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Why you need to learn street cop body language


“The body never lies.”
~Martha Graham

Our body language shouts out who and what we are to the whole world.

What does yours say?

Body language is the way in which we carry ourselves – our level of confidence and our demeanor and style. It’s also how our body responds when interacting with others.

Our body language is the first thing people see when they meet us.

What is your body language telling them?

When a predator or criminal is scoping out potential victims, body language often holds the key to whether we are put on the prey list or not. This means we have a good chance at NOT making their radar light up by using body language as a piece of armor in self defense.copbodylanguage3

  • Sometimes armor is fancy, showy – meant to intimidate or demonstrate authority
  • Sometimes armor helps you go into low observable stealth mode
  • Sometimes armor is hidden like a bullet-proof vest

In this post, let’s look at the intimidating or authority body language as demonstrated by street cops.

The following comes from Lynda Sue Sandoval. She is a former police officer-turned fiction writer. I gleaned this list from her article Police Body Language and Behavior: You Gotta Walk the Walk, originally printed in Romance In The Rockies, May ’95 issue.

“Next time you see a group of cops walking together, take a good, hard look at them. Ignore their uniforms and really look at the person inside. They may be of different sizes, shapes, or colors, but there’s that indefinable something, above and beyond the uniforms, that makes them resemble each other. It’s hard to put a finger on, but you can’t miss it.”

Here’s a list compiled from her article about why street cops look and act with a different body language:copbodylanguage2

  • The way they observe their surroundings
  • Appearing calm, cool, professional and in control
  • Air of confidence
  • Head high, back straight, feet wide
  • Look people in the eye and speak in a strong voice
  • Walk with purposeful stride
  • Legs wide with one foot back, chest out, arms out and hands free
  • Cops stand back. Even touchy-feely cops stand back
  • A cop will focus on the hands and center of the body
  • An officer won’t stare intently at someone, but will scan the surroundingscopbodylanguage4
  • While walking around or inside buildings, officers will avoid blindly turning a corner
  • Cops would rather have a person approach them … the person moving is the most vulnerable person
  • Cops never, ever, ever want to get surrounded
  • The more persons … the farther away he or she will stand
  • Officers always want their back against a wall
  • On duty or off, cops sit against the wall, facing the door in a restaurant

What is the essence of this kind of body language? — Authority, self control, competence, readiness, and awareness. The body language is like a sword – capable, sharp, ready, and powerful if necessary.

Compare this to the shopping list of body language types a criminal might be hunting for — timid, insecure, uncertain, emotionally unequipped, and clueless.

We don’t all have to walk the cop walk or put on their body language daily. It’s something you put on when the need arises. Perhaps when walking through a dark parking lot or when you have to walk by a gang. Or when facing an intruder you’ve decided to confront.

So why do you need to learn street cop body language?

As cops around the world know, body language is sometimes the best defense you have.

Thank you for visiting and learning about self defense.
If you think others can benefit, please pass it on!

Lori Hoeck

Dealing with the bully and bullying, part two: Strong vs. Weak Body Language
How to deal with the bully and bullying — a senior karate instructor’s view, part one
What color code are you today?

Photo credits Joe Shlabotnik (top); forzeshow (single cop); mshades (group of 4) & Darin Barry (bottom)

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Betsy Wuebker November 10, 2009, 3:21 pm

    Hi Lori – Their body language screams authority and confidence – the opposite of victim. It’s just amazing. Thanks.

  • Lori Hoeck November 11, 2009, 11:42 am

    Hi Betsy,
    A picture paints a thousand words, yes? I love the third photo where the four cops appear so different than the people in the crowd behind them.

  • vered | blogger for hire November 12, 2009, 12:58 pm

    Fascinating. And it does make you respect them! I guess what you’re saying is that it makes criminals respect them (or anyone who acts like them) too.

  • Lori Hoeck November 12, 2009, 2:06 pm

    Hi Vered,
    If you can “put on” a body language well enough, such as a street cop’s body language, yes, you can give a criminal pause. Sometimes that’s all a person needs to avoid being targeted. Criminals’ profiling of victim types is often subconscious — like picking one apple over another in the market or adding more garlic to a recipe — so any disruption of that at subtle levels can create greater safety for you.

  • Keith A. Lipsey August 29, 2010, 10:07 am

    As a police officer, martial artist, personal empowerment facilitator and bullying prevention specialist, I admire your website, insight and foresight in the interest of equiping your communities with the information and education to live a bondage free life. Thank you and I look forward to integrating your teachings to my students and community constituents. God bless you all as you keep Thinking Like A Black Belt.

  • olatunde March 26, 2011, 6:38 am


    i read you for the first time yesterday. i honor you as a warrior queen, a protector, a guardian. as a fellow protector i feel your heartbeat and the heartbeat of your husband.

    know that you are saving lives and changing minds. know that there are many who read and change, but may not comment.

    i pray that my words will touch you as your words touched me.

    may God continue to empower you, so that you may continue to empower others.

    your brother warrior,