'Talk to Me': New podcast tells story of NYPD Hostage Negotiation Team

They are the highly-skilled negotiators who respond in the most dangerous and unpredictable situations. 

The NYPD Hostage Negotiation Team is tasked with defusing tense standoffs and bringing hostages home safely. There's now a new podcast called Talk To Me, detailing how the unit came together 50 years ago.

July 1978

Tower Two of the World Trade Center on the 36th floor. A man claiming to have 80 pounds of dynamite takes four people hostage. The entire building is evacuated, heavy artillery is brought in – and so is the hostage negotiation team.

A man claiming to have 80 pounds of dynamite took four people hostage in Tower Two of the World Trade Center back in July 1978.

"They didn't, you don't know if the dynamite is real, but you really can't take the chance," said Ed Conlon.

The former detective and bestselling author is now host of the new podcast from the department. The World Trade Center case is one of more than 20 episodes already released.

Ten hours go by, negotiators keep the man talking and eventually his captors and police overpower him. Everyone walked away safely. It turns out, there was no dynamite.

Ten hours go by, and eventually his captors and police overpower him. Everyone walked away safely. There was no dynamite.

"Situations can become very, very chaotic very, very quickly," Conlon said. "They're always extremely high pressure."

Conlon says the podcast is a way to tell the stories through the lens of 'real cop voices.'

"It's the least cop-like cop story," Conlon said. "You stay there and try and make sure nothing happens. You try and solve problems by talking."

In the early 1970's, when the team was formed, that approach to policing went completely against the norm.

A new podcast tells the story of the NYPD Hostage Negotiation Team.

"There was no psychological or psychiatric research on hostage situations," Conlon said.

Three specific incidents from 1972 made NY police brass want to establish new strategies:

Deadly Attica Prison Riots

Forty people were killed, and the negotiations were disastrous.

Munich Olympics

The international hostage crisis and failure at the Munich Olympics. All 11 Israeli hostages were killed. The German police just didn't have a S.W.A.T. team response strategy.

Brooklyn Bank Robbery

A very famous Brooklyn bank robbery that lasted more than two days. It came to define the gritty and desperate nature of New York in the 1970's and inspired the iconic Al Pacino movie "Dog Day Afternoon."

Image 1 of 3

The deadly Attica prison riots.

All of it motivated the NYPD to tap a patrolman on staff who also happened to be a Ph. D clinical psychologist named Harvey Schlosberg. He developed new negotiation tactics and called them "dynamic inaction."

Harvey Schlosberg.

"Harvey took some basic concepts on frustration and conflict and anxiety and said, let's try and deal with those as fast as we can," Conlon said.

The new NYPD team would set a national standard. Legendary cop Frank Bolz was the first commanding officer.

"Anytime the hostages come out alive, that's a success," Bolz told FOX5 during an interview back in 1978.

The approach and method is still embraced today, and is highlighted in a few high profile recent cases.


A man with a shotgun outside the United Nations. Negotiations eventually convinced him to put the gun down.

A man with a shotgun outside the United Nations back in 2021.


Two armed ex-felons took a family hostage in Queens. The negotiators working that case eventually coaxed them out with patients and some pizza.

"Once there, we got their emotions down," said Lt. Michael Tomao, the current commanding officer of the unit. "They started thinking rationally, and they wanted food."

He says that premise is still what negotiators say to people on the other end of the line when they arrive on a scene: 'Talk to me.'

"They're going a mile a minute, they're yelling, they're screaming, as negotiations go on," Tomao said. "They start talking slower, they started talking longer to us, they start making more sense that their feelings they start opening up with their feelings and that's when we know it's going in the right direction. That we're making an impact on them and we're going to be able to get them out safely."

A new podcast tells the story of the NYPD Hostage Negotiation Team.

Tomao says there are about 190 negotiators on staff at the NYPD, which is nearly double what it was when the unit started. There are many more cases now. He says many of the negotiations are detectives who also work everyday cases, but are called into action when there's a hostage crisis.     

The "Talk to Me" series is now available on iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts.

If you only think you have time to listen to a few, I strongly recommend the episodes detailing one of the units first big cases in 1973 when four men robbed John and Al's Sporting Good store out in Brooklyn.