CEPOL highlights the value of communication in crisis incidents

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31 October 2019
CNU Greece

CEPOL Activity 64/2019 “Crisis Hostage Negotiation and Crisis Communication” was held from the 15th to the 18th of October 2019, in Veria, Greece. The Activity was organised due to the increased interest from the EU Member States in the constantly expanding security fields of Crisis Management and Crisis/Hostage Negotiations, as showcased by the plethora of new and demanding incidents, such as MTFA (Marauding Terrorists Firearm Attacks) and high profile kidnapping cases.

These incidents have been intensified by:

  1. the influx of third country immigrants and refugees, still arriving to EU countries,
  2. the volatile political landscape, in each Member State and in the EU as a whole,
  3. the evolving terrorist agenda and strategies,
  4. the evolving nature of OCG’s and their new modus operandi. These factors add to the already complex nature of crisis negotiations and bring forth new and unprecedented difficulties.

The Activity was organised by the Joint Coordination Centre for Operations & Crisis Management (ESKEDIK) of the Hellenic Police, with the cooperation of the Hellenic CEPOL Unit. Experts from ESKEDIK, the United Kingdom, France, the United States of America and Cyprus contributed to the Activity.

ESKEDIK, is responsible for handling major crisis incidents in Greece. It is also responsible for conducting and evaluating training exercises, where the experience gained by the organisation of the 2004 Olympic Games plays a significant factor. Finally, it is responsible for the Crisis Negotiators Unit, having a dedicated training team, which has spread its knowledge over many countries in the Balkans.

29 participants, from 18 EU Member States, Switzerland, as well as from the EU Agency of FRONTEX attended the Activity. The participants were actively engaged throughout the activities, especially by bringing in their respective national and international approaches and experiences, regarding negotiations, transferring knowledge, identifying gaps and limitations, and exchanging best practices, thus benefitting all parts.

The Activity was built around the notion that participants would be actively involved in practical exercises and not forced to sit through countless hours of presentations. The first step towards implementing this training strategy was in applying the flipped classroom and blended learning style of training. Two CEPOL Webinars, linked to the Curriculum of the Activity, were designed and implemented, before the start of the Course. The selected participants were required to attend the webinars, either live or by watching the recorded version. This provided an opportunity to get every participant on the same entry level and save valuable classroom time for more practical aspects of the training.

On the actual implementation date of the Activity, the first half of the opening day was devoted to presentations on: “Current Terrorism Trends”, “International Kidnappings”, “MTFA Intervention through Negotiators’ Role” and “Crisis Communication and Cyber Threats”, aiming to give the participants a global and well rounded view on the subject topics. The 2nd part was devoted to a large tabletop exercise, which involved various scenarios in real time and helped the participants in the practical part of the Course.

CEPOL Course 67/2019

The second and third day of the Activity had the same pattern: opening the day with a presentation (“Tactical Interaction & Incident Assessment for Leaders” and “Contemporary Negotiations Approach”, respectively) and then following through with a series of Role Plays & Real Incidents Scenarios. These Scenarios were based on real life cases that the trainers/moderators had active involvement in. They took place in various locations (indoors and outdoors) and simulated the genuine incidents, using actual tactical personnel and role players, as criminals and victims. There were four Scenarios, which included cases on terrorism, kidnappings, hostage takings and active shooters. The participants were divided into four groups, thus forming a negotiator cell and cycled through all scenarios.

The Activity culminated in the final day, with a Large Scale Exercise, involving not only the participants and the experts/moderators but also dozens of police personnel from the host country, including: Special Counter-terrorism Intervention Units, Rapid Response Units, Drones, Snipers, Medical and security personnel and more.

The participants highly valued and much appreciated the organisation and implementation of the Activity, as well as the added value brought by the experts and the organising team.

Mr. John SPITERI, a participant from Malta, stated:

“First of all I must say that I have taken part in a number of CEPOL Courses throughout the years, and without any doubt, this was one of the best experiences so far. Secondly, I must say that to draft and organise such an intensive Course, especially the amount of practical exercise is not easy, especially from a logistical point of view. However, your professional sense of organisation has made this experience very desirable. All exercises were very close to the reality we face in our everyday lives in policing. This has taken the concept of education to a whole new level. Hats off to all the officers who have given up their dreams during the weeks of planning, so that we participants could be trained in the best way possible. I am very grateful to this.”

Mr. George FORTU, a participant from Romania highlighted that:

“[...], This really good practical time was doubled with some really good and useful information. What I appreciate the most in this Course is the fact that it was 90% practice and this experience is very valuable to me. You can also send my appreciation to the organisers and trainers who really inspired me with their knowledge and confidence, to share and implement all the info they gave us.”

This Activity was the outcome of a joint effort between ESKEDIK and the Hellenic Police Academy, who cooperated in organising all administrative and logistics aspects of the Activity.

CEPOL Course 67/2019


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