Tuesday, September 29, 2009
The art of perp whispering
Seven things a cop should never say to anyone, according to George J. Thompson:
7. “HEY YOU! COME HERE!”
6. “CALM DOWN!”
5. “I’M NOT GOING TO TELL YOU AGAIN!”
4. “BE MORE REASONABLE!”
3. “BECAUSE THOSE ARE THE RULES” (or “THAT’S THE LAW!”)
2. “WHAT’S YOUR PROBLEM?”
1. “WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO ABOUT IT?”
This morning I dropped by Police Link, a website devoted to law enforcement that's often valuable for its insights into cop thinking as well as tools and operations -- things that a mystery writer whose central character is a rural county sheriff can appreciate.
Today's feature on the site is by a "people whisperer" who specializes in the language with which cops ideally ought to approach subjects. George J. Thompson calls it "verbal judo," and keeps a website here.
For instance, saying No. 7, "Come here!", "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 [you] momentarily?' Notice this question is polite, professional, and calm."
Hmmm. Sounds like a good idea to me, but I just can't conceive of a cop using the word "chat." Maybe "Could we talk a moment?" might work better. Or "A word, sir?" as they might say in Britain.
Today's Police Link also contains a piece on "What Not to Say to a Cop." It'll make you laugh.