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Hostage Rescue – De-escalation, Discipline, Distraction (Videos)

Updated: May 27, 2022

Hostage Rescue – De-escalation & Discipline, Distraction



What I am going to cover in this article is common sense, not-rocket science and the basic principles I talk about can be applied to all use-of-force situations. As far as any use-of-force is concerned you are far better off learning from other people's mistakes than learning from your own. In the below videos we will take a look at how hostage situation can go badly wrong if basic principles are not applied and also how they can be successfully concluded if some basic principles are applied.

The first video is from Los Angeles in the United States and shows an incident of where police officers confront a man who was drunk, drugged or mentally ill and armed with a knife. The incident quickly escalates into a hostage situation. Watch the video and I will talk about some main issues I see afterwards.

Hostage Rescue Situation Los Angeles, United States

To start with, even though the police officer who is giving the commentary to this video seems to matter-of-factly give the shooting justification, I will say this might be deemed OK in the United States of America, but in most other countries the police response would be seen as a complete disaster for all involved.

My first question for you is did the police officers cause this hostage situation to happen by not properly assessing and not trying to de-escalate the situation? In the following videos you will see other examples of rapidly developing hostage situations that were dealt with successfully.

My thoughts on the above hostage situation video:

  • Escalation: American policing seems to be a lot different in its approach to use-of-force than in most other countries. They seem to prefer to escalate situations and try to intimidate those they are dealing with to comply. This may work in some situations but in cases where the suspects are mentally ill or “have nothing to lose” it can quickly lead unessicary injuries and deaths, as in the above video.

  • Teamwork & Training: Was the training that these police officers received adequate for this type of situation? I would say clearly not! Also, why was there not one designated shooter? They are apparently taught to follow textbook procedures and protocols but are unable to assess and adapt to a rapidly developing situation. Even though there is communication between the officers there is zero adequate coordination or teamwork. Obviously, they were never trained to work as a team or think outside the box.

  • Shooting Skills: There were plenty of opportunities for the officers to take a clear head shot from a couple of meters and immediately neutralize the hostage taker. So, why did it not happen? At a basic firearms skill level, if you cannot put rounds accurately and consistently into a paper plate size target at say a range of four meters, then you cannot shoot! So, why did these highly trained police officer not shoot the hostage taker once in the head? Some will say these officers were scared, stressed etc. Well, aren’t they highly trained to deal with such situations? Don’t they receive stress training? Their promotional videos say they are the best of the best…

  • Discipline: Why did three officers shoot? They heard the initial gun shot and just thought they would join in for fun? Teamwork and discipline were obviously severely lacking in the training of these officers.

So, I my opinion this video can be used as an example of what happens when things go wrong. This is an example of poor training, poor protocols, and poor discipline. But, in the United States this can be viewed differently, and I respect that as it is a different culture with different values. I take it this incident did not go viral as those killed were just poor homeless people without families and of course it was a justified shooting etc. etc. etc.

Hostage Rescue Situation in Brazil

In the next video you can see the Brazilian police are trying to de-escalate the situation to the point where the police officer on the left has his pistol out of the sight of the hostage taker and in the small of his back. This is because visible weapons can make the hostage taker more nervous, agitated, and desperate. While the police negotiators are trying to de-escalate the situation, they have made plans to use deadly force if required. When it is clear the hostage’s life is at risk, they quickly neutralize the hostage taker.

De-escalation should always be the first option and is not a signal of weakness! De-escalation is the part of the plan that can end a hostile situation safely for all involved. Or give the team time to put together a plan to apprehend or neutralize the hostage taker while keeping the hostage safe!

Hostage Rescue Situation in Russia

De-escalation is also a major factor in the following video. When the police negotiator has good communications with the hostage taker, and he is distracted for a second the tactical police officers intervene and apprehend the hostage taker and free the hostage. Good communication skills and teamwork.

Hostage Rescue Situation in Brazil

In this rapidly developing hostage situation the police officers quickly contained the hostage taker. They did so as they had a plan being put into place to end the incident. Even when the hostage taker opened fire and shot several police officers, they held their fire because they did not want to shoot the hostage by accident. This shows excellent discipline and dedication to putting the protection of others’ lives before their own safety. The end result was the neutralization of the hostage taker when the police officers plan was able to play out. Excellent teamwork, planning and discipline!

Hostage Rescue Situation in China

In this situation a sniper is used again to end a hostage situation by neutralizing the hostage taker while negotiators try to de-escalate the situation. For anyone who can shoot properly it does not take much effort to hit coin size targets within 100 meters with a scoped rifle. Again, good teamwork, planning and coordination. And, a note to all the “Tacticool Warriors”, you don’t have to get dressed up in tactical fashion clothing and kit to do the job if you are a professional!

Hostage Rescue Situation in Brazil

De-escalation, teamwork, distraction and discipline… You can see the police offers are keeping their firearms down as not to further agitated the hostage taker. When one of the designated officers’ shoots, he does so quickly and accurately. For someone who is well trained with their firearms it was not a difficult shot. Also note, no one else drew their firearms or opened fire… Job well done!!

Hostage Rescue Situation in China

Again, in this hostage situation the police officers are making the maximum use of negotiation skills to try to de-escalate the situation. The body language of the police officers is calm, they have no visible weapons. When the hostage taker is distracted for a second then the nearest police officer acts. Again, de-escalation, teamwork, distraction, and discipline…

Hostage Rescue Situation in Brazil

In this street situation the police officers are working as a team and approaching the hostage taker from different directions… He can only focus on one of them at a time, right? When the opportunity arises, they shoot accurately and neutralize the hostage taker. These police officers are obviously trained to work as a team and able to adapt to fluid situations!

Hostage Rescue Situation in China

In this final video the Chinese police pull off an amazing operation than combines de-escalation, teamwork, distraction, discipline, tactical and shooting skills. They contain and negotiate with the hostage taker until an operational plan is put into place which they execute flawlessly. True professionalism!

Hopefully, this short article and videos have given you somethings to think about and high-lighted the essential skills for dealing with hostile situations especially where hostages are involved. Whatever environment or situations you are training for you must focus on solid fundamental skills, and please forget the “Gung Ho” Hollywood tacticool bullshit…

You must understand how to communicate with people and de-escalate situations. If working with others you must train together and be able to work as a disciplined team. You must understand the application of tactics in reality, and also how to make the maximum use of distractions. And last of all, you must be able to shoot straight!

Risks Incorporated provides a full range of tactical firearms and operational training for security contactors and government agencies. Click here to contact us!

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The Application of Firearms in Close Protection & Armed Security

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1 Comment

You hit the nail right on the head in your first video assessment referring to the video not going viral because they were just "homeless people," not worth saving mentally, no family to complain etc.

I run into the same problem in my case. One military National Guard guy in Mexico said they won't reactivate a Special Operations Tactical Unit to capture a US spy (CIA Operative) because of "my profile," the profile fabricated in a illegal black operation that's been going on for over 14 years!

I thought it was a little strange that it took the cops a long time to act. It's almost like they were only acting tough but not really tough!

Thanks for a great…

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