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The Elements of Police Hostage and Crisis Negotiations.

The Elements of Police Hostage and Crisis Negotiations by James Greenstone, Haworth Press, 2005, 241 pp.

I read this text on crisis negotiations with interest since I am always looking for new information and presentations. I was really interested when in the preface of the book I read: "The presentation is ordered in such a way as to provide quick and easy access to the information needed from initial callout to the final debriefing.... It is what is needed to get the job done and nothing more." I went through the text with these statements in mind: however, I was rather disappointed from a negotiator's standpoint. For example, page 2 of the text describes the process of selecting crisis team members. I find Greenstone's process acceptable, but I believe that adding the element of role-playing, as described by Binge and Binge in the article on personnel selection in the Winter 1994 issue of U.S. Negotiator, would provide very useful information on how the person responds during a crisis.

On page 8 of the book, the author describes currency as being a nonnegotiable item. I believe Greenstone would be better off describing the items as nontradeable items or negotiable but not provided, as taken from the Schlossberg article in the Spring 1996 issue of U.S. Negotiator. Negotiators can talk about anything, but the subject may never get it.

The text explains the training needed for hostage team members on page 9. The author recommends that they receive 100 hours per year minimum and 100 hours training each quarter. I know that in my agency training up to these standards would be impossible.

Page 24 of the text states that negotiators should keep a large plastic jar to take care of their personal needs if away from facilities. The team I work on comprises both male and female officers, and this practice would be viewed as unacceptable.

The flow chart of the organizational structure on page 28 appears to indicate that the SWAT commander is lower in the chain than the hostage negotiation team leader. It should state that the two team leaders work together with the commander to make decisions.

Page 40 of the text describes a person with manic depression. The description does not provide information on the person being in a manic or hyper state; it only speaks of the depressive side of the personality. The negotiator would experience dealing with two very different people depending on which side of the mood swing they were on, so explaining all aspects of this condition would be helpful.

The table titled "Typical Resolution Steps for Police Hostage and Crisis Situations" on page 43 does not mention preparing for the subject to surrender as one of the first things that must be done. Everything in a hostage situation or barricade should be geared toward the surrender.

The Violence Risk Worksheet on page 98 and the Lethality Scale on page 113 look like something that could be very useful for someone assessing a person in crisis or a hostage situation. The information is based on statistical studies of actual events. For example, the presence of a weapon increases the lethality, while a person who says "I am going to harm someone" is lower on the scale. The information would be used by the negotiator to determine on a continuum how to judge the situation and to advise the commander.

The text had several shortcomings for a document described as being able to take a negotiator from start to finish in a situation. The text makes no reference ever to prison situations. The text also does not cover much on barricaded subjects, which will be the primary contacts received by the correctional crisis team. The text makes no mention of having to negotiate through a hostage as seen in the Olathe, Kan., Bank of America situation on Jan. 1, 2001, in which the bank robber refused to speak with the negotiator and instead used the individuals being held up in the bank to speak for her. The text also makes no mention of having to negotiate with more than one hostage taker, as seen in the incidents at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, as well as the Good Guys Store, in which several individuals took over an electronics store in California and when negotiators thought they were making progress, a different person would get on the line.

In addition, the text provides no insight into how to deal with the action imperative--a situation in which those in charge demand that something happen due to overtime and cost of personnel--when the situation arises. The text provides numerous pages of forms that can be used during and after the crisis situation, but no mention is made of completing the Hostage/Barricade Report FD522 and sending it to the FBI. Although filling out this from is not required, it is used to track situations and to gather statistical data, which would provide the FBI with useful information.

The Elements of Police Hostage and Crisis Negotiations makes no mention whatsoever of corrections, but crisis team members could find the book useful as it re-examines material that is presented in just about any crisis intervention class. While the book provides a lot of useful information, it does not provide any new techniques or theories. The book covers the information in an interesting way for crisis intervention staff and it would make a good reference book.

The average corrections professional, however, would have no use for this text as it provides no information that would come into play in his or her job. The text is geared toward police officers, and the average correctional employee would find the book to be a rather dry read and, without the background information, might not understand the concepts.

Overall, I would not recommend this book due to the absence of coverage of correctional situations and how to deal with them. I believe personnel would be better served taking the training " Hostage Negotiations" provided by the American Correctional Association and taking a basic crisis resolution class.

Reviewed by William L. Adkins, corrections counselor II for El Dorado Correctional Facility in Kansas. Adkins has served as a crisis and riot intervention instructor for the Kansas Department of Corrections, developing and conducting training for hostage negotiation teams throughout the state.
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Author:Adkins, William L.
Publication:Corrections Compendium
Article Type:Book Review
Date:May 1, 2005
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