The author of this article opens up the discussion by citing facts of the ever increasing stakes for the hostage negotiator in today's complex world. In the wake of the Columbine shootings and the DC sniper events, hostage negotiators must be ever vigilant and better trained. Furthermore, the author states that "By using locations previously unfamiliar to team members and tactical units, commanders may decrease the anxiety associated with a particular environment while also role-playing in a realistic setting".
One Agency's Experience
The majority of the article focuses on one police department in Suffolk County, New York (located on Long Island). The Suffolk County Police Department (SCPD) "is training in a variety of locations and venues to understand and respond more quickly and effectively to a hostage or barricade incident". The SCPD notes that two of the most important factors for carrying out a successful hostage role-play are the planning involved and the chosen location.
In regards to planning, the SCPD says that by consulting with officials at the proposed site, Hostage Negotiation Team (HNT) supervisors can design and implement realistic role-play scenarios based on the unique threat environment. "Role-play scripts and scenarios are designed to provide the best and most realistic training within the limitations of time and personnel available."
Lastly in terms of location, the HNT has sought out sites that have the potential to be hostage situation sites. Some of the sites that the team has trained at include a bank slated for demolition, a local high school (during the summer months), the Suffolk County jail and correctional center, the medical center at the local VA, a university dormitory and a municipal park. All of the role-plays at each of these locations gave the negotiators an idea of how such events could transpire and what the difficulties would be in dealing with each specific situation.
For any further information and for the results of the study, please see "Role Play Training for Negotiators in Diverse Environments" in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, written by James R Maher accessed through Academic Search Complete.