Faculty Articles

Role playing: A vital tool in crisis negotiation skills training

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FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin



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Crisis negotiation has taken on an increasingly prominent role in law enforcement and there is a need for more negotiators who are well-trained. Role playing is a necessary tool for training law enforcement officers in the skills of crisis negotiation. Active listening skills are employed in crisis negotiation in order to build a rapport with the offender and allow the offender to calm down and vent feelings of anger or frustration. The active listening response employed in crisis negotiation is nearly the opposite approach of most law enforcement responses which emphasize hard tactical methods. As such, role playing not only helps facilitate the training of officers in crisis negotiation, it also provides a means to evaluate the performance of officers in their crisis negotiation skills level. While directly observing an officer handle a crisis negotiation in a real-world situation is preferably for evaluations of officers, it is also not likely to occur given the scarcity of cases that need to be handled through crisis negotiation. In order to build effect role playing events, personnel with extensive previous experience in crisis negotiations should provide as much input as possible into the scenario content and development. The use of role playing scenarios at the National Crisis Negotiation Course (NCNC), which is taught at the FBI Academy, helps to teach officers the skills necessary to handle situations such as hostage, barricade, suicide, and kidnapping incidents. Active listening skills is the primary vehicle through which the perpetrators’ emotions can be diffused and their rationality increased. Some active listening skills taught at NCNC and similar programs include the use of paraphrasing, emotion labeling, reflecting and mirroring, and open-ended questioning. Four training tips are offered to maximize the training opportunities of role playing: direct instruction should be provided regarding the skills needed in crisis situations; feedback and positive reinforcement will improve and shape negotiation skills; modeling behavior allows the trainer to demonstrate effective crisis negotiation skills; and videotaping or audiotaping the role playing scenarios allows for immediate self-evaluations. Endnotes

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