Hostage Crisis Protocol

JONESBORO, AR--In hostage situations, nerves are on edge and a sudden decision could impact lives. That's why law enforcement spend hours planning and training for just such an event.

According to the Jonesboro Police Department three things go into a hostage standoff like Monday night's. They say the first thing they do when they arrive at the scene is to set a perimeter, then contain that perimeter, and to establish a line of communication with the hostage taker. While the movies have glorified this pressure packed situation police say it is different on the front lines.

"The television shows and movies, those are actors. Those aren't real guns and real bullets and out here you have real people and people get hurt," said Lt. Roy Coleman of the Jonesboro Police Department.

Coleman is one of those real people. He has been part of the SWAT team here for 21 years, he says there is only one constant when it comes to a hostage standoff.

"Each situation is different and warrants a separate approach," said Coleman.

However, no matter the approach, the goal is always the same.

"Resolve it safely where no one gets injured," said Coleman.

He says there is a rough guide to handling hostage situations, but the key to an effective plan is being ready to adapt when needed.

"You have to have a contingency plan, because no matter what you do, something isn't going to go how you plan it," said Coleman.

Coleman says the majority of standoffs end peacefully, while setting the perimeter and containing it is important, that alone won't do the job.

"Communication is the biggest thing. If we can communicate with people in a situation, we'll talk. We'll talk as long, as they want to talk," said Coleman.

In addition to communicating with the hostage taker, Coleman says it is equally important for law enforcement to stay up to date. That is why he says they will have briefings at least once an hour. Only when communication breaks down and lives are at stake will police make the move into a house.

"You work on a given situation for 10, 12, 16 hours, not to get the completed return is disheartening," said Coleman.

After putting in long hours and being totally engulfed in Monday night's hostage situation Coleman says everyone involved is looking to recover.

"Getting to change clothes, getting a meal, get some sleep that we all need because most of us are going on 30 hours right now," said Coleman.

He says that while they practice year round for these types of situations is always different and that they will take away lessons from Monday night to apply to future situations.