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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

  • 1979_max50


    about 5 years ago


    Okay, I understand not making a situation worse by using inflammatory language but come on, this kumbaya BS doesn't work on the streets. If I ever said some of these "suggestions" to the dirtbags I usually delt with they would have hurt themselves laughing or immediately attacked me thinking I was weak or afraid of them. No, remaining professional and firm wioth an air of confidence is what works. I am there to help but not to be taken advantage of or have a cup of tea and discuss what I think is wrong with the world with him.

  • 14-photo_14_max50


    about 5 years ago


    Hey, been away for a while but, Like RogueGirl ...I have a good one for you! I called a patrol car out to my home and the officer maybe 30 ish walks up and asks what the problem is. My problem was that I have just bought a home, upon moving in the neighbors were stealing my electricity via electric cord, my basement window screen has a finger hole and has been pulled away from the window, the screened door in front was broken, the door jam had been manipulated but, no entry. I am a single woman with custody of my 3 yr old special needs grandson. The house is pretty much secluded on 2 acres. In the last 10 yrs there has been a rise in home invasions and murders in the surrounding area The officer asked if anyone was hurt,anything taken or has anyone gained entry. I answered, no to all questions. He repositioined his chewing tobacco, looked at me and said, the hole in the window screen came from a small animal(a rabbit with thumbs I suppose) and told me there was no reason to make out a report and walked away. I'm standing in my yard feeling stupid for calling so, I go to the precinct the next day and within 5 mins a female Sgt comes out writes the report on what I have told her and I do have actual pics of the damage and utility theft. The Lt. came out and confronted my neighbor, I was advised to purchase protection for myself. I now have a gun permit, which is required by a certain county in my state for homeowners. I have another one, my son spent the night with "friends", this friend was supposed to be certain that he arrived at school the next morning since the youth miinistry lasted until 9 pm and it would be close 11:00 pm by the time he was dropped off. Ok, he never showed up at school, I called the answer for the whole day. By 10;00 am I was in a panic, went to the same precinct every two hrs for help, I forgot to say we have only lived in this state for less than a year at that time, with no family or friends. Just a job transfer. I was finally seen by a detective at 2;30 pm and was told that they don't have time to look for 13 yr old boys that are probably cutting school or getting high. Whoa!!! Feeling lots of pain here and wearing out the phone lines of the surrounding area hospitals and precincts ...I was told that they had more important things to worry about such as murders, rapes and drug dealers. Needless to say, my son arrived at home 6;00 pm that evening. His account of the whole day began something like this....Mom! I'm sorry I didn't go to school today, I woke up and found (woman) face down in her breakfast ,gray and unresponsive from overdose of pain killers, neighbor came over and I don't know what happened after that, I knew you would be mad at me if I missed school so I called another friends mom, she had errands to run and couldn't take me to school right away. We were on our way to school and got into a head-on collision, the car was totalled but we weren't going fast enough for us to get hurt so, I didn't go to the hospital. I was still trying to get to school and finally used my lunch money to give one of my friends older brother money for gas and he drove me home. All of his accounts were true as I confronted all adults involved and no longer attend church with a prescript drug swapping congregation. Unfortunately, before he left for the Marines, he was drowned by the offspring of these great and loving people of the community. When the same precinct came to my home to notify us that he had "gone" missing, all I could think of was the irony of it all.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 5 years ago

    Framingham police department, Newtown police deparment, Boston police deparment, and Worcester police deparment allways use the 7 things cops should never say to civilians. I need to get my story out there, I worked at Walgreens in Framingham one time and I was working the night shift, I was scared, I was alone, and I called the police deparment, I was connected to an officer and told him my situation, he sais to me,"Well, what do you want me to do about it. I was speechless and I told him my situation and that was the response I got from the officer. I didn't recieve the help and it was a very sad situation for me. Next to say, the Cheif of the Newton police department had a brother who sold drugs to some students from MassBayCommunity college, that was not a good thing. The Cheif turned a blind eye and just let the drug dealings occur for a long time. I don't think they are there anymore, but I am not sure. I don't like big city police deparments and small police deparments who get away with so many bad things.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 5 years ago


    Goes right along with the Bible, James, I reckon..."The cocked tongue thing that is!!!"

  • 74596_129289523905506_927477597_n_max50


    over 5 years ago


    I remember on my ride-along, there was a call we went to for public intoxication...the subject was yelling and making commotion yet when we showed up at the scene, my ride along officer was very calm, cool and even friendly and made small chit chat with him while we were driving to the jail. I noticed the man's demeanor really changed and he was very calm and cooperative.

    Unfortunately, there will be situations where people will just do what they want regardless of what you say or do. However, I think this was a good article.Thumbs up.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 5 years ago

    This is a very informative article. I would suggest this to everyone; whether or not they have gone through "Verbal Judo" classes or not.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 5 years ago


    Very good info here. I've had to tell say it over and over to many of my guards. Use your words carefully.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 5 years ago


  • Img_2657_max50


    over 5 years ago


    Very good points here. I think a lot of civilians have either had a bad experience with a cop, or simply haven't had a good one, which then leads them to view police officers as hard, uncaring people. I think a kind word and a smile wouldn't go astray and it would have a great amount of impact on those to whom it was bestowed, and who knows, that smile could have changed a hard opinion and instead of growing up hating police like their mates, they remember the cop who smiled and offered assistance in a polite way...

  • Sf_max50


    over 5 years ago


    I have learned a lot, or at least refreshed my "Common Sense" with this Verbal Judo stuff, it is really helpful.

  • Kate_n_i_max50


    over 5 years ago


    i knew it all along thru personal experience prior to my leo days......seriousely!

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 5 years ago


    Wow, there is certainly some hostility and ego erupting here. I think that the point of the article is "Try not to escalate a potentially violent encounter with easy to use expressions that have little thought for the reaction". In other words use your creativity to try to defuse when possible. I don't think you can go so far as to say NEVER USE THESE EXPRESSIONS, just try to think a little on your feet instead of using the easy way out. It is very easy to escalate a situation, there are alot of officers who do this and that is why there is so much public scrutiny. This article is just an attempt to get you thinking about the effects of your words on any given situation, you don't have to be softer, just a little more diplomatic. When the time comes to act, you act swiftly. But at the end of any confrontation you can at least say that you did what you could to de-escalte and that the suspect gave you no other alternative than to use force.

  • W005_weasel_max50


    over 5 years ago


    Let's install expresso machines in our cruisers so we can have a cup while we talk about it. "Tell me your Feelings." LMAO

  • Washington_020_max50


    over 5 years ago


    I am not an LEO or have ever been in LE, but I am trained in dealing with the public and dealing with unreasonable individuals. No, what I learned did not deal with people on drugs or people who were drunk. Those people are not thinking clearly enough to understand much of anything less than force. In a situation where an individual is out of control over an issue, imagined or real, I was trained to look them in the eye, shut my mouth and let them vent their anger, then say one simple statement that worked 100% of the time for me. That statement was, "Sir, if I were you, I sure I would feel exactly the same way you do". What that statement does is take the wind out of their sails. Once you have said that, you are no longer "on the other side". You are now standing beside them. They no longer have anyone to argue with and in every case I have used that statement, the other person just stood there looking at me with their mouth hanging open. Many even smiled & the argument ended as abruptly as it started...and the situation had been defused. Confrontation is never the answer. That statement does not oppress anyone, does not diminish the officer's authority nor does it encourage the race card to be flipped. It is just an intelligent method of dealing with someone who is on the verge of violence. If you don't believe it works, try it sometime and report back here how it worked for you.

  • Goku_ssj3_max50


    over 5 years ago


    This kind of garbage is further diluting an already oppressed police force. Police protect the citizenry every day and risk their lives every shift while upholding the laws of our nation, but are forced more and more to baby and coddle the hardened criminals of the streets. Oh, we mustn't offend anyone, watch your language, commission against police brutality, etc., etc.... The real problem is not allowing our peace officers the power they require to be effective, as most officers could be 200% more effective if they weren't always worried about punishment for upsetting the wrong perp who casually flips the race card or screams brutality when that same perp would gladly shoot and kill officers and citizens alike! Dr. Thompson, do us all a favor and hitch a ride back to anger management class where you belong, and stop trying to school the police about something you obviously know NOTHING about!

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