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  • Writer's pictureJoe Miller

Pro Tip: Proper Care and Feeding of Incident Command

The Emergency Operations Group is charged with the negotiation of the safe release of hostages and surrender of a gunman who is facing a lengthy prison term. A well-meaning Incident Commander might direct the Hostage Negotiation Team Leader to order the primary negotiator to ask the suspect specific tactical or investigative questions like "Are you armed?" or "How many hostages are you holding?"

While these are legitimate questions, the team now has a problem. The role of the Primary Negotiator is to develop rapport and, eventually, influence over the subject's behavior during a critical incident. Pressuring the Primary Negotiator to ask investigative or tactical questions damages their ability to perform their main function. The Primary Negotiator will eventually get good intel from the suspect if allowed to do their job, but intelligence gathering is and always has been a tertiary objective of the Primary Negotiator... (there, I said it, fight me).

On the other hand, Intelligence Officers have the primary responsibility of obtaining intelligence. The important difference is that putting pressure on the Intelligence Officers to gather specific and necessary tactical or investigative information won't destroy the Primary Negotiator's rapport-building process.

In this example, the Incident Commander has shown they don't have a thorough understanding of how to properly utilize hostage negotiators in this incident. In a future article, we will talk about "negotiating" your Incident Commander into taking a basic negotiations class. Some agencies require it already, but too few in my opinion.



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