• July 26, 2021

Exclusive: Harvey Schlossberg, Cop With a PhD in Defusing a Crisis, Dies at 85

 Exclusive: Harvey Schlossberg, Cop With a PhD in Defusing a Crisis, Dies at 85

Harvey Schlossberg, a former New York City traffic cop with a doctorate in psychology who choreographed what became a model law enforcement strategy for safely ending standoffs with hostage takers, died on May 21 in Brooklyn. He was 85. From a report: His death, at a hospital, was caused by cardiopulmonary arrest, said his wife, Dr. Antoinette Collarini Schlossberg. The need for a standard protocol for hostage situations became more pressing in 1971 after the botched rescue of guards during the Attica prison riots in upstate New York. The next year, captives were taken in a Brooklyn bank robbery (the inspiration behind the 1975 Al Pacino film “Dog Day Afternoon”) and Israeli athletes were seized and massacred by Palestinian terrorists at the Munich Olympics. In a pioneering training film he made for the New York Police Department in 1973, Harvey Schlossberg said that in a hostage situation, police officers “all believed, ‘If you gave me the right gun with the right bullet, I can put everybody out.'”

“But I don’t think it works that easy,” he said. “That’s a Hollywood thing.” Instead, he counseled patience and “crisis intervention therapy.” Delaying tactics, he said, allowed more time for the criminals to make mistakes and, just as crucially, to develop a rapport with their victims, leaving the hostage-takers less likely to harm them. “Harvey faced an uphill battle getting cops to ‘negotiate with killers,’ because for 130 years the N.Y.P.D.’s official M.O. in barricade situations had been to issue ultimatums, throw in smoke and tear gas, and, if necessary storm the building,” Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a law enforcement think tank, said in an email. “Many lives were lost. Harvey changed that.”

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