Hostage Negotiations


Hostage negotiations should be left to a professional- who actually qualifies as a professional negotiator is another matter. Every police department will have qualified negotiators, who will be experienced police personnel who have done a one or two week negotiation course.  However,  I would want someone with more than two weeks’ training and some experience dealing with domestics, negotiating a ransom for me.  Most federal and government agencies will have highly qualified negotiators, the trouble is when dealing with professional kidnappers they most probably have people with them who have been trained by these government agencies.  On the commercial market, there are negotiators for hire, if you need to hire one, make sure that you check their qualifications and real world experience and try to get a recommendation from a trusted source.  Anyone with a PC can make a certificate stating  that they are a certified negotiator.
  • You need to confirm that the victim has been actually kidnapped and not just decided to go away without telling anyone.
  • You will need to determine who has kidnapped the victim, criminals / terrorists for ransom or in the case of a child an estranged parent. How both cases are dealt with will be very different.
  • Where safe to do so you will need to re-trace the victim’s movements to try and determine when and where they were kidnapped. You will want to try finding any witnesses to the kidnapping, that may be able to give you any information about the kidnappers.
  • If the kidnapping was in public, the police may have been informed- try to get copies of their incident reports, chances are you will not get any help form local police.
  • If you get any leads, you should inform the local authorities, as long as you believe they are trustworthy and not in league with the kidnappers. How you deal with the situation will depend on your experience and resources.
  • If there are no leads, then you will have to wait to be contacted by the kidnappers. How this will happen will vary greatly. You will want to try to record or document all communications with the kidnappers, as this will help with your investigation.
  • When you communicate with the kidnappers, be firm but polite; remember, this is essentially a business negotiation. If a ransom has been requested and you intend to pay, you will have buy time, while it is put together or try to bring the fee down to something which is realistic. In our experience we have seen ransoms drop from $3,000,000 to $30,000 and everyone was happy. Make the kidnappers’ demands seem unreasonable, but also indicate that you will do what you can to meet them, but make no promises. Whether you pay a ransom or not will depend on the mode of operation and past history of the kidnappers, this is where your threat assessment comes in.
  • You will need to establish whether the hostage is still alive and in good health; you should to try to speak to the hostage or hear or see a recording or video of them referring to a recent incident or saying something your requested them to say. This will insure the recording was not made before the hostage was killed. Photos with a recent newspaper are better than nothing- remember, bodies can be frozen and brought out for photos.
  • If you receive any body parts, you may have problems. How you deal with this situation will have to depend on the feeling you get from the kidnappers, but be sure to confirm the hostage is alive at regular intervals.
  • If you believe that the kidnappers can be trusted and you can come up with the ransom money, you will have to make arrangements for the exchange, or ransom drop off. The kidnappers will already have a plan for this; you will need to study the plan in-depth in the time you have and prepare for all eventualities.  The ransom drop off will need to be treated as a high risk operation. You also need to consider that the drop off could be a set up to kidnap or hit you.
  • After the ransom is paid, hopefully, the hostage will be released. If he is not, unfortunately, there is little that you can do about it. If he is released, your follow up action will depend on where you are and the attitude of the authorities.