Trending Topics

Why you should keep talking when an offender attacks you

Talking through a fight can help you catch the aggressive offender off guard and allow you to gain the upper hand

In gaining compliance from offenders, your verbal skills are crucial. The offender must know exactly what it is that you expect them to do. The directives need to be delivered in a manner that is likely to gain compliance. You must be able to de-escalate a hostile offender while giving the offender directives. These are things we pretty much do daily, or at least regularly to some extent.

There are times, no matter how good you are, that verbals will not work; times when you have to use some amount of physical force to achieve your goal. There will also be times when the situation is to the point that there is no option other than force. The offender may initiate the use of force (UOF) immediately, or it could be that, in the midst of a conversation, it becomes obvious there is no de-escalating the offender. Perhaps the offender has not become physical yet, but there is no other way for the situation to end.

In these situations, where verbals either have failed or will soon fail, it will be helpful to continue verbals up to and throughout the UOF.

Keep in mind, it’s rare that we have adequate numbers of officers at every post. Meaning, most likely once you call for help, or someone sees you need help, it will take several seconds or minutes before your assistance arrives. That is a very long time when physically struggling with one or more offenders.

So the physical portion for you has to begin well before you get to the point of no return. You cannot wait until seconds before the use of force to begin thinking about how to handle it.

Because it doesn’t matter, how big, how strong, or how fast you are. It doesn’t matter if you’re a black belt, ex-boxer, or the like. The offenders have an unlimited amount of time to exercise and train themselves. The offenders do use this time. So, no matter how good of shape you’re in, the offender is in better shape. Even if all other physical aspects are relatively equal, he will have more stamina and endurance than you do.

There are a lot of things that we don’t see or find out about, speaking in terms of what offenders do to each other when out of sight. This means that, in addition to stamina and endurance, an offender is often much more used to taking physical abuse than you are.

All of this means that, in order to not only even the odds, but to gain even a small advantage you have to be smarter. You need to find a way that you could possibly catch the offender off guard.

Now, you have given directives; the offender refuses to comply. You have made attempts to de-escalate the situation, but the offender is becoming more and more out of hand. It has become obvious to you that this will be a use of force.

Do not stop talking. More importantly, get the offender to talk as much as possible, even if he is ranting and raving. Usually when someone is speaking, they are not as ready to be physically engaged. So continue verbal judo, whether you are still trying to calm him down or supe him up. Again, this is when you can see no other option than moving to physical force.

Note : When I say “supe up,” I refer to an aggressive verbal stance that means you are at the point of no longer attempting to de-escalate. You are at the point that you are giving very direct, specific orders, not directives, to do whatever in a last ditch effort to gain compliance. This is the point where you know verbals have failed and the UOF is imminent.

The reason you might choose to make the offender angrier would be to get him to talk. Get him speaking, shouting, or ranting. This will give you up to a second over his reaction time. Keep in mind, even if you take an aggressive verbal stance to achieve this, remain professional. As I said above, you have to be smarter.

Here is something I go back and forth on: calling for assistance. If you make the call before initiating the UOF, then you most likely you will also be alerting the offender that 15 people are about to jump on him. He could pounce on you immediately while you’re making the call and you are not ready for him. However, your assistance will arrive a bit sooner. Or, if you are able to get the jump on the offender, you could make the call as you are moving to gain physical control. This also could go bad. If you were to initiate a takedown, or hold unsuccessfully, you could end up in a plain old fight and have a hard time both defending yourself and calling for help.

As with everything in prison, all these things can only really be decided when you are in the situation. There is no way to control all the variables, which is why combining verbal judo and defensive tactics is very important. Often they are thought of as two different approaches. They’re not; they are together one whole process. It’s just most of time we don’t have to continue all the way to defensive training.

During the physical confrontation, don’t forget about verbals. Give directives. Talk to the offender. Yes while you are fighting, talk to the offender in addition to directives. As for what you say, that depends on your situation and the offender. Verbal Judo doesn’t stop once you place your hand on the offender or vice versa. It continues until control is gained and the situation is resolved.

Again, remain professional throughout the entire process. It is a job, it’s not personal.

Charles Morgan started his career as a corrections officer at MECC, a level 3 facility, and then transferred to ERDCC, a level 5 facility. He eventually evened out at FCC, a level 3/4 facility. He works for the Missouri Department of Corrections and is currently a trainer.