Last month I talked about the ability to pick up nefarious signals from the criminal sort using the obviously non-politically correct phraseology: “The Asshole Alarm.” And whether you like the term or not (Yes Mike I know you don’t), the concept is real.
My belief is simple: communication is always happening, 99.999% (totally made up stat) of it happens on an unconscious level, and that disconnect between conscious decision making part of your brain and the intuitive unconscious part of your brain often causes hesitation which can lead to literal death.
So, let’s examine some of the behaviors that our unconscious picks up but that our conscious may have trouble identifying. We will start with one of my favorites.
In our Ultimate Survival Instincts Seminar we have numerous video examples of subjects scanning prior to an attack on an officer. Scanning is best described as the paying attention to the surrounding area rather than the officer. Someone who is scanning may be answering questions, listening to orders, and maybe even complying to commands, but, all the while the scanner’s head is moving and his eyes are searching. There is little to no direct eye contact. The suspect may scan a complete 360 degrees. He may look past the officer or look to the left and right. His communication definitely says: “I’m assessing the environment.”
The person scanning literally appears as though he is looking for something, and he is. What? One, or all of these three things:
- Escape route
- Back-up (the officer’s or his own)
Whatever it is, it’s all bad for the officer with whom the scanner is interacting. However, the good news in this scenario is this: the scanner is telegraphing his intent, and a savvy, observant, and aware police officer will pick up on this signal and deal with the situation at hand.
How is it to be dealt with? There are many answers, but I personally believe in keeping it simple. If you are dealing one-on-one with a subject and he begins to scan the area: address it. Asking, “What are you looking for?” is a straightforward and effective tactic. Coupling such a query with direct eye contact and an authoritative and confident tone communicates to the would-be assailant that you are a professional crime-fighter who is tactically sound and personally prepared. Such a communication tactic will in most cases alter the contemplative thought process of the scanner.
As mentioned, next month we will address more signals of nefarious intent that leak out through the unconscious of the criminal mind. Signals that need to be cataloged in the conscious mind of those engaged in law enforcement activities. If you have any examples that you wish to include, please write me direct at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to your contributions.
Lt. Jim Glennon (ret.) is a third generation law enforcement officer with an undergraduate degree in Psychology and a master’s degree in Law Enforcement Justice Administration. Jim was the lead instructor and curriculum director for the Calibre Press Street Survival Seminar.
Jim is the co-owner of LifeLine Training and specializes in teaching courses in: communication (Arresting Communication), leadership (Finding the Leader in You) and officer safety (Ultimate Survival Instincts).
Jim’s book, ARRESTING COMMUNICATION: Essential Interaction Skills for Law Enforcement was named one of the “ten best law enforcement books of all time” by LawOfficer.com
Jim’s company, LifeLine Training, is a Blue Crew sponsor, offering discounts to all Blue Crew members on their training classes and his book, Arresting Communication.