For hostage negotiators, patience is a virtue

Gary Dias
Gary Dias

By Teri Okita – bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - was first to report an end to the stand-off in Kahului, and we got to wondering: what exactly goes into these types of negotiations? Experts we spoke with say when there's no present danger to others, there's usually no time limit to the talks.

As time ticked past the two-day mark, some were asking why Maui police didn't just storm in and take 22 year old Josiah Okudara into custody. But negotiation experts - not connected to this case - say there was no need to rush in.

"We find time is on the side of the police," says security expert Gary Dias. Dias spent years as a hostage negotiator with the Honolulu Police Department and says, with no hostages - and with neighbors evacuated - the best option was to keep Okudara talking.

"Studies have shown that people normally come to their senses and give up after a period of time," says Dias. "It's the realization that police are not going to go away. (They think) I have nowhere to go. I might as well go outside and end the scenario."

Authorities had cut power and water to the Opukea street home Okudara was holed up in and, at one point, police shot tear gas inside. But Okudara didn't budge. Their main goal was to keep in constant communication with him - and to keep reminding Okudara that they wanted things to end peacefully.

Although some residents expressed frustration at the amount of time it took for the stand-off to end, all the authorities and experts we spoke with say safety to the public, police, and the suspect trumps inconvenience.

Adds former HPD Chief, Lee Donahue, "I know it's a trying situation for everyone involved, but patience is always going to be a virtue in these types of situations."

Patience is key for a negotiator - as is empathy. "Even though you're dealing with a suspect, you've got to empathize with, 'What's the reason you're doing this?' explains Dias. "You have to understand what the problem is, and yet you are working for the law enforcement agency."

Sometimes, talks don't go so well. Perhaps the most infamous hostage negotiation in Hawaii history happened back in 1996. After an eight hour stand-off, sharpshooters killed suspect John Miranda as he held a co-worker at gunpoint.

It's the kind of ending negotiators try to avoid - and why "waiting it out" is usually the best decision.

Copyright 2011 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.