AFP specialist negotiators rescuing kidnapped Australians offshore

Negotiators have also responded to international incidents along with low-profile incidents across the country and the world over the past two years.

Highly-trained AFP specialist negotiators are being deployed around the world to help save Australians kidnapped overseas.

For the first time, the AFP is showcasing the work of the Negotiation Operations Team, which also responded to more than a hundred serious incidents in Australia last year.

Operational deployments include negotiated surrenders, suicide interventions, extortion events, sieges, barricaded offenders, mental health incidents, kidnap for ransom, public order events and even cybersecurity incidents.

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Members of the team deploy at a moment’s notice to assist and protect Australian citizens at home and offshore, including in some of most dangerous locations in the world such as Afghanistan and Somalia.

Negotiators have also responded to international incidents along with low-profile incidents across the country and the world over the past two years.

Image: Negotiator stills Feb 2024 (Source: AFP)

AFP Sergeant and Lead Negotiator, Victor Yanes said the Negotiation Operations Team was trained to perform under high-stress situations and work in volatile and potentially dangerous environments, anywhere in the world.

Sgt Yanes said:

“AFP negotiators operate in situations when people are in crisis and serious danger.; We generally turn up on someone’s worst day. In that sense, AFP Negotiators are a ‘break glass in case of emergency’ capability.”

In the event of a kidnapping or incident involving an Australian citizen, whether it be in Australia or offshore, AFP negotiators manage communications with the next of kin by creating a communication cell to contain the flow of information.

“In the first instance, negotiators are called on to deploy to an incident. We then collect the facts to understand the situation, including the people involved, such as alleged offenders and victims. We then confirm who the AFP is required to communicate with through this cell.”

Sgt Yanes added:

“Negotiators manage the communication flow, the messages being conveyed, all with the aim of ensuring that the people involved are safe and protected. We know when we wake up every day that we could potentially save someone’s life.”

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AFP negotiators are selected during a specialised training course involving multiple levels of advancement, each requiring various degrees of skill.

Image: Negotiator stills Feb 2024 (Source: AFP)

Team members undergo continuous training ensuring they can adequately and strategically to respond to emergencies.

Sgt Yanes further observed:

“AFP Negotiators come from a variety of backgrounds and circumstances, with varying professional experiences and expertise to provide a well-rounded capability. Having a diverse team provides us with more strategic options and opportunities to ensure we are equipped to tackle any situation.”  

In the past 12 months, the AFP Negotiation Operations Team assisted in cases of Australians kidnapped overseas, with members responding to assist with the safe retrieval and return of Australian citizens as a result.

This includes the alleged kidnapping of an Australian pilot along with two other people in Papua New Guinea (PNG) last month (26 February, 2024), where AFP Negotiation Operations were called upon to assist, before the incident was resolved within five hours.

In February, 2023 AFP negotiators supported the families of an Australian resident and New Zealand citizen who was rescued after being kidnapping in the Papua New Guinean jungle.

The attendance of AFP negotiators has historically cut police attendance times at incidents, lowered the need for force to be utilised and kept AFP members and members of the public safe from harm.

In the Australian Capital Territory (ACT), 98% of the incidents AFP negotiators attended during since February 2023, were resolved without the use of any force or further escalation.

These events are all considered high-risk incidents and require specialist capabilities to respond.

Image: Negotiator stills Feb 2024 (Source: AFP)

AFP data indicates that the deployment of negotiators to incidents involving suicidal persons has led to the emergency being resolved within 30 minutes on average.

The elite communications capability is considered world-leading in the law enforcement community, delivering training workshops for other international law enforcement agencies in Thailand, India, Philippines, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Japan and Vietnam.

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