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Negotiators in high stress situations also operate within this framework. However, the amount of stress that exists within the negotiation influences the subsequent lens in which the negotiation must be viewed. I believe there are three primary types of stress provokers a negotiator may be working to cure: (1) Financial loss – such as a businessman or lawyer experiences when working as part of a class action settlement; (2) Loss of freedom – as experienced by a lawyer who works on behalf of a criminal defendant; and (3) Loss of life – such as when a hostage negotiator attempts to save the lives of hostages and even the hostage taker. Additionally, within these frameworks exists each of the negotiator’s counterparts – such as the negotiator working to achieve financial gain, the prosecutor trying to restrict the defendant’s freedom, and even the hostage taker attempting to end his life or the lives of others. These counterparts are also subject to the changes that occur in “high stakes” litigation.
While all three types of negotiators must deal with the additional stress factor – the experience of each is analytically distinct. The upcoming sections discuss the diametrically opposed (yet intertwined) negotiations that occur – the negotiations of a lawyer and of a hostage negotiator.
III. Background – Detective Ron Carter
I interviewed Detective Ron Carter, an accomplished veteran of the Metropolitan Police Department of Nashville and Davidson County. Throughout his twenty plus years with the police force, Detective Carter’s experience is varied. Initially, he was assigned to child sex abuse cases – in which he would interview pedophiles. Currently, he is part of the hostage negotiation team, and works for the Office of Professional Accountability. His training as a Hostage Negotiator includes the initial forty hours of classroom instruction, and an interview before an oral board – in addition to the continuous training he receives each year.
A hostage negotiation occurs when an individual or group uses innocent people as bargaining chips. The purpose in engaging in the negotiation process is to resolve the incident while saving lives and avoiding unnecessary risk to everyone involved.
Detective Carter describes hostage negotiation as organized chaos. The Hostage Negotiation Team in Nashville is composed of a Team Leader, Primary Negotiator, Secondary Negotiator, Log & Tape Officer, two Swat Liaisons, and Intelligence Officer(s). Each position in the team has distinct roles and responsibilities, and each officer is capable of acting in any of the roles. Yet, oftentimes an officer is assigned to the role in which he or she is best suited.
Moreover, the Team reports to various other individuals – including the Police Negotiations Field Commander and Team Commander, the Assistant Chief of the Uniform Services Bureau, and the Chief of Police. These teams operate as an additional resource to the field units that are already on the scene, and in conjunction with other teams or media resources that may be necessary. Together, these units form what is essentially a “think-tank” to explore the pros and cons of particular actions, and to make sure that all decisions are not merely the product of one person’s judgment.
In Nashville, there are two teams of negotiators – Team A and Team B. The teams represent different groups of people that are on-call for months at a time. Detective Carter explained that it is necessary to have more than one so that a team may be allowed to rest – or for the situation in which there is more than one team needed on a particular day. Likewise, some situations might require only one negotiator – such as when a person barricades himself in his own house without taking hostages. Whereas, other situations necessitate additional negotiators – such as when there are hostages or any other threats to the community involved.
Interview with Detective Ron Carter, Office of Professional Accountability, in Nashville, Tenn. (March 27, 2007). ** A special thanks to Detective Carter for his time and invaluable insight into hostage negotiation.
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Copyright © 2007 Ashley Grovert
Copyright © 2007, The Negotiator Magazine