The Negotiator Magazine

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The passage of time peacefully resolves most incidents, especially those spontaneous confrontations involving persons in crisis, but not all situations. Some negotiators and teams allow their egos to get out of control when they have established a record of successfully negotiated incidents but, beware, fate has a way of biting you. Be careful. Do not get overly confident. Whether a negotiation team has negotiated two incidents or two hundred, your team has not been tested until a citizen dies and your agency is sued. Only then is a team truly tested.

A hostile plaintiff's attorney will ask the negotiator to go over every conceivable aspect of a negotiation team's selection process, training, ongoing training, negotiation experience, success rate, call out procedure, logs, relationship with command and the tactical team and many, many other topics. In one of the 28 cases in the current study, the negotiator testified for weeks! Though the negotiator did well in court, it was not a pleasant experience.


Keep good logs. We in law enforcement tend to put down our pens when the situation is looking bad. When things are not going well, a team needs to keep its best logs. Few will challenge a team's actions if an incident ends well but team actions will be challenged with bad outcomes. A negotiation team, if sued, must have an accurate record of what they did and even considered doing.


Crisis negotiators work in an ever-evolving field. We will never know it all. It is hoped that this article will contribute in some small way to the success of some negotiator, somewhere.

Frederick J. Lanceley, MSAJ, retired from the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He was the FBI's senior negotiator and principal director of their internationally acclaimed crisis negotiation course. He has been involved in several hundred hostage, barricade, suicide, aircraft hijacking and kidnapping cases. Mr. Lanceley has trained officers from every major law enforcement agency in the United States and over 50 foreign countries.

He is the author of the best-selling book entitled On-Scene Guide for Crisis Negotiators, now in its second edition.

Mr. Lanceley is currently the Director of Crisis Negotiation Associates, Inc. You may contact Mr. Lanceley by e-mail at or visit his web site at

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August 2005