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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

  • Copy_of_me_max50


    over 5 years ago


    The article wrote, "had you, instead, walked casually in his direction and once close said, 'Excuse me. Could I chat with momentarily?' In an article depicting the correct things to say I'm surprised the editor didn't notice that the first suggestion was miswritten, unless of course the writer meant that they wanted to speak to someone named "momentarily", but then they would have capitalized the word, wouldn't they have? :) Good day....

  • Caronstar_20_2__max50


    over 5 years ago


    I met the Doc in Jacksonville several years ago he is an excellent instructor. His information is useful and has worked for me secveral times. This artical is written much like his books are written. LEO's need all the tools we can get, this verbal tool can be carried and used at any time. Even works with teenagers! As you can see I like the concept of verbal judo espically if it is used to gain an advantage in a tactical situtation, or when waiting for a back up to get to you.

  • Gail19_max50


    over 5 years ago


    I would say that the advice given is good. It prevents an upset subject from getting more upset, and it reassures the subject that the response he/she gets will show he/she is respected as well as their feelings. The best weapon is not what you wear on your person, but the intelligence and wisdom you hold in your head.

  • Tic_max50


    over 5 years ago


    Great advice! Working with a partner that has a lack of tact in these areas can be more stressful than dealing with the civilian. One can spend more time calming the person down after a verbal miscue by another officer than dealing with the original complaint. Escalation of force starts with the first words out of the mouth!

  • Fa03_max50


    over 5 years ago


    yes great tips and knowledge advice ,its true we have to use certain words or talk to certain people in the way that they would understand and listen to us with what ever issue it is .

  • First48_blue_max50


    over 5 years ago


    Great Tips!

  • Wind_therapy-_angel_max50


    over 5 years ago


    Nice, this makes so much sense.

  • Hawaii_pics_164_max50


    over 5 years ago


    Not one suggestion I could argue against.

  • Birthday_09__max50


    over 5 years ago


    GIven that no given contact is ever the same. I do agree with this article in the fact that it gives you a foundation for your lawful reason to stop somebody. Where it goes from there is on the subject/suspect. CYA. Be Safe!

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 5 years ago


    I loved it when I was pulled over for speeding in Oak Lawn, Illinois, two years ago - this maniac not only did the lights, but he also had the siren on. THEN, he leaned his head in my window as if he was a thug trying to carjack me. On top of my having to go to court for the speeding, he was really obsessed about my not wearing a seatbelt. The lecture he gave me about that took longer than an average murder trial. He started with the ever-charming "I'm giving you a compliance citation - I don't suppose you know what that is, DO YA!" Police officers are really just decent hard-working men and women who only seek to help the community, but this guy was a disgrace. In essence, a pig. I"m not a former 1970's underground radical, but I can definitely say this guy was a pig. I spoke to an officer at the station about going to court, just to ask what normally happens, since I'd never been through that before. When I told him I was pulled over by a cop in an unmarked maroon car, the poor guy just rolled his eyes and shook his head, "yeah...I know who that is...."

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 5 years ago


    The only thing I disagree with is the bit about "let's chat" - all the rest seem reasonable. I was pulled over in Evergreen Park, Illinois, for speeding (yes, I admit it - I paid the ticket that day, I just wanted to move on, no pun intended) . Anyway, the officer opened with "how're you doing", politetly asked why I was going so fast (I drive a cab and didn't want to be late for a pick-up) and even advised me on how quickly I can regain my license. At first he said the ticket can be used for a license, then when I mentioned debit card purchases, he understood it was my only photo ID card and I got it back that day. Now I use cruise control.

  • Drew_max50


    over 5 years ago


    This is a joke! It depends on the person and the environment. Second, a police officer is the authoritive figure. He or she is there to enforce the law, if they feel they are in trouble that is their problem because it is how they feel. Police and other people can't control others feelings. If criminals are angry or in a rage and commit a crime sshould we look the other way and say its ok someone offended them. They aren't responsible because they were spoken to poorly?

  • Img_4224_max50


    over 5 years ago


    If only every cop used verbal Judo haha

  • Qps_badge_max50


    over 5 years ago


    I always go with the attitude that you treat everyone was if they were your Grandma, until they give you a reason not to. That reason might come before you stop them in the case of 4 armed robbers in a stolen car, or it might come halfway through a traffic stop for a simple speeding ticket when the driver becomes belligerent and abusive. But if you start off low, you got room to move. Start off aggressive and you got nowhere to go but backwards. - Another Aussie Cop

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 5 years ago

    Several comments in this forum have a dig at the basic ideas that are presented here. And the way I see it that's what these are - Basic Ideas. A simple ground level foundation to work upon.
    As an Aussie Cop sometimes our ways are very different to my fellow US brothers and sisters, however the ground level is always the same. When 'making contact' with any member of the public I reckon to start low and work up the ladder of verbal aggression is always the way to go. However I fully appreciate that sometimes to 'come out swinging' is occassionally necessary. So be it!. Play the game as it's presented to you at any given moment. "Aim for Peace for peace - Prepare for War - Fight for Life!"
    As I read somewhere previously, "To insult someone strengthens their resistance and shuts their eyes. But to be civil weakens resistance and opens their eyes!"
    But, yes, there are times when you just gotta belt the f$%^&*s! ;-)
    Go well all, Stay safe.

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