Print

Training >> Browse Articles >> Patrol

+134

7 Things Cops Should Never Say To Anyone

7 Things Cops Should Never Say To Anyone

By Dr. George Thompson

Dr. George J. Thompson is the President and Founder of the Verbal Judo Institute, a tactical training and management firm now based in Auburn, NY. For full details on Dr. Thompson’s work and training, please visit the Verbal Judo Web Site.

Safety lies in knowledge. If you deal with cagey street people, or indeed difficult people at all, anywhere, you need to watch your tongue! The “cocked tongue” can be more lethal than the 9 millimeter or the 45.

See this list of seven commonly used statements that can work against you.

7. “HEY YOU! COME HERE!”

Consider, you are on patrol and you see someone suspicious you want to talk with, so you most naturally say, “Hey you! Come here!” Verbal Judo teaches that “natural language is disastrous!” and this provides a wonderful example. You have just warned the subject that he is in trouble. “Come here” means to you, “Over here, you are under my authority.” But to the subject it means, “Go away-quickly!” The words are not tactical for they have provided a warning and possibly precipitated a chase that would not have been necessary had you, instead, walked casually in his direction and once close said, “Excuse me. Could I chat with momentarily?” Notice this question is polite, professional, and calm.

Also notice, you have gotten in close, in his “space” though not his “face,” and now you are too close for him to back off, giving you a ration of verbal trouble, as could have easily been the case with the “Hey you! Come here!” opening.

The ancient samurai knew never to let an opponent pick the place of battle for then the sun would always be in your eyes! “Come here” is loose, lazy, and ineffective language. Easy, but wrong. Tactically, “May I chat with you” is far better, for not only have you picked the place to talk, but anything the subject says, other than yes or no-the question you asked-provides you with intelligence regarding his emotional and/or mental state. Let him start any ‘dance’ of resistance.

Point: Polite civility can be a weapon of immense power!

6. “CALM DOWN!”

Consider this verbal blunder. You approach some angry folks and you most naturally say, “Hey, calm down!” This command never works, so why do we always use it? Because it flows naturally from our lips!

What’s wrong with it? One, the phrase is a criticism of their behavior and suggests that they have no legitimate right to be upset! Hence, rather than reassuring them that things will improve, which should be your goal, you have created a new problem! Not only is there the matter they were upset about to begin with, but now they need to defend their reaction to you! Double the trouble!

Better, put on a calming face and demeanor-in Verbal Judo we say, ‘Chameleon up’-look the person in the eye and say, gently, “It’s going to be all right. Talk to me. What’s the matter?” The phrase "What’s the matter?’ softens the person up to talk and calm down; where ‘Calm down’ hardens the resistance. The choice is yours!

5. “I’M NOT GOING TO TELL YOU AGAIN!”

We teach in Verbal Judo that ‘repetition is weakness on the streets!’ and you and I both know that this phrase is almost always a lie. You will say it again, and possibly again and again!

Parents do it all the time with their kids, and street cops do it with resistant subjects, all the time! The phrase is, of course, a threat, and voicing it leaves you only one viable option-action! If you are not prepared to act, or cannot at the time, you lose credibility, and with the loss of creditability comes the loss of power and safety!

Even if you are prepared to act, you have warned the subject that you are about to do so and forewarned is forearmed! Another tactical blunder! Like the rattlesnake you have made noise, and noise can get you hurt or killed. Better to be more like the cobra and strike when least suspected!

If you want to stress the seriousness of your words, say something like, ‘Listen, it’s important that you get this point, so pay close attention to what I’m about to tell you.’

If you have used Verbal Judo’s Five Steps of Persuasion you know that we act after asking our “nicest, most polite question,”

“Sir, is there anything I could say that would get you to do A, B and C? I’d like to think so?”

If the answer is NO, we act while the subject is still talking! We do not telegraph our actions nor threaten people, but we do act when verbal persuasion fails.

4. “BE MORE REASONABLE!”

Telling people “be more reasonable” has many of the same problems as “Calm Down!” Everyone thinks h/she is plenty reasonable given the present circumstances! I never have had anyone run up to me and say, “Hey, I know I’m stupid and wrong, but here’s what I think!” although I have been confronted by stupid and wrong people! You only invite conflict when you tell people to “be more reasonable!”

Instead, make people more reasonable by the way in which you handle them, tactically! Use the language of reassurance-“Let me see if I understand your position,” and then paraphrase-another VJ tactic!-back to them their meaning, as you see it, in your words! Using your words will calm them and make them more reasonable because your words will (or better be!) more professional and less emotional.

This approach absorbs the other’s tension and makes him feel your support. Now you can help them think more logically and less destructively, without making the insulting charge implied in your statement, “Be more reasonable!”

Again, tactics over natural reaction!

The Top 3 Things Cops Should Never Say


+134
  • Photo_user_blank_big

    surferpig

    almost 5 years ago

    28 Comments

    I thought this was a forum for police and former police officers. This is not the case. For you people that have never been or are going to be LEO's once you put on that uniform you will notice a difference. Not just from others but within yourself. Those that have been or currently LEO's know what I am talking about.

  • Sgtstripes_max50

    SgtT

    almost 5 years ago

    168 Comments

    "THANK YOU FINALLY SOMEONE WITH SOME BRAINS AND NOT JUST A BADGE..."

    manipulator, are you suggesting that we are all dumb cops here? I agree there have been some comments that are spoken from inexperience but I have only seen a few made that show igorance and they haven't all been from the cops here.

  • Wed_max50

    lauriy

    almost 5 years ago

    4 Comments

    The police are always professional and they always say the right things. I am surprised they haven't had alot more training on how to act towards people.I think they look beautiful when they are dealing with the public.

  • Sgtstripes_max50

    SgtT

    almost 5 years ago

    168 Comments

    I too have worked in bad neighborhoods over my 18 years in law enforcement. I helped establish a "weed and seed" program in one of our worst communities. For those of you who have been around a while you know about the program. I worked that particular neighborhood for over six years and still have the respect of most of the citizens. It wasn't because I always talked nice it was because I treated everyone fair and impartial. Sometimes you just have to tell someone to shut up but that shouldn't be your opening dialog.

    You need to know different cultures to understand how to truly talk/deal with people. It isn't one size fits all. There is nothing better than experience and there is only one way to get it.

  • 024_22a_max50

    tacsgt

    almost 5 years ago

    28 Comments

    I agree with SgtT, in that verbal judo is not right for every situation, but it DOES WORK! I have been patrolling some of the worst projects in the country! The last 4 years in Richmond, CA! I am on my 20th year. The years before I took a verbal judo course (now required in California Academies) almost every arrest was a violent one. By using this very easy tactic, those physical confrontations are now rare! People only want to be heard. The criminals know they'll go to jail for what they do, but if you give them no room to act like a true idiot, they usually won't! Younger officers actually call some of us that apply verbal judo as "Jedi Masters"! A lot of times, we just talk them into the 'cuffs! Verbal judo, used properly, will even give you advanced warning when you need to step up to harsher methods! Those of you knocking it have never seen it applied! Try it before discounting it!

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    almost 5 years ago

    Good article. Unfortunately the approaches suggested only work for people like myself who respect the a-tho-rit-ay.... for people who have no respect, and keep pushing the envelope, and break the law as a force of habit, unfortunately end up earning themselves a pair of metal bracelets, if not a sound walloping with a baton...a better approach might be to blend the ideals with the realistic. This is just my 1/50th of a dollar, I have never worked law enforcement before, but i am military and a little honey goes much further in getting people to do what you want, than all the piss and vinegar and rage in the world... it's called motivation. Cheers to the police for all that you do.

  • Sgtstripes_max50

    SgtT

    almost 5 years ago

    168 Comments

    Verbal judo does work in many situations. The problem is some apply it to every situation and that simply does not work. It is better to use soft language when diffusing a situation when you can but you also need to know when to switch gears and take a harder approach. Sometimes you just have to go hands on.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    fedhead

    almost 5 years ago

    64 Comments

    Why are naysaying cop bashers on this site? This is a LEO support site, go Twitter on facebook or myspace about your liberal bullshit, because we don't care what you little shits think. I'm a ghetto cop and work in the jungle, sweeping the streets of shit bags so we can have a better world. You little haters can go piss your pants and cry to your mommys, you don't belong on this site or in law enforcement.

  • Us-lgflag_max50

    RONRJ26

    almost 5 years ago

    64 Comments

    mckenzigriffin, your mindless rant over a seat belt law is more than enough to undermine your credibility and intelligence. Feel free to continue to "stick it to the man" by refusing to wear your seatblelts and just go on paying those $10 fines, you rebel you. Your priorities are clearly out of whack. Then, some day, when the police and firefighters are scraping your sorry a$$ off the street, you'll have really shown them.

  • Wonderwomani07_max50

    Coolwaters

    almost 5 years ago

    2 Comments

    Some of the comments below are laughable, as is this list. I'd love to see these tough talking, pious guys work the streets for a few days - wouldn't last long, that's for sure. It's Darwinian that someone is talking tough about not wearing a seatbelt - good, don't wear it, PLEASE! Cops have the a job as law enforcement not legislators. You don't like the law, complain to your politicians. Cops deal with a usually pathetic and dangerous public and criminal population. They have already been given so many things to say and don't say - this list is just another well meaning paper pushing person trying to improve things but because of their very naive perspective, it's just not pertinent. Not many of those armchair contributors would last a day on the streets. And they'd probably end up getting someone else killed too, because of their cluelessness. Those of you who are not street cops don't know enough about the work to even have an opinion.

  • Zoo_award_thanksgiving_279_max50

    coyotemchugh

    almost 5 years ago

    292 Comments

    The only people this stuff works with is children, or the mentally unstable that need to be talked to like children so they will comply.

  • Sgtstripes_max50

    SgtT

    almost 5 years ago

    168 Comments

    There are some valid points to the verbal judo approach but some carry it a bit too far.

    mckenzigriffin, you are just angry because you can't be a law enforcement officer. You lack the intelligence and intestinal fortitude to do what we do. It is easy for you to sit behind your little computer and criticize those who do what you cannot. You should probably iron your McDonalds uniform and get to work..............

  • 7_max50

    Decado

    almost 5 years ago

    16 Comments

    This list is friging stupid. The person or persons that wrote have not spent one day working the road as a cop.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Anonymous

    almost 5 years ago

    OK.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Shamrock61

    almost 5 years ago

    314 Comments

    I suggest that today's police harken back to yesteryear and take a page out of the play book. You were given a post to poice and it was your home while working. YOu didn't have a radio or a car. You depended ont he people on your post for help. So you didn't go about creating enemies, you tried to make friends. You were there for their protection, not just to enforce every law to the nth degree with arrests. You diecided who were the knuckleheads and who you were going to give slack to. You knew who was doing what and who you could go to for information (usually those that you have given some slack to). Every violation of the law did not result in an arrest if you could use it to build a relationship within the community. It was community policing before the phrase was ever invented! You knew who you had to be tough with and who you could finese. And if you were battling 3 guys at once you wanted those citizens to come to your aid or to call for help for you, and you didn't get that help by being a hard ass. Your job was to keep crime off your post, not to respond to the crime; it was being proactive not reactive and that is where it should be now.

PoliceLink School Finder

Save time in your search for a criminal justice degree program. Use PoliceLink's School Finder to locate schools online and in your area.

Get Info

* In the event that we cannot find a program from one of our partner schools that matches your specific area of interest, we may show schools with similar or unrelated programs.

Recent Activity

Pl1_max30
trouttrooper posted in: "Thoughts on Isis....", 8 minutes ago.
Star_max160_max160_max30
klamm143 posted in: "Suspended", 9 minutes ago.