Police Psychology Term Paper

Length: 10 pages Sources: 10 Subject: Psychology Type: Term Paper Paper: #52776718 Related Topics: Police Administration, Hostage Negotiations, Beer, Police
Excerpt from Term Paper :

Police Psychology


You are a police psychologist for a major metropolitan area. You are also a member of its hostage negotiation team. You have been called to a crisis incident at 3:15 P.M. On a Friday. It is in a residential area about three blocks from a middle school and a public library. The information you have at this time is that the subject is a 42-year-old male who is holed up in his house with his wife, son, and a family friend. He has murdered his next-door neighbor and is threatening to kill those in the house if his demands are not met. One of his demands is for immunity from the murder charge if he surrenders without harming any of the people in the house. His other demands are a case of beer and some fast food. He wants his demands met or "something will happen."u


The crisis negotiation team will face a number of challenges in this situation that are well beyond what could be found in day-to-day policing. This situation in particular is extremely fragile because the subject has already killed and undoubtedly is in an unstable psychological and emotional state. Furthermore, this situation is unfolding in proximity a school and a library which also heightens the potential for innocent causalities if the situation is not controlled. This analysis will consider the scenario from multiple perspectives. First the situation will be analyzed in terms of the probabilities that are present in the crisis team's intervention. Next, different strategies that could represent an ideal response will be presented for guidance in the team's response. Furthermore, different tactics that could be useful in this situation will also be provided.

Background on Hostage-Takers

Two reasons are cited for the continuing popularity of hostage taking: (1) the contagious factor in our international society which spurs imitative acts and (2) the tactical effectiveness of taking hostages as long as human life is valued (Cooper, 1981). When a suspect does not have a hostage then the response team only has to consider the loss of the suspect's life, their own safety, and the safety of the community around the event. However, when a hostage is taken, this elevates the immediate potential for the loss of life and allows the hostage-taker a significant amount of leverage to negotiate.

Furthermore, since popular media has fixated on these events, virtually everyone knows that a hostage can improve an individual's bargaining power and buy time to develop a strategy to escape or have other demands met. Therefore, when criminal acts go bad, the criminal, unfortunately, intuitively already knows that a hostage can be a valuable asset in negotiating position. In this situation, not only is the loss of life greater, but there are also many psychological implications for the victims. Although the resilience of individuals should never be underestimated, there is evidence that being taken hostage can have enduring effects, particularly on children. Individuals vary in how they cope with such an experience, both during and subsequent to it (Alaxander & Klein, 2010). Therefore, not only must the crisis team consider physical harm to the innocent victims, but there is also an element of psychological harm that results from a hostage situation even if all of the hostages survive.

Despite the virtually universal knowledge of the value of a hostage, the motivations of the hostage taker can substantially different from one situation to the next. The motivations of the hostage-takers can be classified by three broad categories (Goldaber, 1979). The first is a psychologically inflicted individual who is irrationally and can be extremely difficult to deal with. The next category is the criminal suspect who takes a hostage when the


The final category is the politically motivated individual who uses the hostage to attempt to further some political ambition; this category is usually associated with terrorism, either domestic or international.

The suicidal category can be one of the most complicated to negotiate with since the subject will most likely be irrational and have complex and disorganized demands. This category can be further broken down into three sub-categories. One is the suicidal personality that is caught in a crisis life-style and sees no other escape, (2) the vengeance seeker who is extremely deranged and stalks real or imaginary adversaries, and (3) the disturbed individual is usually acting out a transitory outrage or frustration although he may be seriously disturbed and must be dealt with carefully (Goldaber, 1979). Despite these subcategories being well developed, there is also some potential for overlap between them.

In the scenario, it is unclear exactly which type of psychological hostage-taker that this suspect would fall into; though it is clear that he is psychologically motivated by the actions he has already taken as well as his initial demands. He could have initially been seeking vengeance from the neighbor but is now caught between other motivations. He could also be suicidal in the midst of his instability. He has already proven that he is violent through the homicide involving the neighbor and could easily commit such an act again.

The suspect is clearly deranged and dangerous, be more information is needed to determine exactly which category of psychologically inflicted hostage-taker he would be represent. There also could be a chance that the hostage taker could be in the criminal category. That is, he was caught in the act of a murder and is now trying to bargain for his freedom. However, I think there is enough facts presented that point to a psychological infliction that the criminally motivated model could be ruled out. However, this could be conclusively ruled out with a few simple questions early in the negotiation process.

Time Frame Analysis

There have been many studies conducted to try to identify patterns in communication behavior over time and their outcomes. One study consisted of a sample of 189 interaction episodes was transcribed from 9 resolved negotiations and coded according to differences in the degree and type of behavior; partial order scalogram analysis (POSAC) was used to produce a graphical representation of the similarities and differences among episodes while simultaneously uncovering the role of each behavior in shaping the negotiation process (Taylor, 2002). In this study, as negotiations developed over time, behavior alternated between periods of increasing cooperation and periods of increasing competition, with unsuccessful negotiations associated with a concluding trend of increasing competitive behavior. This suggests that not only is time a critical component, but also the communication behavior that is exhibited between the negotiating parties.

There are other factors that can also influence the importance of the time frame. Another study investigated the cognitive capacities of the negotiation's parties to determine if more closely matched cognitive abilities would led to better outcomes. The goal of the experiments was to better understand the dynamics that lead certain types of groupings to have greater success in negotiations, and that lead certain groups of adversaries to achieve more mutually beneficial outcomes such as compromise and agreement and the findings point to a positive relationship between the level of homogeneity in cognitive complexity among decision makers and the achievement of positive outcomes in crisis negotiations (Santmire, et al., 2002). This also makes sense intuitively. If a suspect was an intellectual genius, they probably would not be satisfied negotiating with a crisis intervention team member that was not able to match their intellectual abilities and as a result would become less cooperative. Thus it would be reasonable to suggest that the led in the crisis negotiation be of sufficient intelligence to appropriately communicate with the hostage-taker.


Although it was identified that time alone cannot predict a crisis situation's outcome, it is important for the crisis intervention team to have enough time to device an appropriate strategy. There are many skills that can be taught to add time to the negotiation process during a crisis incident. One example of this is to ask open ended questions to the subject. Open ended questions can provide many benefits in tense situations. One benefit of this approach is that it lets the crisis team have a better understanding of the subject's mindset. Another benefit is that it allows for more time to pass so that the team can further develop their strategy. In many cases a subject will use the opportunity to talk about his motivations which can provide insights as well as buy time.

Another tactic that can be used is to focus on the extremes of a situation. What is the best thing that can happen if you do not change?" "What is the worst that can happen, if you don't change?" "What is the best that can happen, if you do change?" Or "What is the worst thing that can happen if you don't change? (McMains & Mullins, 2010)." This tactic again has multiple benefits. Getting the subject…

Sources Used in Documents:

Works Cited

Alaxander, D., & Klein, S. (2010). Hostage-taking: motives, resolution, coping and effects. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, 176-183.

Cooper, H. (1981). Hostage-takers. Retrieved from National Criminal Justice Reference Service: https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/publications/abstract.aspx?ID=75936

Goldaber, I. (1979). Typology of Hostage-Takers. Police Chief, 21-23. Retrieved from Hughes, J. (2009). A Pilot Study of Naturally Occuring High-Probability Request Sequences in Hostage Negotiations. Journal of Applied Behavioral Analysis, 491-496.

McMains, M., & Mullins, W. (2010). Crisis Negotiation (4th ed.). New Providence: Lexis/Nexis/Anderson.

Cite this Document:

"Police Psychology" (2014, February 05) Retrieved August 15, 2022, from

"Police Psychology" 05 February 2014. Web.15 August. 2022. <

"Police Psychology", 05 February 2014, Accessed.15 August. 2022,

Related Documents
Police Psychology Identify the Different Domains Police
Words: 634 Length: 2 Pages Topic: Criminal Justice Paper #: 12354204

Police Psychology Identify the different domains police psychologists work in, and discuss some of the roles psychologists might assume when working in different domains. A police psychologist will work primarily in the assessment domain. In many instances, police officers must be properly screened and evaluated prior to duty. In other instances, officers will be evaluating during duty to proper access their ability to fully protect society. As such, psychologists have the primary

Police Psychology the Job of
Words: 1968 Length: 6 Pages Topic: Criminal Justice Paper #: 17597536

It is only logical that a large amount of power comes along with high profiles and that this power can be detrimental when it falls into the hands of people more interested in their personal gain than in the well being of their community. The fact that the mayor died of a single shot in the head influences me in believing that the murder had not been accidental, nor had

New Directions for Police Psychology
Words: 674 Length: 2 Pages Topic: Criminal Justice Paper #: 64009425

New Directions for Police Psychology Community policing entails a value system that permeates the police department where the primary goal is working with individual citizens, citizen groups as well as public and private organizations in a cooperative way in order to identify and resolve problems which affect lives in specific neighborhoods, or the entire city. This discourse will look at two articles; one that highlights a successful collaboration between the police

Police Recruitment and Hiring Has
Words: 1415 Length: 5 Pages Topic: Criminal Justice Paper #: 38794168

(Frederickson, 2000, p. 3) Police forces became the fodder for systematic research on the need for and development of improved minority representation in public service as well as a frequently attached public entity with regard to minority status in the community. (Frederickson, 2000, p. 3) As early as the 1960s and 70s police forces all over the nation began to be scrutinized for limiting their hiring pool to white

Police Culture and the Perpetuation of the Officer Shuffle
Words: 941 Length: 3 Pages Topic: Criminal Justice Paper #: 76165486

Police Culture and the Perpetuation of the Officer Shuffle Martha L. Shockey-Eckles conducted this ethnographic study in her pursuit to understand social change in the society. She aimed to identify key areas in need of change. The author worked tirelessly to mobilize and encourage local residents to combine efforts towards imparting change, where it is most demanded (Rushkoff, 2013). The ethnographic approach served as the instrument for picking up data about the

Police Stress Christianity-Based Stress Therapy
Words: 1222 Length: 4 Pages Topic: Criminal Justice Paper #: 18573592

However, another frequently unseen instigator in negative behavioral tendencies amongst officers is the incapacity to properly assimilate the stresses of the occupation. Indeed, a 2004 study, published by the Canadian Police College, outlines the conditions which tend most to provoke police extortion, embezzlement or other such malfeasant behaviors. Amongst its findings, the account asserts that, of those surveyed in its sample population, "officers who experienced frequent operational stress were more