Inside Look: How Hostage Negotiators Break Through the Mind Game

It's an intense job and really takes a special kind of person to want to do it and do it well.

When there’s a life-or -death crisis, one word or one look can make or break the situation.

That’s why crisis negotiators are trained to get inside the minds of people in distress.

It's an intense job and really takes a special kind of person to want to do it and do it well.

On Nov. 2, Fadel Jabado, a father of six, allegedly shot his wife and son to death, and then his attorney.

Miami-Dade Police Crisis Negotiator Victor Millian was dispatched to a location where Jabado was held up. Millian was literally the last line of communication where anything could have happened.

“One of the things he kept telling us from the minute I started my conversation, he wanted us to kill him he wanted to be suicide by cop, he implored me,” said Millian.

Millian is a member of the department’s specialized crisis and hostage negotiation team.

Last month, the team helped successfully talk down a man who shut down Florida’s Turnpike and threatened to kill his wife and himself.

In the summer, negotiator also talked a man off a ledge as he hung from the 836.

Millian and his team deal with people in their darkest moments when they’ve lost all coping skills and feel like the only solution is to die.

“You get really involved in this individuals mind field. Really that’s what it is and we have to remember this person is in crisis for numerous things,” explains Millian.

It is the ultimate mind game that could mean life or death. Negotiating is nothing like we see in the movies. In reality, it’s a team of a diverse group of people with one person taking the lead.

Dr. Scott W. Allen is the department’s senior staff psychologist.

“The negotiator has the skills to keep that person on the phone by providing some form of empathy, some style of listening and responding with care and understanding,” says Allen.

Dr. Allen adds that their most frequent calls are people with a type of mental illness, usually under the influence. His team must break through a subject’s false universe to resolve the crisis at hand.

“They are completed locked in with that individual and it is so powerful that this negotiator clearly realized I assisted that individual in reshaping their problem solving to develop some alternative options other than suicide,” says Allen.

Millian relies a lot on personal experience to make a connection. As a veteran himself, he successfully talked down a veteran after five hours of negotiating. Millian’s life situations are now helping to diffuse others.

“I kind of think about maybe I had a similar experience I've negotiated a gentleman who has a very complicated divorce and I’m divorced so I can speak to that and understand emotions that go with it.”

The negotiators typically respond to 12-16 call outs every year. The number of call is actually down in 2016. Dr. Allen says it’s down because of training dealing with minority groups, mentally ill and returning veterans. In 2017, the team says it will focus specifically on the autism spectrum.

Contact Us