Understanding Hostage Negotiations


By Ellis Eskew

Every hostage situation is different and delicate calling for a great deal of skill and patience.

Sgt. Ron Boles is on the Prattville Police's negotiation team.

It's a branch of the SWAT team that trains for active hostage situations.

"All situations are different. And what we're trying to do immediately is identify if we have a hostage situation or a non-hostage situation. And which way you go with the negotiation," said Boles.

Sgt. Boles says there is usually one person on the team that will stay on the phone acting as a funnel of communication between the police administration and the gunman.

Listening skills are a must.

"Sometimes you may want to repeat a question because you want to make sure you understand exactly what they are saying. And what they want. A lot of people don't know what they want," said Boles.

Other agencies may be called in to help out and relieve other negotiators.

Depending on the hostage situation, the hold up could last for days. That's because the goal is to make sure everyone makes it out safely including the gunman.

And Sgt. Boles says they will be there for as long as the process takes.

"Patience is a virtue. You really need to be patient with people especially when they are really, really upset. It goes back to your active listening skills. The more you're patient, the more you listen and you have to keep your own emotions in check, it's relatively smooth," said Boles. 

The Prattville negotiations team has not been a part of the Dale County hostage situation. But Sgt.Boles says he is willing to go if necessary.





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