Crisis negotiation

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The Hostage Rescue Team, part of FBI CIRG’s Tactical Section, includes units that specialize in crisis negotiation, surveillance, and support. HRT operators often call upon crisis negotiators, behavioral analysts, and other experts.

Crisis negotiation is a law enforcement technique used to communicate with people who are threatening violence[1] (workplace violence, domestic violence, suicide, or terrorism),[2] including barricaded subjects, stalkers, criminals attempting to escape after a botched robbery, and hostage-takers.[3] Crisis negotiation is often initiated by the first officer(s) on the scene.[2]


Modern hostage negotiation principles were established in 1972 when then-NYPD Detective Harvey Schlossberg, also a psychologist, recognized the need for trained personnel in crisis intervention. Schlossberg had worked on the David Berkowitz ("Son of Sam") case, and had instituted other psychological principles in police work, including psychological screening of police applicants and the use of hypnosis in suspect/witness interviews.[citation needed]

The first Hostage Negotiation Teams (HNTs) were often created as elements of Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Teams and merely created a diversion while SWAT deployed. In modern usage, while sometimes acting independently, hostage negotiation teams are often deployed in conjunction with SWAT.[citation needed]

The FBI Crisis Negotiation Unit (which developed the Behavioral Change Stairway Model[4]) and Singapore Police Force Crisis Negotiation Unit are examples of specialized units trained in these techniques.[5]

Behavioral Change Stairway Model[edit]

One specific model developed by the FBI is the Behavioral Change Stairway Model. Police negotiators that follow this model work through the following stages in order[4]

  1. Active Listening: Understand the psychology of the perpetrator and let them know they are being listened to.
  2. Empathy: Understand their issues and how they feel.
  3. Rapport: When they begin to see how the negotiator feels, they are building trust.
  4. Influence: Only once trust has been gained can solutions to their problem be recommended.
  5. Behavioral Change: They act, and maybe surrender.

It is considered to be important to work through these steps in order, and not to try to effect behavioral change before rapport has been established.[6]


  1. ^ Strentz, Thomas (2006). Psychological aspects of crisis negotiation. CRC Press, ISBN 978-0-8493-3997-4
  2. ^ a b Jonathan Greenstein (2011). "Hostage Negotiations for the First Responder (Missouri Police Officers Standards and Training Course)".
  3. ^ Defense Information Access Network, United States State Department (1987). Hostage negotiation: a matter of life and death. DIANE Publishing, ISBN 978-0-941375-01-6
  4. ^ a b Gregory M. Vecchi; Vincent B. Van Hasselt; Stephen J. Romano (2003). "Crisis (hostage) negotiation: current strategies and issues in high-risk conflict resolution".
  5. ^ Greenstone, J.L.(2005). The elements of police hostage and crisis negotiations: Critical incidents and how to respond to them. Binghamton, New York: The Haworth Press. Currently under Taylor and Francis Publishing Group.
  6. ^ ""Talk To Me": What It Takes To Be An NYPD Hostage Negotiator".

External links[edit]