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Crisis negotiation is a technique for law enforcement to communicate with people who are threatening violence, including barricaded subjects, hostage takers, stalkers, threats, workplace violence, or persons threatening suicide.[1]

Hostage negotiation is a subset, involving negotiation with a person, or groups of persons, for the release of one or more hostages.[2]

Modern hostage negotiation principles began in 1972 when, then New York Police Detective and psychologist Harvey Schlossberg recognized the need for trained personnel in the intervention of hostage situations.[3] Schlossberg had worked on the "Son of Sam" David Berkowitz case and had instituted other psychological principles in police work, including implementing psychological screening of police applicants, a now standard procedure in virtually all police agencies throughout the United States, and the use of hypnosis in police interviews of witnesses and suspects.

The first Hostage Negotiation Teams were often created as elements of Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Teams and were often utilized simply to create a diversion or delay for the deployment of SWAT Teams. Hostage negotiation has developed into a science. Hostage negotiation teams are often deployed in conjunction with SWAT Teams or sometimes independently.

The FBI Crisis Negotiation Unit and Singapore Police Force Crisis Negotiation Unit are examples of specialized units trained in these techniques.


  1. Strentz, Thomas (2006). Psychological aspects of crisis negotiation. CRC Press, ISBN 9780849339974
  2. Defense Information Access Network, United States State Department (1987). Hostage negotiation: a matter of life and death. DIANE Publishing, ISBN 9780941375016
  3. Goleman, Daniel (October 23, 1988). Would-Be 'Rescuers' Create Emergencies to Display Heroics. New York Times

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