Training >> Browse Articles >> Patrol


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

  • 9_11_01_max600_max50


    about 5 years ago



    thank you.

  • N1023300020_30025442_7610_max50


    about 5 years ago


    neat article

  • Dsci1209_max50


    about 5 years ago


    Great article

  • Wil_high_tight_max50


    about 5 years ago


    I understand the concept, and Im sure its wonderful, but I have to admit. I sort of grinned at “Excuse me. Could I chat with momentarily?" :D

  • Pencilchp_max50


    about 5 years ago


    I found this article to be very interesting. It's easy to say the phrases to avoid, but actually takes some work to use "Verbal Judo". By using VJ, respect is developed and, like the article said, can assist you later on. Great article. I'm passing it along.

  • One_ass_to_risk_max50


    about 5 years ago


    works department tryed it...

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 5 years ago

    This was a fantastic article. I gave it to one of the officers who advise the explorers meetings. They liked it as well

  • 202px-pennsylvania_state_police_max50


    about 5 years ago


    good info

  • Images_max50


    about 5 years ago

    2296 Comments sometimes.

  • Sdc14247_max50


    about 5 years ago


    Very informative. Respect is everything.

  • Christmas_picture_1_max50


    about 5 years ago


    They had a verbal judo lecture here at the local college that was taught by an ex-NYPD officer. I only knew about it after the fact, and missed it. I wish I could have went.

  • Asafari_max50


    about 5 years ago


    The path of least resistance is usually the best. Meaningful respect is a good way to earn self satisfaction! It also show's empathy and compassion to the public that we are supposed to serve in the best interest of.Our support is vital in the safety of our job.

  • Helicopter_max50


    about 5 years ago


    My outlook is to show everyone respect until they force me not to. This can take less than a second in some cases! The way my okd PTO put it was to be like the US eagle..olive branch in one hand, arrow in the other. Offer them peace but always have a plan to kill them if you need to.

  • 183974_10150146586172640_115059992639_7801208_7665591_n_1__max50


    about 5 years ago


    I believe this to be true to an extent. My personnal exprience while working the street is that I appraoch all even the lowest of the low with respect as a human but not all well respect you for giving them a chance at which time I would agree with Robocop33. You can't always hold hands and sing kumbaya with them, you have to get in their face and use the only language they know, which for the most part is a small precent of the population for now. Which is changing since we have gone soft as police and society has lost respect for life and family values. It sure will be interesting how long the " more gentle and nice attitude of the police" last due to this. I believe all things come back to a full circle. My attitude is respectful but I'll be damned if I will stand there and be walked on or taken advantage of just because they don't think I have the backbone to take action due to BS politics in the department or the country, I believe in going home at night or at the end of any shift.

  • Wind_therapy-_angel_max50


    about 5 years ago


    Never used it on the street, But as I have with folks in the detainment room I have found I can get information much easier using this language verse getting loud, Again I agree with the fact it really depends on your audience, your always going to have the ones that you have to give loud, clear commands to and you still have to go straight to the ground. I also use this as a Manager to de escalate situtations, I have found depending on who your customer is "How you deliver the message" does make a difference.

PoliceLink School Finder

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

* 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

shdfcvu commented on: "jkuyli frjuyt", 31 minutes ago.
MarlyB posted in: "OH JUST", about 2 hours ago.
MarlyB posted in: "OH JUST", about 2 hours ago.
MarlyB posted in: "OH JUST", about 2 hours ago.
IDEALIST joined the group "ANYONE CAN TALK ABOUT ANY THING IN THIS GROUP", about 2 hours ago.