Judging from the information provided, the hostage taker falls into the category of a mentally disturbed individual (Miller, 2005).
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The 42-year-old male hostage taker appears to be psychotic, delusional and mentally unstable considering the demands he places in order to free his captive who happens to be a member of his family and friend.
In addition, it is possible that the hostage taker has an explosive personality since his victims are closely related to him. Judging from the hostage’s situation, my role would be to directly engage the hostage taker in negotiations in order to harness the situation and conduct psychological profiling of the victims and the host taker (Fernald, 2008).
The hostage’s situation is usually very delicate and critical during three key periods. The initial period of the negotiation which ranges between 15 to 45 minutes is usually characterized by tension.
They are also delicate because during the surrender of the hostage taker, ambivalence and strong emotional responses are highly likely from the hostage taker. Tactical rescue operations by members of the rescue team may pose the greatest danger since the possibility of the hostages being harmed in the process is high.
In the very first minutes, my main role would primarily be to establish the demands of the hostage taker and determine his mental state, the current situation of the hostages and more importantly, to calm down the situation (Fernald, 2008).
Calmness and professionalism are vital at this stage since they can make or break the negotiation process. After 30 minutes, the situation will be assessed and appraised to determine the criticality of the dangers involved especially to the hostages.
If nothing threatening is observed within this period, it is mostly likely that the danger involved will be minimal. If the hostage taker proceeds to endanger the life of any of the victims after the period of heightened tension has subsided, this will mean that the negotiation process will be failing and speedy action will need to be taken to avert more casualties (Green & Groff, 2003).
Under such circumstances, the only option likely to be taken is a tactical assault rescue by trained and well equipped members of the crisis response teams. Such an operation should be carried out with absolute precision if a life threatening situation is to be avoided (Vecchi, Hasselt & Romano, 2005).
During the first 45 minutes, I will establish myself as the contact person for the kidnapper with the outside world and skillfully draw his attention away from the victims thereby giving them time to calm themselves down.
The focus will not be to address the demands of the hostage taker but to wear down his mental aggression through calm and persuasive dialogue. After an hour has passed and not ugly incidents have been witnessed, it will be important to switch positions with a female negotiator.
This will be a tactical move aimed at solidifying the gains made so far in the negotiation process and will create an assurance to the hostage taker by introducing the soft and nurturing voice of a woman. This will further calm down the host taker.
It is important to note that every effort should be made to ensure that the line of communication between the hostage taker and the negotiators should be open at all times. The team should ensure that contact with the hostage taker is not lost.
After one and half hours with no major incidences, it would then be important to profile the mental status of the hostage taker. This must be done with a lot of caution to ensure that there is not much probing of the hostage taker.
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The mental profiling will seek to establish whether there are any symptoms of delusion and whether there is any response to non-existent stimulus. A thorough examination of the communication between the negotiator and the hostage taker would be important and this would also help in identifying anything that could be acting as a barrier to the negotiation process.
For example, if the hostage taker continues to emphasize the need for being exempted from prosecution, he would then sink into a crisis and the best course of action would be to apply empathy and actively listen and encourage the hostage taker to communicate in order to bring him to a point of rationalization (Miller, 2005).
The point here is to employ distraction as a technique to move the hostage taker from focusing on his demands and direct him towards a self examination of his actions by persuading him to assess the nature of his actions.
With calm and persistent probing, the hostage taker will soon start to be rational and begin seeing the absurd nature of his actions and this will then open an avenue for the negotiator to persuade the hostage taker to consider a more sensible and peaceful way of resolving the matter.
In the current scenario, the use of basic needs as bargaining chips is not probable since the incident of hostage has occurred in the home of the host taker and therefore, the only other need the host taker seems to have is secondary.
On the other hand, if the basic needs are unavailable, the host taker will essentially begin to demand for the same to be brought to him. If so, there could be the possibility that some or one of the hostages will be released. However, the central focus should remain on the hostage taker.
The whole essence is to make sure that the hostage taker feels he is the all important person and that the negotiator does not care about the hostages.
If food would not be availed in the house, most likely the hostage taker would start making demands for the same after three hours. This is a period for the negotiator to maximize in trying to secure the release of some hostages.
From this point on, fatigue would begin to set in on both the hostage taker and the hostages due to a prolonged period of heightened emotions. The negotiator would have an advantage since he would switch positions but the hostage taker would have no option but to remain alert during the whole period of negotiations.
This would be a very important phase for the negotiator to continue probing and distracting the hostage taker (Miller, 2005). Due to heightened emotional stress, it would most likely be that the hostage taker would be completely fatigued and would be seeking for an opportunity to get some sleep.
This would be highly possible after five hours of actively engaging the hostage taker. Complete exhaustion of the hostage taker would be appropriate since at such moments; the hostage taker would start to lose concentration and control of his immediate surrounding and could easily give in to the requests of the negotiator.
The sixth hour would mark the point of climax of the negotiation period and there would only be two possible outcomes in this case scenario. The first would be for the hostage taker to surrender and face prosecution or the members of the rescue team to stage a precision assault to rescue the hostages and arrest the hostage taker.
The second option could lead to death or injuries and therefore, should come as a last resort. The negotiators should fully take advantage of the physical and mental fatigue of the hostage taker to persuade him to surrender and therefore avoid an unnecessary forced rescue attempt. The sixth hour would provide the best possible time to act and avert the hostage’s crisis from getting out of control.
One of the precautions that the rescue team would take would be to ensure that the media is restrained from airing the hostage’s crisis while the operation is still on. This can have devastating effects on the process of negotiation.
In the course of the incident, it is possible that the hostage taker can have access to a television and therefore can easily be enraged or act out of panic.
Secondly, the negotiation team would ensure that the hostage taker has no other external contact apart from the team itself. This would make sure that other distractions do not divert focus from the rescue efforts of the negotiators.
Information regarding the hostage taker can be gathered from neighbors, other family members, workmates and other social places where the hostage taker has been known to frequent.
The purpose for collecting this information is to aid the negotiator in analyzing and understanding the personality, character and behavior of the hostage taker which will be important during the negotiation process.
It is important to note that less than 95% of all hostage incidences are successfully solved through negotiation and yield less life threatening dangers than forced rescue missions. Conclusion
The role played by police psychologists in hostage negotiation teams is vital since they bring a level of experience which other police officers may not have acquired during their professional training.
The approaches of police psychologists in rescuing hostages that are kidnapped are better and much more specialized in nature than the approaches used by ordinary police officers.
Every police department should explore the possibilities of recruiting police officers that will purposely be trained to meet the challenge that hostage takers pose to the security of innocent people.
Even before cases of kidnap occur, police psychologists can actively be involved in training members of the police department on how to respond to such sensitive and delicate operations.
These kinds of training programs would equip the police officers with valuable knowledge and skills on how to handle agitated offenders especially in dangerous operations such as a hostage crisis.
The police psychologist is also actively involved in assessing the outcomes of such a crisis long after they have been concluded in order to deduce valuable lessons for the police department and offer advice on corrective measures that should be taken in future engagements.
The important role played by a police psychologist will continue to grow as more complex crimes continue to take shape in society.
Fernald, L.D. (2008). Psychology: Six perspectives. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Green, C.D. & Groff, P.R. (2003). Early psychological thought: Ancient accounts of mind and soul. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger Press.
Miller, L. (2005). Hostage Negotiation: Psychological Principles and Practices: International Journal of Emergency Mental Health.USA: John Wiley &Sons.
Vecchi, G., Hasselt, V., & Romano, S. (2005). Crisis (hostage) negotiation: current strategies and issues in high-risk conflict resolution: Aggression and Violent Behavior. Oxford: Oxon Press.