Gerald Doane: A crisis strategy
With the advent of hostage and active shooter cases currently confronting communities, it is important to understand the police strategy in these matters, as there is often a misconception of how police operate in such cases.
The first crisis negotiating school for police on the West Coast was established by yours truly and others at the San Francisco Police Department Academy in 1973. The school’s first principal instructors were two members of the New York Police Dept., Detective Harvey Schlossberg, a police clinical psychologist and strategist, and Lieutenant Frank Bolz, a traditional street cop and tactician.
Their strategy grouped objectives. Those groupings generally are: Containment; Communications; Time; Trust; Transference; Problem Solving; Decision Making; and Custody.
The first crisis objective is to locate and contain the crisis within the tightest perimeter possible, where there are no means of escape, and where there is isolation from external stimuli.
If the subject is harming others when located, the police will immediately engage and defeat the subject to stop the harm. If the subject is capable of harming others but is not currently doing so, even though the subject may have harmed others prior to containment, and, is barricaded, immobile, or holding hostages, police will attempt to negotiate a surrender before any further engagement activity occurs.
There must be command and control of police resources at the scene. This is important and includes perimeter controls; evacuation and aid to the injured; rescue operations; explosives disposal as needed; information gathering; crime scene management; and case preparation.
Any police officer may attempt to establish dialog with a subject. It does not matter if the officer is trained specifically as a negotiator. There have been many situations resolved where regular street officers or detectives negotiated successfully. If available, an officer specifically trained as a negotiator may replace the initial responding officer when appropriate. Any negotiator may or may not have a coach alongside.
Means of communicating are face to face; land line; cell phone (even texting); field telephone; radio; intercom; or unamplified or amplified voice. If face to face negotiations are used, the negotiator will always communicate from a position with cover and with an avenue of escape.
The negotiator will principally focus on the subject and most likely will ignore others who may be present.
Prolonging an event by stalling may occur. This is to provide advantages for police, such as stress reduction; escape by victims; and, the subject’s exhaustion, reduced commitment, and perhaps a mistake or two.
Negotiations will always be done in good faith to develop trust.
The negotiator will assess anxiety levels and will look for abnormal behavior. The negotiator must exhibit patience, empathy, understanding, and a degree of tolerance.
The main objective of the negotiator is to transfer or redirect the subject’s fear, anxiety, and frustration toward problem solving and positive decision making. All of this done through dialog.
The negotiator understands that a rational person will attempt to resolve their situation by way of creative thinking and problem-solving, but a person experiencing frustration and conflict often has difficulty making decisions.
The negotiator also knows that a person who is unable to resolve conflict through creative thinking and problem-solving may turn to aggression.
The negotiator understands there are three basic types of frustration, all of which affect decision making.
Environmental Frustration, which is the result of physical barriers or obstacles blocking the attainment of a goal;
Personal Frustration, which is the result of personal deficiencies or inadequacies interfering with attaining a goal; and
Conflict Frustration, which is motivational, where two motives somehow conflict, the satisfaction of one means the frustration of the other.
The negotiator knows there are three basic types of Conflict Frustration and the decision-making associated with each. They are:
Frustration caused by conflict between two positive goals, equally attractive at the same time. Decisions are made by prioritizing;
Frustration caused by conflict between two negative goals, equally repulsive at the same time. Decisions are made by choosing the “lesser of evils;” and,
Frustration caused by conflict between an attractive goal and a repulsive goal equally presented to a person at the same time. Indecision occurs when attraction and repulsion are equal in strength.
Finally, the overall objective is to obtain a surrender without the use of force unless force is necessary and reasonable.
Do police successfully execute their strategy? My opinion, which must be based upon a case by case assessment, is yes and no! When police do fail, it will most likely be within the Containment Objective!
Gerald G. Doane lives in Grass Valley.
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