23 August 2010

Unprofessional Handling of Hostage-Taking

Hostage Crisis
The hostage-taking incident ended grimly after 11 hours of unresponsible handling by unprofessional police officials. The dismissed policeman who held more than 20 people hostage inside a tourist bus on 23 August 2010 was killed by SWAT operatives, but it also cost the lives of at least four hostages.

Whoever supervised the operation seems not aware that their primary objective in these incidents was the preservation of life. The safety of hostages, police personnel, innocent bystanders, and the offender must be their first concern. A secondary objective includes the apprehension of the offender, recovery of property and restoration of order.

The basic procedure that was supposed to have been implemented by the responding officer was to "notify communications to request priority radio traffic and request a supervisor respond to the scene." The purpose of this procedure is to limit the information available to the suspect and filter any updates coming from the media.

Do you think that with the amount of subsidy to fund the training of police officials, including the so-called "Euro Generals', that this would have been an easy task to follow. Well, guess what? It's not.

Instead, the supervising officers allowed the media to cover the incident live and allowed the same information to be fed unfiltered to the television set inside the bus. In fact, some reports claimed that the hostage was agitated and became violent when he saw in the television that his brother was being contained and handcuffed by police for not sticking to the script that they agreed before they led him next to the bus and talk to the suspect.

Also, the police force was supposed to maintain contact with the barricaded subject and attempt to constantly evaluate his physical condition and emotional state. This procedure was practices in many developed Asian countries, but seems to be a foreign concept for the Philippine police force. Because if they are doing this, they would have not waited for the driver of the bus to escape his captor and inform everyone that the suspect has began killing the hostages before they made their move. They waited too long to attack and for what? Only they can answer this.

Thirdly, the police force is expected to establish the inner perimeter which will be assigned with uniformed officers. All personnel assigned to or entering the inner perimeter are expected to wear a body armor. Anybody seen this happened in those 11 hours? Nope. This may be dismissed later in the guise of a lame excuse, such as a poorly equipped police force.

In fact, they are so ill-equipped that the inner perimeter is composed of the media and civilian crowd *sarcasm*. This could have not been better illustrated as when the driver of the bus escaped by crawling through a broken window and was greeted by reporters first before even one of the vaunted Philippine police reached him.

But the most glaring violation of the hostage-taking procedure was the use of the brother of the suspect as part of the negotiating team. One of the responsible negotiating tactics was to buy time. By employing the brother, who seems to have an agenda of his own, the police negotiator only hasten the deadly end. They failed to supervise the movement of the suspect's brother and evaluate his unstable psyche.

To add insult to injury, 2 hours after the incident, not one of the police officials can give the official number of casualties. Their excuse this time: they did not accompany the ambulances to the hospitals. Nice, huh?