The Columbia Police Department Crisis Negotiation Team (CNT) is comprised of a team commander (lieutenant), three team leaders (sergeants) and three teams with specific roles:
- Technical Support
The team leaders assist with leadership during training, member selection, and critical incidents when SWAT and CNT are activated. Once a negotiation is underway, one team handles the communication, while the second team provides intelligence and the third supports them both with technical problems/requests/etc.
Equipment Technicians are selected for their technical ability with phone systems, and surveillance equipment, and their ability to set up and maintain the team’s area of operation, be it the dedicated vehicle or inside a structure These technicians can utilize the existing commercial phone system or set up their own service line using our own equipment.
Negotiators are selected from applicants who have demonstrated an ability to work well as a team, demonstrated interview and interrogation skills, and are confident they can make a difference and perform under stress. Recommendation from a current or past sergeant or captain is required.
All CNT members receive basic and advanced negotiation training. In addition to nationally accredited CNT training programs, members train every other month practicing their negotiation skills and functionality with other teams such as SWAT. After every negotiation (both real and in training) negotiators are debriefed and the operation evaluated to find ways of improving. At a minimum of twice a year, both CNT and SWAT train together in a simulated exercise. These exercises are designed to put stress on both teams and the problems encountered are very real even though it is a practice scenario.
In the early 70’s police throughout the nation realized the need to train for the inevitability of high risk, non-typical events such as hostage takings or barricaded subjects intent on committing suicide. Two different areas of expertise were found to be lacking. Police weapons at the time usually consisted of a favorite hunting rifle. Also lacking was any type of psychological strategy for dealing with individuals who are either in emotional crisis or are intent on doing harm to themselves or others.
In 1976 two teams were established to deal with high risk incidents. The SWAT team was established to conduct the tactical side of these incidents and the Hostage Negotiation Team (HNT) was established to negotiate with the actual hostage taker or barricaded subject. In the 33 years since inception, both teams have evolved and many advancements have been made.
In 1998 the HNT changed their name to Crisis Negotiation Team. Actual hostage incidents are rare; however, individuals in emotional crisis are not. The team was frequently activated to deal with barricaded subjects who wanted to commit harm to themselves or wanted police officers to do it for them.