Negotiation begins at home for police team

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 25 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 25 June, 2011, 12:00am


They use their powers of persuasion to save desperate souls, but the first challenge police negotiators face may come in their own homes - from their wives.

So says one frontline negotiator, who shared his thoughts on five years of duty as 14 new negotiators finished their training yesterday.

'Sometimes, after a full day of hard work, our call machines ring as we lie in bed. Maybe our wives hear it first. This is when the first negotiation begins,' said Alfred Gar Kam-lam, a sub-unit commander in the Tin Shui Wai division.

'She may say: 'Don't go, hubby. It is very late. You have worked very hard today. Sleep first'.'

But Gar said that once he knew that there was someone waiting for his help, he would respond to the call without hesitation.

Being a police negotiator is a voluntary duty, and officers can be on call 24 hours a day on a shift basis. The Police Negotiation Cadre, established in 1975, has 82 members and handled 81 emergencies last year.

Commanding officer Gilbert Wong Kwong-hing said about 70 per cent of incidents were attempted suicides and the rest involved people locking themselves in rooms. He said most gave up voluntarily, but 20 per cent had to be rescued.

New negotiators are recruited every two years. Each volunteer undergoes two weeks of intensive training and a six-month assessment.

Wong said negotiators normally arrived at the scene 30 to 40 minutes after receiving calls. Negotiators would give general guidelines to officers and gather details on the subject before negotiating.

He said the key to successful negotiation was listening to the needs of the subject. It was vital to avoid lying or provoking them emotionally.

Wong said the force had set up a research and development section to look into past cases in order to improve negotiator training.