Are You Prepared for a Hostage Situation?

National Police Training
February 6, 2013 — 2,303 views  
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Confrontations with hostage takers have steadily increased in the recent years. Because lives are on the line, police officers and other law enforcement personal have to approach such situations sensitively.

Hostage takers are often desperate. If you allow such individuals to escape, they may be emboldened to do it again. If you do not have an effective plan for when you are faced with a hostage situation, you will be uncoordinated and impulsive. In the process, people may die.

When police officers respond to hostage confrontations, their primary objective should be preserving lives. The next important concern is capturing the hostage taker and recovering any property seized.

Responsibilities of Law Enforcement Officers

The law enforcement officer (who is in charge of the situation) has certain responsibilities.

  • Gaining and maintaining control over the behavior and movements of the hostage taker.
  • Diffusing the situation and bringing about the hostages' safe release.
  • Apprehend the hostage taker without compromising on the safety of the hostages or other persons.

Time is an important factor. The hostage taker is less likely to take the victim's life, if he spends time with the hostages. As time passes, the police can also prepare themselves for eventualities. It is also possible that the hostage taker(s) slips and makes mistakes. They might even simply abandon their plan.

However, if during the course of the confrontation, the hostage taker kills a hostage, the law enforcement officer should consider taking immediate steps to apprehend the former. By killing a hostage, the hostage taker indicates that he might intend to take more lives.

In any hostage situation, it is important to understand the psychological profile of the perpetrator.

  • Is the perpetrator a professional criminal who was/is committing a crime and now his escape is blocked?
  • Is the perpetrator mentally deranged or psychotic?
  • Is the perpetrator a religious fanatic or a terrorist?

How Should Law Enforcement Officials Proceed In A Hostage Situation?

When law enforcement officers arrive at the scene, they should resist taking immediate action. Next, they should mobilize additional officers. The crime scene should be isolated. Then they should evacuate the area as follows.

  • Evacuate injured persons.
  • Remove anyone from the spot, who is not involved in the situation.
  • If hostages are inside a building, it should be evacuated.
  • Vehicular traffic and pedestrians should not be allowed to enter into the area.

Take care that the hostage situation does not become mobile. If it does, the situation will become difficult to control. The hostage taker might make certain demands. The following demands are never to be complied with.

  • No weapon or ammunition must be supplied to the hostage taker. It is possible that the hostage taker might be bluffing with an imitation or unloaded firearm.
  • If the hostage taker demands more hostages, you should not agree.
  • You should not allow the hostage taker to move the hostages to a place where the police cannot act immediately.


Only a trained hostage negotiator or someone with sufficient experience of handling similar situations must be allowed to negotiate with the hostage taker. Each hostage situation is different and you have to approach it accordingly.

Close friends or relatives of the hostage should not be allowed to negotiate. If the hostage taker is harboring hostility against such people, their safety might be compromised.

Hostage takers will quickly catch any signs of weakness or lack of confidence. If you can manage it, never give anything to the hostage taker, without receiving something.

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