Upstairs, a madman armed with a gun. “Mister Robin, can you hear me?”

“Monsieur Robin” is crippled with debts, entrenched in his home since the visit of a bailiff for unpaid rent. A fictional character, played by Raid member Jimmy.

Clément, captain in the Banditry Repression Brigade (BRB) in Paris, spends all week selection tests to join the negotiation cell of the prestigious police intervention unit, on its site in Bièvres (Essonne).

Between lined insults and noisy musical background, Jimmy manhandles the young 33-year-old officer who manages, despite everything, to maintain the thread of the dialogue all the way to his door.

Then, a deafening “boom”: Clément must evacuate his teammate injured by bullet as soon as possible. End of the exercise.

An examiner debriefs him on the spot.

– “Before saving your shield, didn’t you forget something?

– “Uh… yes, indeed. I should have engaged (shooting on) the madman”.

“On this situation, we expect a global reaction from the candidates”, comments Cyril said “Cissou”, policeman from the Marseille branch of the Raid. “A negotiator never ceases to be a policeman, he must know how to change hats from one moment to the next”.

– Sept candidates – 

A former medical student, interested in psychiatry, Clément finally turned to law studies and obtained a degree in criminology before joining the school for police officers in Cannes-Ecluses (Seine-et-Marne).

Among the other students of the school, a former negotiator of the BRI, the intervention unit of the Paris police headquarters, which makes him want to apply.

In total, ten candidates, from public security, the judicial police or the intelligence services were selected from around forty files.

Scenarios, shooting exercises, psychological tests and memorization under pressure: the tests are linked for four days.

Among the applicants, seven women. An “exceptional” figure, underlines Commander Olivier, head of the negotiation cell.

“It’s a profile that interests us, with another sensitivity, especially since we had nine crises with women in 2021, compared to one or none in previous years,” he adds.

Currently, the Raid has only one woman in its ranks, recruited in 2021, out of the 76 negotiators distributed in the national cell and the thirteen antennas of the unit in mainland France and overseas.

Each year, the national cell leads twenty to thirty negotiations on average and serves as a “rear base” for a hundred others managed by the antennas.

– “Too directive tone” –

Marie (first name changed), in post at the General Directorate of Internal Security (DGSI) for ten years, has been thinking about negotiation “for a long time”, attracted by the idea of ​​”helping without being in coercion” .

During an exercise, she faces Sophie, a policewoman who plays the role of a suicidal woman perched in a cabin and threatening to end her life.

She tries to establish a relationship of trust from snippets of information given by the examiner a few minutes earlier, evokes her parents, her sister, her dog “Titou”…

“It was not easy!”, reacts after the fact the candidate. “I was afraid of being too direct, of activating something negative in her by verbalizing these subjects”.

“We test spontaneous skills of empathy, argumentation. The candidates start from nothing, without training”, explains Thomas, the Raid’s psychologist.

In the evening, all the performances are sifted through: tone of voice, change from formal to informal, stress management, ability to listen, bounce back and not suffer the exchange…

The comments on each candidate are linked, sometimes encouraging (“good room for improvement”, “reassuring voice”) and often severe (“dialogue of the deaf”, “too directive tone”).

At the end of the week, only one or two, maximum, can hope to integrate the prestigious service.

A hyper-selective but necessary recruitment according to Cyril, from the Raid de Marseille. “These are people you will work with for years to come on potentially serious situations. You can’t go wrong.”