drive over him as she had been doing for the past 40 years. Still another subject told the negotiator that he had read all about crisis and suicide intervention and told the negotiator before killing himself, "You suck at it!" Vindictive good-byes may not be common but they do happen.


The negotiator should not attempt any serious trading or bargaining in suicide situations. If the subject commits suicide and the negotiator did not give the subject some small thing, the negotiator and his or her agency are going to look insensitive in court as they did in one of the 28 cases. If the subject wants a cigarette and if the authorities can do it safely, give him a cigarette. It is recognized that this idea will not go over very well with some command and tactical personnel, especially if the subject has fired shots. However, the author can report from personal experience how bad the authorities look in court if they do not acquiesce on some small point such as providing a cigarette. The quid-pro-quo position, that is, give him nothing without something in return that command may insist upon, is a hostage negotiation idea and not appropriate for suicide cases.


If negotiating with someone who is bipolar and that subject commits suicide or the authorities kill him, guaranteed, if sued, one of the first things the negotiator will be asked in court is his or her training regarding bipolar disorder. The author receives several telephone calls per a year from attorneys looking to sue law enforcement agencies. Usually the subject was suicidal, wanting to commit suicide-by-cop or was schizophrenic.

Lawsuits arise where there is a bad outcome to a bad incident and bad feelings arise because of the outcome. Bad outcomes and the resultant bad feelings lead to bad jury decisions. For example if a child, a mentally ill person or a woman dies at the hands of law enforcement or by suicide, the public generally believes that there must have been something law enforcement could have done or done better but did not.

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August 2005