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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.

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


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  • 050_max50

    elektra411

    over 4 years ago

    282 Comments

    WHEN I READ THIS SIMPLE VJ TACTICTS I CLDNT AGREE MORE...I BELIEVE THEY ARE ANCIENT TACTICTS THAT HAVE BEEN PASSED ALONG FOR MANY MANY YEARS BC THEY PROVE TO WORK WELL WHEN PRACTICED AND MASTERED OF COURSE.NOW THERE WILL ALWAYS BE THOSE FOOLS THAT HAVE LOSS THEIR MINDS AND VJ MUST BE BYPASSED AND IM SURE OTHER TYPES OF TRAINING WILL NEED TO BE USED.BUT IM ALL FOR THIS TACTIC COMPLETELY!!

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    guarddog45

    over 4 years ago

    218 Comments

    Great...I can relate the "Its the Law" with a parental "BECAUSE I told You to". Funny how these all relate back to where we all started from. I'll try to keep your words of wisdom while I do my Security shifts. I'd rather avoid problems, not create more if possible.

  • A_eagle_7_max50

    Samspade30

    over 4 years ago

    16 Comments

    Mtarte
    Sorry to hear about your negative experience with Dr. Thompson. Mike Manning taught my class I did not meet Dr. Thompson personally. I totally agree with you about the older more experienced officers have been doing the same thing for years. That is one of the first things I told our people that VJ is being used in this department already and some officers are using it very effectively, it is just we are putting a label on it now. There is no magic in VJ it is teaching officers to show RE-spect to others. I do not understand Dr. Thompson disrespecting comments to your officers that is a tragic event indeed.

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    tanya13

    over 4 years ago

    10 Comments

    Very helpful. Very interesting.. One of the best articles Ive read so far.

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    magicmanmb

    over 4 years ago

    4 Comments

    Things like this is one reason I cancelled my magazine subscription to American Cop. On one page they are praising pc like this and the next the "columnists" were using profanity and the use of it being in real time.

    I understand that it's aimed towards LEO but they also publish a yearly annual that goes on the news stands for 2 or 3 months. The general public reading it makes us all sound like nutsjobs that were turned loose with guns. You can't have it both ways either use a variation of verbal judo or cuss out every one you stop.

    It's off topic here but to those that subscribe or buy the annual has Dave Douglas's retirement taken the mag in a different vein? One thing you also need to remember that you are being recorded either by your system or a by stander with a cell phone 99% of the time.

  • Scan0001_max50

    vlouie

    over 4 years ago

    1366 Comments

    VJ is good in some cases, but not in others. You have to know the environment to which you are in, in order for VJ to work. But in some cases it will never work, so street language is all they know. Every situation is different the object is to provide a solution to the problem, or go to jail. End of story, then move onto the next call.

  • Sam_0458_max50

    SNOW05

    over 4 years ago

    6 Comments

    POLICELINK HAS VERY USEFUL INFORMATION.......AND I DUE RESPECT TO OUR CITIZENS AND THE WORLD WE LIVE IN.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    roderick1084

    over 4 years ago

    2 Comments

    thanks, very useful

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Mtarte

    over 4 years ago

    112 Comments

    Dr. Thompson brought his Verbal Judo to the Bay Area years ago and I sent a cadre of FTOs to the training held in San Leandro. They came back the first day incensed. According to them, he started the class by telling those present that they were the worst officers in their departments and that is why they were there. Verbal Judo is nothing but what good cops have been doing since Sir Robert Peel and Thompson cashed in with what was already being done and put into a tidy little book. I talked to the chief about what our FTOs told me and he agreed with me and we pulled them from the rest of the class. Good communication skills are a must and I agree with much of what Thompson puts out here, but it also what I was taught by old cops over 30 years ago on how to handle people on the street. They also taught me to tailor my methods to the clientele I was dealing with. Those old timers were something to behold and I learned at their knee. Verbal Judo? Nope. Treating others respectfully? Yes. When you do that, it is reflected in your speech and tone of voice.

  • A_eagle_7_max50

    Samspade30

    over 4 years ago

    16 Comments

    I am a Verbal Judo instructor and I must say if you look at just this one aspect of the system then Verbal Judo will not work for you. I have found most veteran police use Verbal Judo and do not even know it. I do know that parts of CA uses and teaches Verbal Judo in their police academy but LA is not Detroit or the south side and I am sure the people in your cities are much tougher. I am a police officer in a town of about 30,000 people with a college. So I am also sure the crime here is not the same as it is where you are. I do know this; people react to the way you talk, people react to the words you use and people react to how you act. Most of you admitted this in your statements. If you do not think so then maybe you need Verbal Judo more than you realize. Police get enough bad press with out being rude, narcissistic and uncaring to the public. It reflects badly on us all. Do not get me wrong there are times words will do nothing to change the out come of a call. But when words fail and you have your recorder on Verbal Judo will make you sound professional and maybe even keep you out of the Chiefs office.

  • Enoughisenough_max50

    jortives1969

    over 4 years ago

    1686 Comments

    Verbal judo is all good if you work the North side of the city I work. One wrong word and you will be in the Chief Office the next day. I work in the South side. You tell those guys one of this nice words they'll eat you alive, some of them don't even know what you just said. The old fashion way is the one that works for me or lets say us, to include some M/F and F/U because that's the only way they'll understand. Now, someone on PCP you want to try some verbal judo until they make the first move, then is on..And like rkgtactical said, it just doesn't work in all areas.

  • Img_0140_max50

    rkgtactical

    over 4 years ago

    8 Comments

    Verbal Judo is just one more aspect of political correctness. I didn't use the terminology that was demonstrated here, but the terminology this "verbal judo" suggests would more than likely end up with me getting my butt handed to me. LOL In 25 years of police work in Detroit, I never had one case of police brutality brought against me. I was firm, but respectful. Trust me, "verbal judo" isn't something that would work in many areas.

  • Bronzestarribbon_max50

    csiguy

    over 4 years ago

    882 Comments

    A good article. I received this training way back when it was being developed and used it throughout my LEO career both military and civilian. It works great on senior officers in the military, when you are trying to deal with them and they out rank you!.

  • Snapshot_20090302_max50

    mcmullenda

    over 4 years ago

    48 Comments

    I was pulled over by a police officer who I thought was absolutely nuts. He came to my window, and loudly says, Oh my God. Where's so fire so I can send the trucks? He was really acting great and I mean I had to giggle. Then he smiled, if its not a fire, then could you please tell me why you are driving 15 over the limit? I told him, I have to pee. He said, like there is not one gas station within the four block radius. Well, he was right. But it was funny watching him go overboard then turn calmly asking me nice. LOLOL. I have to admit, some of these guys can really set the scene with actions and words. LOLOL

  • Jack_bauer_max50

    Allen705

    over 4 years ago

    1466 Comments

    Verbal Judo works on most people, but when it all fails, brawn and old school commands work just as well. :)

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