The Negotiator

Name: Anthony McQueen
Career: Detective and crisis negotiator
Age: 39
Location: Pasadena, Texas
Salary: Pasadena police officer/negotiator:
$38,000-$55,000 plus $50-$300 monthly incentive
Anthony McQueen had just completed 40 hours of basic training to become a crisis negotiator when he received his first suicide call-passed along by a radio DJ on the air in Pasadena, Texas. A depressed listener had called and, fearful of a hang up, the DJ called the police department to alert them of the situation. McQueen phoned the station back on his cell phone and the DJ patched the caller through. McQueen and the anonymous caller talked for an hour.

McQueen was able to coax the man into giving his phone number, which allowed the officers to establish a perimeter around the caller’s home. Fortunately, McQueen’s team achieved a resolution without incident or charges. “He had shotguns and pistols but didn’t commit any crime, so he was able to get psychiatric treatment,” McQueen says.

“Negotiating is a psychological process. We have to use active listening skills to find out why someone is in crisis,” he adds. McQueen, originally from Houston, joined the Pasadena Police Department as an officer shortly after earning his associate’s degree in criminal justice from San Jacinto College. After seven years of patrol duty he joined Special Weapons and Tactics and chose the non-tactical component of that team-crisis negotiating. McQueen, 39, attended the required weeklong training conducted by an FBI negotiator and in 1997 became a detective in the homicide and sexual assaults division.

McQueen is part of a 10-member team that handles every type of crisis, from suicide calls to hostage negotiations. “Every decision we make as negotiators goes through a chain of command. We can’t make a decision single-handedly because that may affect someone’s life,” he says.

There are seven active listening techniques negotiators employ to resolve incidents peacefully. Among them:

  • Building a rapport develops trust and lets the subject know you are paying attention. It requires that negotiators listen and offer minimal encouragement.
  • Getting subjects to label or identify their emotions is a key strategy utilized by negotiators.
  • Mirroring or repeating what the subject says helps convey that you understand what was said.
  • Asking open-ended questions stimulates the subject to talk.
  • Being silent while the subject speaks creates effective pauses.

McQueen is diligent about advancing his training. In 1998 he attended an advanced hostage negotiator school hosted by the FBI and San Antonio Police Department. [“It’s like] a 24-hour scenario where you stay at the testing site and sleep on a cot or the floor like you would at a real incident.” Since then, McQueen has attended approximately two schools each year. For more information, McQueen suggests checking out Elements of Police Hostage and Crisis Negotiation by James L. Greenstone (Haworth Press; $29.95).