Why We Yell: The Importance of Vocalizing In Policing

December 01, 2017

Why We Yell: The Importance of Vocalizing In Policing

by Ian D Scofield

Policing is a hard career and many civilians assume that police yell and vocalize to express their frustration.  While this is sometimes true, often times it is not.  Law enforcement officers are taught to vocalize for a variety of reasons.  Let’s review some of the reasons to reinforce their importance.

Vocalizing Is Communicating

As long as you are vocalizing commands you are communicating with subjects and bystanders.  That means that you are still giving instructions, whether they are listening to them or not.  Giving instructions is important, because it means you are trying to control a situation verbally and not going straight to force.

A suspect won’t know what you want them to do if you don’t communicate.

It Keeps Us Breathing

One of the reasons that we vocalize and yell during tense situations is to keep us breathing.  It is extremely easy to stop breathing when you become focused on a tense situation.  But you can’t yell if you aren’t breathing, so by vocalizing you are reminding yourself to breathe.  The breathing helps us to remain calm, stay alive, and to be able to continue. 

Breaking Through Adrenaline

Adrenaline can be hard to break through for both police officers and those around it.  When you issue loud verbal commands, it helps to cut through whatever else is going through someone’s mind.  Breaking through the adrenaline with a small voice is difficult because it is an actual chemical in the head that helps give them energy and focus.

Creating Witnesses

When you are loud you attract the attention of those around you.  People will naturally start to look towards you and they will take in the situation.  These witnesses will be able to say in a court of law that you tried issuing commands, whether they were successful or not is another matter.

Alert Others Of The Situation

Yelling drop the gun, do it now.  Is not just a command for the subject, it also alerts bystanders.  When they hear that command they know that there is a risk present nearby and to seek cover.  Safety is important and making sure those around you get to safety is crucial.

Swearing Is Not Part of Vocalizing

Last article we touched on profanity and policing.  I just wanted to take a moment to reiterate that swearing is not part of vocalizing.  Vocalizing is about giving loud, clear commands.  By adding profanity to the mix, the commands are no longer as clear as they could be.  Leave the profanity for your off-duty times or the times when you know it will be effective.

Vocalizing Is Not A Starting Point (In Most Situations)

It is important to also remember that loud vocalizing is not where you should start in most situations.  Unless a subject is armed or not willing to talk with you at the start of a contact, you shouldn’t immediately go into loud commands.  This is often a mistake that rookies make as they want to use the shock and awe method.  I’ll admit I have jumped the gun with getting loud before, but it simply isn’t an effective opening move in the majority of cases.

Now for most law enforcement officers the principle of vocalizing isn’t new.  This is meant to be a reminder to help cement concepts in your head.  Next time someone asks you why you are yelling this will be fresh in your mind and you will have an answer.  Stay safe out there.



About The Author:

Ian is a staff writer at APTI and hospital security officer at a major medical center who has a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice with a Specialization in Administration of Justice.  He has held multiple positions in the security industry from patrol supervisor to auxiliary public safety officer.  At APTI he brings his writing skills to help further the careers of others and provide quality content.  Feel free to visit his freelancing site or his creative writing site.

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