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Hostage Negotiator  What They Do

Just the Facts

Insider Info

dotA hostage negotiator, also known as a crisis negotiator, is a law enforcement officer who has undergone special training. Negotiators are trained to defuse potentially dangerous situations. They usually work as part of a team.

Most hostage negotiators are regular police officers that have taken special training in crisis negotiations. Those who work for special law enforcement agencies, like the FBI, work only as hostage negotiators.

"A crisis negotiator is not a loner, but functions as part of a team with the goal of resolving the crisis in a manner where nobody is injured," says senior detective Pete Ahern.

dotA negotiator's main function is to bring about non-violent endings to crisis situations. When there aren't any crises to respond to, hostage negotiators usually revert to their regular police duties.

"We are more recently referred to as crisis negotiators because we also intervene in suicide attempts and barricaded suspect situations," says Ahern.

The very nature of police work makes it dangerous. This is because many situations involve the use of guns and other weapons. However, a hostage negotiator's job is often conducted over the phone, away from the immediate scene. That means there are fewer dangers.

A hostage negotiator's job can take place just about anywhere. It just depends on where an incident happens. As with all police work, a hostage negotiator must also do their fair share of paperwork back at the station.

dotThe work is really stressful. But the job doesn't have any specific physical requirements other than what is usually required by police departments and other law enforcement agencies.

As for the physically challenged doing this work, Ahern says it may be possible. "The physically challenged could probably do this type of work. However, I am not aware of any physically challenged law enforcement officers, which is the umbrella under which negotiators fall."

dotMost hostage negotiators function as regular police officers until an incident requiring their special expertise occurs.

Police shifts vary depending on specific job duties and where they work. Overtime is common. If an incident requiring a hostage negotiator occurs near the end of an officer's shift, they would likely have to stay on the case once negotiations have started.

At a Glance

Make sure hostages are released safely

  • The FBI has about 300 crisis negotiators in its various field offices
  • Hostage negotiators are often regular police officers with special training
  • Be prepared for a high-stress job