Negotiator

Tips given by then Major Marcelino Pedrozo, who himself participated in six hostage-taking incidents as a police officer, in an interview in October 2002. This is a summarized version of my article published in People’s Tonight. Pedrozo is now the Superintendent of the Manila Police Department General Assignment Section.

1. Who will be deployed as the negotiator – station commander or the chief of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team or the next in rank.

2. Authorities should not allow anyone to meddle in the negotiation process. Usually, hostage takers request media people, a sibling or their parents to mediate for them.

3. Negotiator must establish rapport, reduce the hostage-taker’s anger and get his attention.

4. The suspect should be reassured that you (negotiator) are there not to harm him but to peacefully talk to him.

5. The negotiator should identify himself with the hostage-taker, getting the name, age, address and other information about the suspect.

6. Call the suspect in first name or nickname to gain his trust. It will make him feel that you have known him for sometime.

7. It is better if the mediator would be in plain clothes to avoid agitating the suspect.

8. The negotiator must possess a convincing prowess.

9. The negotiator should not easily get angry. The suspect should be able to know that the negotiator is helping him realize his requests or demands.

10. Stall whenever possible. This is also called delaying tactics. Its like veering the attention of the suspect away from his hostage.

11. Speak slowly, clearly and keep you voice calm to persuade the suspect to voice out anything that bothers him. Do not curse them.

12. Speak to the hostage-taker as an equal, don’t talk down on them. As much as possible the negotiator and the hostage-taker should be on equal footing.

13. Repeat or paraphrase the hostage-taker’s words. The negotiator should analyze what the hostage-taker is telling him to reassure the suspect that his request is granted. Agree when possible with what the suspect is saying.

14. Remain hopeful, but no jovial, that things will work out fine for both hostage-taker and the victim.

15. Be patient and consistent.

16. Listen carefully and record all exchanges. Negotiator should mentally keep track of everything the suspect is telling him.

17. Let the hostage taker appear to make the decisions.

18. The negotiator must appear indispensable. Similar to courting a girl, the negotiator should be amenable on particular things the suspect is telling him.

19. Once a rapport is established, be direct. You have to directly convince him to give up the hostage. Its now your turn to demand.

20. Praise any positive actions by the hostage taker.

21. The mediator should not use the term hostage so as not to agitate the suspect especially when suspect is already convinced to speak out and make demands. The suspect might remember that he is the hostage-taker and that he is under threat.

22. Lastly, authorities should be prepared for the suspect’s surrender. Prepare everything including ambulance and firetruck. Members of the SWAT, police, and the negotiator himself must prepare for the suspect’s surrender.

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