Crisis negotiators are part of ATF’s elite Special Response Teams (SRTs), and work closely with team members such as special agents and medics to de-escalate volatile life and death incidents. As sworn federal law enforcement officers, they use negotiation tactics to prevent injury or death during armed standoffs, suicide attempts, hostage situations, kidnappings and hijackings.
ATF currently has 40 crisis negotiators based across the country. They are available at irregular on-call hours to support the SRTs in their home region.
Crisis negotiators are selected from internal ATF special agent applicants with at least three years of ATF field experience. Applicants go through a rigorous selection process that includes physical fitness tests, firearms qualifications and a panel interview.
Once accepted, candidates must complete the two-week Basic Crisis Negotiation Course. During training, they learn how to use de-escalating skills like the Law Enforcement Negotiation Stairway Model to defuse potentially dangerous situations. They also learn how to slow down violent incidents by calmly communicating with the suspect to build a non-judgmental rapport using empathy and actively listening to influence a change in the assailant’s behavior. Trainees are evaluated on both their individual and team efforts during the intense course.