Monday, November 20, 2017

Crisis Negotiation: From Suicide to Terrorism Intervention

How's the following snippet for getting your attention?
At 2:30am on a Saturday morning you accompany the police to a small housing estate in North London where a man is standing on his third-floor balcony. He has a nylon rope around his neck that is attached securely to a washing line hook. He is leaning on the metal fence that separates the balcony from the drop below such that, if he falls or jumps, it is likely that he will decapitate. The man sees you approaching and acknowledges this by asking, “what the f--- do you want?” By this stage of the Handbook you will have read a great deal about negotiation. So, putting what you have read into practice, what would you say or do?
As crisis negotiators, we have to know what works and then be able to apply it to each our unique styles. In Crisis Negotiation: From Suicide to Terrorism Intervention, Wells, Taylor, and Giebels (names you should all know by now) share valuable insight that every negotiator should be familiar with. 

I have pulled some things out for you but I encourage you to read the full paper [HERE]. 

I have a research study that will be published early next year. One thing I explore in it is the opening moments of the negotiation and how the negotiator introduces him/herself. Here's what Wells, et al. have to say:
We examine the story of the two police officers at four time periods during the incident. This allows us to capture different aspects of the dynamics that shape an unfolding crisis. Figure 1 presents these periods along a timeline. Immediately apparent from this timeline is the importance of the first few minutes of interaction to crisis negotiation. 
The instant impression (e.g., first 30 seconds) and opening gambit (e.g., 5-10 minutes) of a negotiator is critical to how a crisis incident becomes framed and how it then unfolds. This period of the interaction is typically characterized by extreme emotions and mistrust, with perpetrators struggling for dominance and protecting their face rather than exchanging information or bargaining (Donohue, Kaufman, Smith, & Ramesh, 1991).
Sometimes, negotiations do not get past this stage. 
Indeed, a much cited anecdote in the literature is of the negotiation that lasted hours because the negotiator did not offer the perpetrator an opportunity to come out; the negotiation continued because the perpetrator, who has no expectation or ‘script’ about how the interaction should unfold, did not realize that surrendering was an option (McMains & Mullins, 2001).
Here's an example of the introduction. Take particular note of the last statement:
“My name is Dick and I work with the Police to help people who may be considering killing themselves. I can see that you are three floors up, on the wrong side of the balcony, and that you have a noose around your neck. It appears to me that something has happened to you that has made you feel desperate for someone to hear what you have to say...” 
And, importantly, the implications when negotiating with a terrorist:
A number of features of this opening encounter have their origins in research. For example, by communicating about what can be seen rather than inferring the likely feelings of the perpetrator, Dick is careful to avoid making assumptions or suggesting a degree of familiarity that may cause conflict (Arkowitz, Westra, & Miller, 2008). 
This is consistent with a wider observation in terrorism research, which is that engagement with those promoting violence is more successful when focused on the act rather than on the underpinning ideology or motivation (Prentice, Rayson, Taylor, & Giebels, 2012). 
For those interested in reading the research behind the Prentice citation, here is the title and the link: Title: The language of Islamic extremism: towards an automated identification of beliefs, motivations and justifications

Ever wonder how does London's Metropolitan Police teach active listening skills? Wonder no more:
The Metropolitan Police Service’s crisis negotiation course teaches this skill in three parts: Focused listening, responsive listening, and communication encouragers. 
A focused listener pays close attention to the nature and content of what the perpetrator is saying in order to be able to accurately reflect back what it is they are trying to communicate. 
A responsive listener ensures that the perpetrator is able to say what she or he wishes without being interrupted or forced into changing content as a result of the listener’s behavior. 
A listener using minimal encouragers will communicate positive backfeeds such as “uh-huh,” “ok,” and “go on” in order to demonstrate to the speaker that she or he is paying attention (Rogers, 1951).
I highly suggest, again, you read the full paper. It includes the Table of Ten, which is described in another post.