International

Philippine Police Show How To Not Handle Hostage Crises

Manila hostage

Manila Police and SWAT members break the glass window of a tourist bus during an assault to rescue hostages at Rizal Park, Monday Aug. 23, 2010. BULLIT MARQUEZ/AP hide caption

itoggle caption BULLIT MARQUEZ/AP

The hostage crisis in Manila that resulted in eight Hong Kong tourists being killed Monday by their captor, a fired policeman seeking his job back, wound up being a case study in how not to respond to such an emergency.

The Manila police apparently have acknowledged they weren't prepared for the challenge.

As the BBC reports:

In a statement, police spokesman Senior Superintendent Agrimero Cruz listed a number of shortcomings in the police's handling of the situation.

Among them were "inadequate capability, skills, equipment and planning of the assault team" and "inadequate training and competence of assault team leader".

He also said another problem was "non-compliance to media relations procedures in hostage situations".

Police believe the hostage-taker was monitoring TV coverage from inside the bus, which contributed to his agitation as the crisis came to a head.

I'm no expert but it occurred to me as I watched video of the siege that the Manila police appeared to be improvising. For instance, they bashed in the windows of the bus containing the hostages and their captor but didn't seem to have a plan for what to do next.

The BBC had security expert Charles Shoebridge detail all the things the Manila police did incorrectly in a piece headlined "Ten Things the Philippines bus siege police got wrong."

Example: there were moments when the captor clearly exposed himself in a way that would have allowed a police sharpshooter to kill him and save the hostages.

From the BBC:

The video of the drama also shows there were occasions when the gunman was standing alone, during the course of the day, and could have been shot by a sharpshooter. "You are dealing with an unpredictable and irrational individual. The rule should be that if in the course of negotiations an opportunity arises to end the situation decisively, it should be taken," Mr Shoebridge says. Either this possibility did not occur to the officers in charge, he adds, or they considered it and decided to carry on talking.

Shoebridge makes another good point: the Manila police could have told the captor he had his old job back since that seemed to be his sole demand. He was so irrational, that might have been enough to defuse the situation.

It what may be a coincidence, China Daily has photos of a Chinese police unit training to end a hostage situation involving a bus that looks very much like the bus involved in the Manila incident. The text with the photos indicate the exercise occurred Tuesday.

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