Now, a team to tackle hostage crises - The Times of India S. Ahmed Ali MUMBAI: Till now, police officials have had to rely on their experiences and understanding of criminal minds to tackle dangerous situations involving kidnappers and terrorists. Now, 17 officers, trained by the UK's famous Scotland Yard, form the Mumbai police's Hostage and Crisis Negotiation team (HCNT). Given the spurt in suicide attempts, kidnapping cases and acts of terrorism, the Mumbai police decided to form its own HCNT. The officers, selected randomly on the basis of their interests and capabilities, are mostly of the rank of police inspectors and will work under joint commissioner of police (law and order) Rajneesh Seth. All police control rooms have been provided with the cellphone numbers of these officers. In case of a hostage situation, the main control room will contact an officer who is nearest to the scene of crime and ask him/her to handle the situation. Though no time period has been specified as yet for these officers to reach the spot, sources said HCNT members must reach the scene at the earliest to coordinate with the local force. Shalini Sharma is the first officer who received specialized training in hostage and crisis management from Scotland Yard in London in 2010. Asked how the HCNT will negotiate, Sharma refused to divulge operational details, but said, "The training is based on the principle of saving a life by bargaining and negotiation. It is a mind game." Following Sharma's training, the Mumbai police invited two members of Scotland Yard to train other officers. "It was not possible to send all the officers to London. The government then decided to call two trainers to Mumbai. The Scotland Yard officers' trip was sponsored by the Mumbai Rotary Club," said Sharma. The training sessions were held last year between April 11 and April 22 at the Bandra-Kurla Complex police station. Over two dozen officials had participated in these sessions. The team from Scotland Yard also gave a presentation before the director general of police and other senior officers which was immensely appreciated. There have been several instances in the past where a team of specialized hostage negotiators could have come in handy. The need for such a team was felt acutely during 26/11 terror attacks of 2008 when Pakistani gunmen laid siege to the city. One Pakistani caller had tried to negotiate the release of one of the terrorists who were holding several hostages in two hotels. The Mumbai police felt the need for an HCNT in 2010 when Anand Dengre, a member of Ravi Pujari gang, held three members of a builder's family hostage for extortion, and again last year when a retired Customs officer held a 14 year-old-girl hostage in Andheri. The officer was killed in the exchange of fire between him and the cops.