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Above, members of the Hays County Sheriff’s Office and San Marcos Police Department sat at a table inside Hines Academic Center at Texas State University during the 32nd annual Competition and Seminar for Crisis Negotiations on Wednesday. Daily Record photo by Lance Winter

UNIQUE EXPERIENCE: Law enforcement agencies take part in hostage negotiation competition at TXST

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Members of the Hays County Sheriff’s Office and San Marcos Police Department sat at a table inside Hines Academic Center at Texas State University, preparing for their next part of a hostage negotiation. 

The two law enforcement agencies were among 22 negotiating teams taking part in the 32nd annual Competition and Seminar for Crisis Negotiations at Texas State. Although Wednesday’s hostage negotiation was a part of a mock session, it provided an opportunity for the teams participating to utilize their skills and learn, said Wayman Mullins, retired professor of criminal justice at Texas State University.

“Observing, they get to see how other teams do it, which expands your knowledge. It helps you say, ‘Hey, they’re doing that. Let’s try that. Maybe that’ll work for us’,” Mullins said. “(Teams) get to talk about what they’re doing and every team is evaluated by a team of evaluators that are themselves expert negotiators … Where do you get that kind of experience? Giving you input on what you did, how you did it and how to get better.”

Mullins said teams are evaluated by a standardized form that examines a team’s negotiation skills, listening skills and teamwork. 

“Gathering and using intelligence correctly — all of those are the things that teams need,” Mullins said. “They generally get trained in basic introductory courses but over time you practice them, refine and get better at it. Our evaluators take a look at what are ways to improve on them. The evaluators are the ones doing a written evaluation using our criteria, our categories. The teams get to take them with them so they can use them for training.” 

The 32nd annual event began Tuesday and wraps up Thursday. The mock hostage situations took place Tuesday and Wednesday.

In 2021, Texas State approved a limited competition with only nine teams competing, including members of the FBI and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. But more teams were able to participate this year, including several from outside of Texas — Moore, Oklahoma Police Department, Oklahoma Department of Corrections and Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. 

“This year, we’ve been able to open up more,”  Mullins said. “This year, we still tried to hold the numbers down a bit. Obviously, we’re using the same protocols that we used last year. We’re asking people to wear their mask, sanitize and social distance. We can’t require the mask but we did last year. We’re kind of getting back to normal.”

Multiple negotiating seminars will be offered Thursday before the event ends with a barbecue dinner.

San Marcos Record

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