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Tactical Communication Tips and Tricks #18


Successful outcomes require flexibility and discretion.

"... Unbending rigor is the mate of death, and yielding softness, company of life:

unbending soldiers get no victories;

the stiffest tree is readiest for the axe.

The strong and mighty topple from their place;

the soft and yielding rise above them all."

From "The way of Life" - Lao Tzu,

Translated by R.B. Blakney, 1955, N.Y.

This quote was placed in a 19 page term paper, by the Late Bruce Lee on 16 May 1962, called: "The Tao of Gung Fu - A study of the "Way" of the Chinese Martial Art." (This can be seen in the book, "Absorb what is useful" by Mr Daniel Inosanto.)

I thought the quote above appropriate as one of the important traits that Police and Law Enforcement including Security possess is flexibility and discretion.

Yes. I know it is sometimes challenging and ones choices narrow in a tense situation, but as in life, there are usually several ways to resolve a tense situation and conflict. We try to emphasize the 'best' or most 'ideal' versions.

Many people play "armchair quarterback" on a decision that may take a split second to come to in a real threatening or use of force encounter, it is imperative we do don't also second guess situations without the facts.

Training is important though. We should practice and learn our options and play them over and over to ensure we make the best decisions we can in the given situations.

Flexibility and discretion is great to have.


An emotionally charged person could be a direct threat to our immediate safety and those whom we are sworn to protect. An aggressive person could be a very menacing and intimidating person and often affects our emotions. These people would not only make our job very difficult, but they could even threaten our lives.

Usually, many people would like to avoid confrontation of people in these states but the truth is, once in a while we will have to engage these types of people. Sometimes it will not change, whatever we do. Sometimes we will be able to change to a more reasonable state. Usually, we can avoid provoking their behaviour, which may have occasionally been done quite unintentionally and also impacted due to the subject person being under the influence of something.

I have no problem resorting to physical modes of controlling any type of subject where justified and warranted. I do want to ensure that as much as possible, we provide the necessary tools to officers to try to ensure they don't inadvertantly exacerbate a situation or escalate the situation, when they may not even know that they are doing so. These Officers may be getting assaulted or complained about on a regular basis, and all it would take is some training to reduce this.

Cross cultural impacts and other factors

An example is dealing in a cross cultural setting and not realising that people of this culture get very upset, more than usual, when you show them the sole of your foot (such as sitting cross legged) or pointing a finger during your animated descriptions.

Or when you say you are under arrest in public to someone who know they are under arrest and probably expect it and you walk in and touch them cuff in hand. Usually, if there is any hint of brovado or peer pressure and others watching, you could take your time and tell them they are under arrest (as they are even expecting it) and seem reasonable. Watch their response. Don't engage and touch them until you have given it a moment and watched their response. If they are resistant or combative - then do not engage yet - if possible. Try to talk them down first if safety protocols allow. You may find it works a using your "Tac Com" skills you may not need to engage in higher levels of use of force - thereby reducing possible injury to the subject or yourself, etc.

When a person is emotionally charged and upset it is highly unlikely that they will be thinking logically and reasonably. They will probably act quite irrationally and without thought of consequence. They will not demonstrate much patience either.

They will quite possibly overreact for the slightest reason and it may not take much to push them into one of the extremes of the interactive confrontational states. i.e., They may start crying or become physically aggressive, or even both.

The body's automatic defence mechanisms are basically the same as for the 'High Stress' type ('fight or flight') reaction, as they are for being in an 'emotionally charged' state. Therefore, when we encounter people in these states it is important to note that this person may just wish to attack us, (fight) or they may wish to flee the scene completely, (flight) and it is our presence and reactions that may decide on whether the intensity grows or diminishes. The arrested subject may become monosyllabic in their responses ("What?!" "Yeah!" "C'mon!" etc) as they become more resistance and prepare to fight. They may also demonstrate some recognisable postures of resistance to look for.

Whether they will act with increased intensity or become more reasonable. That is often up to us. (We try to control a situation. We often choose our force options based on the level of resistance we face. We are also subject to a certain level of peer pressure or certainly, common and expected conduct. Yet we must keep ourselves and the public safe.)

It is VITAL that we use Tactical Communications in all our Use of Force encounters, even physical ones.

That way we can try to de-escalate or diffuse a situation. And we can also communicate what is really happening to the public watching. By shouting "Please put your hands behind your back and stop resisting arrest" when someone is resisting, it reinforces what they are doing for the public support and the subjects benefit... The witnesses hear and see someone resisting arrest.

An Officer may not be blamed for failing to control an emotionally charged person at the lowest levels. It may require a seemingly impossible amount of skill and tolerance.

However, although it does require expert level 'people skills' to control someone in this intense state, I do feel that as Police Officers you may have this ability. Think of a time when you or someone you knew was emotionally upset or angered and aggressive. What was it like? How did it go? What happened to diffuse or escalate things? Is it possible to become violent when upset?...or to become passive and calm again without violence?...Of course it is.

A person who is upset or aggressive may want to be heard or respected. They usually have a problem that they wish solved, and in there primitive instincts, they now feel that the only way to achieve that, is to actively demonstrate. They may feel they have to act a certain way to save face. Whatever the case, our goal should be to reduce their tension and control them/the situation.

One of the ways we try to this is twofold. We motivate them in a way that they do not wish to escalate any further: by stopping their escalation, and then reducing the intensity level.

Let the subject know that you are professional, unbiased, empathetic and caring whilst also sending the signal that although you do not wish to, you are trained and fully prepared to deal with them physically, if necessary. Most people know that they will eventually lose if they fight the Police, so why do they do it?

There are many reasons, but let’s take one of those reasons away from them: any antagonistic attitude from you, the Officer.

Making an arrest or taking control

When someone you have to arrest is very emotionally upset and aggressive you should not just invade their personal space and touch them or act too threatening – without calculation and knowing the possible consequences.

That is the time when they are likely to physically resist or even attack.

Take your time if you can. Appear reasonable. Hear their concerns. Try to reason if you can. use the skills taught in the course (and the books) to motivate compliance and diffuse aggressive behaviour.

Identify you have seen they are getting upset and try to take a moment to calm them down. If you have to move in and grab them, know they may strike out, and do so swiftly and quickly to gain control.

Remember your officer safety, subject control approach and use good communication and prepare for resistance behaviour at any time during the encounter – just in case.

There are so many tips and tricks in speaking to resistance subject sand the situations vary from a drunk patron influenced by alcohol to the irate combatant influenced by anger and emotion... but you will find that using a proactive approach to your verbal and non-verbal communication skills (Tactical Communications) - you may be able to resolve it peacefully. And if not, more often than not, you will seem reasonable in the process and be able to justify any appropriate levels of force when used.

[Excerpts from the new Tactical Communications book - by Gary Foo due in 2014]

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