In the late 70's and early 80's Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) and Hostage Negotiation Teams (HNT) were just coming to the forefront as effective tools for law enforcement in their attempt to achieve peaceful resolution in critical incidents. In 1980, knowing the crucial role these teams would play in ensuring the safety of the citizens of the County of Stanislaus, the Stanislaus County Sheriff's Department implemented the SWAT and Hostage Negotiation Teams. Over the last 20 years the two teams have continued to work successfully together toward the peaceful resolution of critical incidents, ensuring the safety of law enforcement personnel, the citizens of this community, and the suspect(s) involved. Where there is chaos, together we stabilize and contain the incident so we can get the suspect(s) past their immediate crisis. Each team member has different roles, with the same objective in mind; preservation of life, apprehension of the hostage taker/barricaded subject, seeking a peaceful resolution, restoring order, and the recovery or protection of property without the use of force whenever possible.
SWAT officers are specially trained personnel who are called upon in situations requiring expertise, tactics and equipment beyond what is normally used by field deputies. Because of the nature of SWAT incidents, the tasks listed represent some of the activities performed by SWAT.
Missions assigned to SWAT include:
• Narcotic Search Warrant Service
• Barricaded Persons, Sniper Incidents
• Hostage Rescue
• Vehicle Assaults
• High-Risk Surveillance
• High-Risk Arrests
• Personal Protection Details
SWAT goes through rigorous training put on by the Federal Bureau of Investigations. However, there wasn't any formal training for the Hostage Negotiators, other than on the job training, until a few years after the teams' birth. There is now a course put on by San Jose State University and the Federal Bureau of Investigations. Our team trains once a month separately, and twice a year with SWAT. We also maintain a relationship with surrounding law enforcement agencies' negotiation teams, training with them bi-annually.
As a negotiator you must possess the ability to listen and empathize with people from all walks of life. And through the combination of effective oral communication and listening skills, relay in a convincing manner to diffuse crisis incidents. Hostage Negotiators must possess excellent interview skills, easily establish credibility with others, be able to communicate with persons from the lowest to the highest socioeconomic class, possess practical intelligence, common sense, and be street-wise, able to cope with uncertainty, understand lives are in imminent danger and will have to assist in the planning to rescue the hostages.
Our HNT is faced with all manner of disturbed, depressed and deadly people. While their chief duty is to prevent murders and suicides, hostage negotiators must also speak on behalf of both the criminals and hostages. In a hostage situation, many lives can be at stake. It is critical for the hostage negotiators to both analyze the situation and try to bring about a nonviolent resolution.
Our negotiators have proven to be extremely valuable members of the Critical Incident Response Team. Interactions between the negotiation team, and the SWAT team is critical. Together, they have successfully and safely resolved several critical incidents. Negotiators represent the line that separates a peaceful resolution from the tactical option.
Our hostage negotiators are dedicated professionals who continue to function in this role because they care about the people in this community. They are here to serve, and are committed to resolving incidents without injury or loss of life to anyone.
When not negotiating with bank robbers or individuals wanting to take their own lives, our hostage negotiators share many of the same duties as a regular Deputy Sheriff. Our team is comprised of seven members plus a Sergeant. Negotiators also assist SWAT with all callouts and stand by should a situation require their services.