7 Things Cops Should Never Say

This is a summary of a really great article by Dr. George Thompson that you can read here.

7.  “Hey You, Come Here!”

You have just warned the subject that he is in trouble. “Come here” to the subject means, “Go away-quickly!” The words 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 you momentarily?” Notice this question is polite, professional, and calm.

6.  “Calm Down!”

This phrase is a criticism of their behavior and suggests that they have no legitimate right to be upset!  Better, put on a calming face and say, “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; where ‘Calm down’ hardens the resistance. The choice is yours!

5.  “I’m Not Going To Tell You Again!”

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!  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.’

4.  “Be More Reasonable!”

You will never have anyone run up to you and say, “Hey, I know I’m stupid and wrong, but here’s what I think!”.  Make people more reasonable by the way in which you handle them.  Use the language of reassurance-“Let me see if I understand your position,” and then paraphrase 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 be more professional and less emotional.

3.  “Because That’s The Law!”

If ever there was a phrase that irritates people and makes you look weak, this is it!  If you are enforcing laws that exist for good reason, don’t be afraid to explain that! Your audience may not agree with or like it, but at least they have been honored with an explanation. Note, a true sign of respect is to tell people why.

2.  “What’s Your Problem?”

This snotty, useless phrase turns the problem back on the person needing assistance. It signals this is a “you-versus-me” battle rather than an “us” discussion. The typical reaction is, “It’s not my problem. You’re the problem!”  Substitute tactical phrases designed to soften and open someone up, like “What’s the matter?”, “How can I help?”, or “I can see you’re upset, let me suggest . . . .”

1.  “What Do You Want Me To Do About It?”

When you say, “What do you want me to do about it?” you can count on two problems: the one you started with and the one you just created by appearing to duck responsibility.  Instead, tactically offer to help sort out the problem and work toward a solution. If it truly is not in your area of responsibility, point the subject to the right department or persons that might be able to solve the problem.


Remember, insult strengthens resistance and shuts the eyes. Civility weakens resistance and opens the eyes!

It’s tactical to be nice!

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