A 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.
A 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.
The 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."
Most 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.