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Can I Limit My Involvement with the Team?

Of course you can limit your involvement with the negotiations team. You may want to start slowly and give more time as you find that you like working in this area. Be clear with the team and with the department about the amount of time that you are willing to give. Don't be shy about it. They may want more from you, but they will appreciate your honesty. You can always increase your time given.

Do I Need to Be There for the Team Every Time They Call on Me?

If you tell the team that you will be there, be there! Most team members understand absence due to occasional illness or if you are out of town. If you have defined a limited role for yourself, this may solve the problem. But if you have signed on for the long haul, they will look for you when something happens. In reality, if you do not show up, nobody will say a word. But it will be quietly understood that they should not depend on you. The implications of this can be great or small according to how you have fashioned your relationship with the team.

How Do I Get the Training That I Need to Do This Job?

Ask for training. Even, insist upon it if you are to become involved. Training comes in various forms and you should take it upon yourself to find out what and where training is available in hostage and crisis negotiations. You may be able to get the department to pay for it or you may have to provide the cost of your initial training, but be prepared to get the needed training regardless.

Training is not uniformly provided across the United States. Each state does it differently. The hostage and crisis negotiations courses offered at various training centers might include the following:>

  1. Basic Hostage and Crisis Negotiations - 40 hours
  2. Advanced Hostage and Crisis Negotiations - 40 hours
  3. Accelerated/Recertification Hostage Negotiations - 48 hours. This is a level III course and requires successful completion of the basic and advanced courses.
  4. First Responder to Hostage and Crisis Situations - 16 hours
  5. Hostage Negotiations for Police Psychologists - 40 hours
  6. The Psychology of Hostage Negotiations - 24 hours

You may want to contact various police organizations such as the International Association of Chiefs of Police and get their training catalog. In more and more states and regions, professional organizations of hostage and crisis negotiators are being formed. Some have existed for many years and have developed their own in-house basic training programs. You may want to affiliate with the group in your area.

Should I Get Involved with the Negotiations Team at All? Is This for Me?

This should be your first question. This work is not for everybody. Talk to the team. Talk to others in our field who have become involved. See what they think. What problems have they encountered? Carefully consider your motives for considering this line of work in addition to your full-time job. Can you do it in a way that compliments what you are now doing? Does it feel right? You probably already know the answer to this question.

What Will My Role Be During an Actual Incident?

When you go to training, most of these types of questions will be answered. It will become obvious to you where you will fit in the overall scheme. Talking with other police psychologists who are involved with a team will help define your role. Even asking your team what role they might want you to play during an incident might be helpful.

Normally, the role of the police psychologist or mental health consultant is to assist the negotiators in profiling hostage takers and victims, and then helping to formulate negotiations strategies. You may also be involved in the negotiations room with the primary and secondary negotiators. You provide an extra set of eyes and ears during the negotiations. You also provide encouragement and stress management for the negotiators. Conceivably, you might be involved in intelligence gathering, talking with medical and psychiatric personnel about the subject, setting up equipment, updating the situation logs, or consulting with the special weapons and tactics team commander about courses of action. You may find yourself operating completely in the negotiations command post or moving between the negotiations unit and the incident command post. As with things of this nature, flexibility and adaptability are the keys. Often, you are expected to know more than you, or any other psychologist for that matter, may know. It becomes an opportunity to pull together everything you were ever taught or trained to do and to put it all on the line at a moment's notice. The possibilities are endless.

Will the Negotiators Take Me Seriously if I Am Not a Sworn Officer?

That really depends on you. If you are not perceived as credible, it doesn't matter if you are sworn or not. If you do not have the background, training, and involvement with the team, you may not be viewed as serious, and hence not taken seriously. The fact that you may be a former officer or a current reserve officer, with your current department or with another department, establishes that you may know police work. If, however, your professional background, professional and hostage negotiations training, and a firm commitment to the team are not in place, your sworn status will probably do you little good. It all fits together to the benefit of the team and you if you make sure that all the parts are present and properly represented.

Negotiators and Operational Behavioral Health Specialists (OBHS)©™: by James L. Greenstone


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Copyright © 2012 James L. Greenstone
Copyright ©   2012  The Negotiator Magazine
The Negotiator Magazine  (April, 2012)