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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.


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!


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!


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.


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

  • Jerry_max50


    over 4 years ago


    I always thought the number one thing to NEVER say was, "It sure is quiet this evening."

  • America_s_future_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Hey can not help you if you do not listen. What he is saying is you are using Trigger words. The person will react to them without thinking, is is best to be smart than hard!

    "I am currently writing a book on the FTO program in general. What I am looking for are war stories, the good, the bad and the ugly. I had some of the worst FTOs for training and some of the best. I would like for you to share with me your stories in hopes that we can improve on a great idea for a program but one that can be a nightmare for you if you are assigned to someone that has no respect for an adult learner /trainee. Some FTOs can really unleash the abuse. Again I am looking for both good and bad stories, from the research that I have conducted so far, the stories are negative. I would also like to hear from FTOs about their experience with Trainees. This going into a book so if you like you can post anonymously. I hope to hear from you soon, thanks!"

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago


    How many late night shifts has this guy worked, if so, how many violent encounters has he endured, how many actual uses of deadly force has he utilized, get a life fella, academics is one thing, late night madness in the wrong side of town is another story.

  • Maa_class_badge_max50


    over 4 years ago


    we are taught some things like this in the Military. it is definatley hard not to say some things when spoken in everyday life. a good one is after pulling someone over during a traffic stop and issuing them a ticket- never say "have a nice day" lol.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago

    I guess I say things I should never say on a regular basis...hey but in my defense sometimes they work

  • Headshot_max50


    over 4 years ago


    try yelling "sir, you dropped your wallet!" during a foot the guy's reaction

  • Picture_38_max50


    over 4 years ago


    FloEW....I am a dispatcher and I can not believe you were spoken to like that! In my agency (and the agencies around me) we are trained to not use language like that and we are not even allowed to tell the caller to "Call Down". We can have some serious consequences if we are caught using language like that. Just know it is not all dispatchers, I promise! Some of us take our jobs very seriously and feel we have a duty just as the officers do. :0)

  • Mcso_patch_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Works great on paper, but have yet to have it happen on the street.

  • My_lapd_badge_max50


    over 4 years ago


    This guys a pogue! Very obtuse article.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago


    Who ever wrote this article must not be a Street Cop!!!!!! "Chat"!!!!!! Really???!!!!!!

  • Idf_soldier_and_kittyimage2_max50


    over 4 years ago


    "Remember, insult strengthens resistance and shuts the eyes. Civility weakens resistance and opens the eyes!" Good to remember.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 4 years ago


    Or the famous one.... STOP!!! while in a foot pursuit. If they're already running... they aren't going to stop.

  • Sc0000ff21_max50


    over 4 years ago


    Mtarte: I worked for a Bay Area PD for several years (retired 12 years ago), and Dr. Thompson also visited us. Our department's training was for all officers, not just FTO's. I wonder if we had him after your encounter with him, because we had a positive experience. After learning and using verbal judo, I only had to go "hands on" once after trying everything, and asking, "Is there anything I can say or do to........", and the response was, "F. you!!". So we went hands on and took care of business. But I was really surprised how effective it was in most situations.

  • Nativity_with_cross_max50


    over 4 years ago


    911 Dispatchers could really use that last one. Bad enough to have to call 911 because someone is threatening you and then get greeted with "Well what do you want us to do about it?" I actually had that happen. Kinda reduced my respect for dispatchers.

  • Patch_max50


    almost 5 years ago


    i hope one day i'll be able to use verbal judo during one of my tours

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