Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Criminal Justice


Warren Benton

Committee Members

Robert Panzarella

Barry Spunt

Subject Categories

Criminology and Criminal Justice


Hostage/Crisis negotiation was formally developed as a police function in the United States by the New York City Police Department in 1972–1973. The procedure has saved countless fives. There have also been many hostage/barricade situations which ended in disaster.

This study is an analysis of the hostage/crisis negotiation practices of 276 local, county and state police agencies in the U.S. which employ at least 100 sworn officers and utilize some standard system of negotiation for response to hostage and barricade situations. A four-page questionnaire developed specifically for the project provided data about policy matters, organizational configurations, and about the selection and training of negotiators. Respondents were also requested to provide a copy of their agency policy and to react to a series of opinion items about hostage/crisis negotiation. In addition to the data collected through the survey instrument, additional variables were obtained from the 1995 LEMAS report for local police departments employing at least 100 sworn officers, issued by the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics in 1995.

The study first briefly reviews several of the negative incidents which occur between 1974 and 1993. Included in the literature review is an examination of the historical development of the first hostage negotiation team in the U.S. Nine hypotheses were developed and tested. Several scales were devised to assist in testing the hypotheses including, an innovation scale, scales for mechanistic orientation, organic orientation, tactical (SWAT) orientation, and negotiation orientation, and a written policy scale. Two hypotheses related the year an agency first adopted its hostage negotiation policy to agency size and degree of innovation. The administrative and operational organizational configuration and chain of command for the negotiation team was measured against the four orientation scales. Opinion scales to determine negotiator satisfaction and perception of effectiveness were also compared to mechanistic and organic orientation. Written hostage negotiation policy was compared to the written policy scale. Four of the hypotheses were supported, four were determined not to be significant and one was significant but in the direction opposite than predicted.

In addition to the hypotheses tested, valuable additional descriptive data was obtained including hostage/crisis team deployments and results for the years 1995–1997.

The study concludes that the majority of police agencies have adopted a part-time specialized unit to negotiate at hostage and barricade incidents. They utilize a variety of organizational arrangements to accomplish their objectives. The findings tend to support a caution that police chief executive officers and incident commanders may receive filtered information and advice when the negotiation function reports through the tactical element rather than directly to the decision maker.


Digital reproduction from the UMI microform.