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DeSales Offers Unique New Course in Hostage Negotiations

by Janelle Hill Feb 24, 2020

DeSales University’s Center for Homeland Security is rolling out a unique new course designed to help law enforcement deal with hostage situations. 

Hostage Negotiations is the only course of its kind in the region. It’s offered through the Master of Arts in Criminal Justice (MCJ) program’s Online Graduate Certificate in Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Investigations. 

The course will focus on the ways in which American law enforcement agencies handle hostage negotiations with both criminals and terrorists.  

“Dealing with terrorism is not like dealing with criminals,” says Dr. Ahmet Yayla, director of the Center for Homeland Security. “This is a very delicate issue, particularly when it comes to different terrorist organizations. Understanding those organizations and their tactics will enable students to better deal with these types of crisis.” 

FBI Special Agent William Smith and Yayla designed the course from scratch. Smith, a hostage negotiator with 23 years of experience, will teach the course. 

“‘Resolution through dialog’ is the FBI's motto when it comes to negotiating with people in crisis situations,” says Smith. “The importance of working towards a peaceful resolution during a crisis incident is paramount when considering the lives of law enforcement, hostages, victims, and the person in crisis, whether it be a barricaded person held up in a bank holding hostages or a suicidal person trying to harm only themselves.”  

The course is geared toward law enforcement professionals, first responders, and students looking to work for the federal government. According to Yayla, the course is typically in such high demand that students end up waiting—sometimes several years—to take it. 

The course begins in April and will be offered in the flex format, allowing students to either come into the classroom or join in online. It will also be recorded for students in law enforcement who may need to miss class because of work. 

For John Iles ’20, a second lieutenant in the New Jersey Army National Guard who is looking to pursue a career in homeland security investigations, getting his master’s is essential. 

“Gaining a master's degree in the field of criminal justice allows one to develop the critical thinking skills needed to tackle the complex problems that happen every day in the field. The unique course that DeSales University offers is extremely important because when dealing with terrorist organizations or any group that takes hostages, it is literally life or death.”

 John Iles ’20

DeSales will also be hosting a special panel on Hostage/Crisis Negotiations on Wednesday, March 18, from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. featuring Smith, Chief Thomas Nicoletti of the Upper Saucon Police Department, and Lieutenant Peter Nickischer, commander of the Lehigh County Negotiator Team. Yayla will moderate. The panel is free and open to the public. Reserve your seat here