Two Arizona prison inmates violently overpower corrections officers and take two guards captive, barricading themselves in a guard tower and brandishing weapons. During 15 days of negotiations, the inmates use the hostages to keep tactical teams at bay.1
An Alabama man kills a school bus driver and takes a 5-year-old boy hostage, then barricades himself and the child in an underground bunker wired with explosives. After seven days of negotiations, the subject escalates his threats and promises death if authorities do not meet his demands.2
In Mississippi, a suspect kills a young girl’s father, then barricades himself with the girl inside the residence. During two days of negotiations, the armed subject allows the girl to speak to police over the phone while he aims a pistol at her.3
If officers responded to one of these incidents, how would they assess it? How would they appraise violence risk to law enforcement officers, hostages, barricade victims, or others? How would they estimate the probability of successful resolution by negotiation or surrender? On what would they base their assessment and decisions — prior training, previous experience, gut feeling, teammates’ opinions, expert consultation, or something else?