The primary issue determining whether or not a crisis situation is a hostage scenario is whether human lives are at stake (McMains & Mullins, 2010, p.12). Bradley has taken a total of 11 hostages: his wife Susan, her professor whom Bradley believes is her lover, and nine other students. Bradley has not made an explicit threat to their lives, but he has weapons with him, is not allowing the hostages to leave, and is clearly in a highly emotional state. While it is a hostage scenario, it is not what one considers a true hostage scenario. In those scenarios, the hostage has no value to the hostage taker (McMains & Mullins, 2010, p.13). Susan is Bradley's wife; therefore, she has value to him. Moreover, the professor has some value to Bradley; as Susan's suspected lover, he is not interchangeable with other hostages. Therefore, this scenario qualifies as a family violence hostage scenario. The fact that Bradley has taken nine additional hostages complicates the scenario; one would presume that the nine fellow students are pure hostages because they have no relationship to Bradley. Therefore, as a negotiator, I might approach the release of the other students differently than I would the release of his wife and the professor. I might also assess the risk to the other students as being lower than the risk to the professor.
When dealing with a hostage crisis, it is important to determine what stage of crisis is occurring. According to McMains and Mullins, Crises happen in stages (2010, p.25). Bradley is holding the people hostage, behaving in an erratic and volatile manner, and is not willing to speak with the negotiator. As a result, he is considered to be in the crisis stage of the crisis. During a crisis stage of a crisis, negotiators need to focus on establishing a relationship with the hostage-taker, which means that they should employ an accepting, caring, honest and patient attitude with Bradley in order to establish credibility (McMains & Mullins, 2010, p.26). They also need to create as safe of an environment for the hostages and the hostage takers as is possible, since many hostage scenarios end in the death of the hostage taker in addition to the possible deaths of hostages.
Bradley's unwillingness to talk to the negotiator makes it difficult to assess his state-of-mind, but the situation does provide some clues. For example, he has a duffle bag full of weapons, which suggests that he did some planning prior to taking the hostages and that he planned, not only to take Susan and the professor hostage, but also to take the other students as hostages as well. Bradley is also refusing to speak with the hostage negotiator. At first blush, one might want to describe the scenario as non-negotiable, since Bradley is refusing to negotiate. However, the determination of whether a scenario is non-negotiable is not based on whether or not the hostage taker will negotiate. According to the FBI, there eight characteristics of a negotiable situation: 1) the hostage taker's need to live; 2) threat of force by responding officers responding; 3) hostage taker's demands; 4) sufficient time to negotiate; 5) a reliable channel of communication; 6) the ability to negotiate with a decision-maker; 7) the ability to contain the incident; and 8) a negotiator who can either hurt or help the hostage-taker (McMains & Mullins, 2010, p.151). Applying those criteria, it appears that the scenario may be a negotiable one, though many of the variables are unknown. Whether or not Bradley has a need to live is a big question that determines much of the outcome, and his depression may change that factor. The officers have responded with force, Bradley will eventually make demands, there does not seem to be a time schedule preventing negotiations, the police are going to be able to establish a line of communication, Bradley is a decision-maker, the police have contained the incident, and the negotiator may have the ability to either hurt or help Bradley. Therefore, it seems like the correct judgment is to treat the scenario as a negotiable one.
Bradley's demands give some insight into his state of mind. He makes both instrumental and expressive demands. Instrumental demands are targeted…