By Lt. Jim Glennon, Lombard, IL (ret.)
The article last month, Pre-attack indicators: Conscious recognition of telegraphed cues, elicited a number of e-mail responses that not only supported the cues cited but also pointed out the many that were left out. Several of them follow.
Shane Wickson of Cleburne, Texas, and a recent attendee at the Fort Worth Street Survival Seminar wrote:
The removal of the hat: "You asked for input on other indicators, so here is one I didn't see mentioned. One prominent one we have here and in other parts of the South is the removal of the hat. Guys wearing hats, jackets and even glasses will often remove them prior to initiating an assault. I believe that was also in the Constable (Darrell) Lunsford video you mentioned. [Lunsford was killed with his own gun during a traffic stop in 1991, and the video of the incident is used in the Street Survival Seminar to train on various cues that indicate an impending assault.] You have to move a lot to remove a jacket, but someone can fairly subtly remove a hat."
Bruce Byron of the Phoenix Police Department referenced the following examples:
Tattoos: "Some can be read like a book. Gangs, prison time, even previous crimes, can be observed if enough 'tats' are visible. Even a suspect's truthfulness can sometimes be determined by a tattoo. For example, if you ask someone his name and if he responds 'Joe' while sporting a tattoo of 'Mike' on his body, that would certainly raise a flag. Rule of thumb might be: The more tats, the more you should watch that suspect closely."
Eye movement or lack thereof: "Gazing at the ground, no eye contact — a bad thing. Directly looking right into your eyes and never looking away? Even worse."
Turning away: "A potential person of interest sees your patrol unit or you in uniform and he or she changes direction or moves away. Flag!"
Illogical responses: "Stories or answers that make no sense should be a dead giveaway that someone is using part of their brain to formulate a plan instead of being truthful and cooperating with us. Anytime something like that is happening – flag!"
Clothing: "Super baggy, inappropriate for the weather conditions, and so on. Weapons are only a surprise to us when they can be hidden."
Lack of cooperation: "Doesn't follow commands, or complies and then repeats the negative behavior over and over again (such as continuing to place hands in the waist band or pockets, continuing to move away, refusing to stop moving)."
Zero reaction to anything you ask or say: "Someone who shows no reaction to commands or questions is almost always a person that is about to assault you or flee."
Robert Drewry, a criminal investigator for the Calhoun County Prosecutor's Office in Battle Creek, Mich., made an exceptional observation as a veteran law enforcement officer:
The shoulder slump: "I'd like to share with you what I call the shoulder slump. It's where during the course of escorting a suspect he suddenly slumps towards either shoulder. Sometimes it's accompanied by a groan, feigning an illness or injury. What he's doing is trying to draw the officer in close enough so he can explode forcefully from the low position and come up with a relatively strong blow to the officer's face or head. We had a regular 'customer' when I worked for the PD named Mickey who was well known for sucker-punching officers. He tried his technique on me one night when I was escorting him back to the jail. The best counter I know is to maintain your distance, let him know verbally that you aren't falling for it and be ready for him to come up. Once Mickey realized I knew what he was doing and that I wasn't falling for it, he straightened up and walked into his cell without incident."
Drewry makes another good point in his story: The observations made by a veteran officer and the communications signaled by that officer to the potential assailant can be crucial. Maintaining distance, good strong presence and eye contact, coupled with a command voice, will in most cases influence the thought process of an adversary. Communicate professionalism and confidence and you tell your would-be attacker that you are tactically sound and prepared. Communicate uncertainty and doubt and you may encourage an assault on your person.
As mentioned in the first of the series of articles: in most cases before someone attacks, he or she will communicate that intention, either by direct language ("I'm gonna kick your ass!") or through some type of body language or paralinguistic cue. The key for law enforcement officers is to recognize these cues on a conscious level. In order to do this we must educate ourselves, share our experiences, and practice reading people.