What Are We Seeing? - Part 2


doors.jpgWhich elements need to be assessed as the event unfolds? It starts with determining which type of event we are asked to manage. The degree to which the person on the other side has prepared for the event speaks volumes about his intent and determination and gives a pretty good indication of the challenges we will face as we move toward resolution.

It is important to understand the distinction between event types because each requires hostage-barricade managers to use specific strategies and tactics.

Anticipated (Prepared For) Events

The hostage-taker (HT) takes on a defensive posture in preparation for an eventual confrontation with law enforcement. He does not choose the time or the place but understands that his current activity (political or religious) will bring about an enforcement effort against them in the future. To prepare for the anticipated encounter, the HT has stockpiled resources. Consequently, these types of events take time to resolve, a fact that is further complicated by intense media attention. Other complications which can be expected in Anticipated Events are fortifications. Because of their paranoia related to the arrival of law enforcement, it is not uncommon to find the crisis site:

  • hardened and/or booby-trapped
  • with prepared firing positions
  • outfitted with safe rooms and bunkers

Planned Events

The primary difference between a Planned Event and an Anticipated Event is that the Planned Event is offensive in nature. He initiates the event by taking a deliberate action that he knows will likely give rise to a law enforcement response. His very deliberate behavior is motivated by a desire to have a grievance aired publicly. In my neck of the woods, it has been said that as soon as police are notified of a hostage-taking, two posts show up almost simultaneously; the command post and the Washington Post. The time, location, and victims are purposefully selected in these events and they are characterized by extensive planning and more emotional control.

Spontaneous Events

These are the “ground balls” of hostage-barricade events meaning the easiest (if a hostage-taking can be characterized as such) to work. In this type of event, the HT unexpectedly draws the attention of law enforcement because he has been interrupted committing some other crime.

The HT is emotionally unstable at the outset (anger, fear, frustration) and the taking of the hostage(s) is an impulsive reaction to a sudden threat. Since the event is unplanned, the HT uses the most opportune method he can come up with; snatching a person in close proximity to him in order to regain control that was unexpectedly wrested from him . His goal is escape and/or keeping the police at bay. Because the behavior is initially driven by emotion, he is not thinking about what will happen next. His emotional state (fear) is constricting his rational thinking.

As a side note, regardless of the type of siege, we should never lose sight of the fact that SWAT and negotiators are problem-solvers. We are not there, necessarily to talk them out. Nor are we there to take them out. We are there to solve the problem by whatever means necessary. When the opportunity presents itself to end a hostage-taking by tactical means, it should be exploited. Regardless of whether or not there is dialogue between the negotiator and bad-guy.

Part three of this series will shed some light on assessing the behavior of the different types HTs and barricaded persons.

Check out more of Derek's articles and learn about his experience

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About The Author

Derek Gaunt is lecturer, author of Ego, Authority, Failure, and trainer with 29 years of law enforcement experience, 20 of which as a team member, leader and then commander of hostage negotiations teams in the Washington, DC metropolitan area. As a member of the Black Swan Group, he is a negotiation trainer and personal coach. His training has helped leaders and their organizations increase their performance by changing the way they think about communicating one person to another.