Today’s cops are under attack!  It’s become chic to resist arrest, shove a cell phone in the face of a cop to take a video, and verbally abuse cops just trying to do their jobs.

Cops are becoming fearful of ending up on the 6 o’clock News or as fodder for some miscreant’s Facebook page.

Tragically, many officers across the country are so worried about ending up on the news they are forgetting about the possibility of ending up dead.  Additionally, officers are so focused on the distractions caused by these morons that they often miss other cues telling them they are in serious danger.

Officers SHOULD pay attention to some asshole shoving a cell phone in their faces, but they also should be alert to other danger signs simultaneously manifesting right before their eyes. This article is meant to help officers pay closer attention to a variety of cues that violence against them is about to happen.


It is important for officers to realize violence against them, seldom, if ever, does not get prefaced by some indicator or red flag which is obvious to the trained eye.


Interviews and studies reveal, all types of law enforcement officers have reported there was some type of action or situation signaling an attack was imminent. Many officers have admitted, they didn’t heed the ‘danger signals’ and were caught off guard. Most also admitted they were not properly trained to identify danger signs and impending violent behavior.

Sadly, the majority of the thousands of officers I have trained over the past 25 years, just a handful have had some form of danger sign or body language interpretation training.  Most of the handful who have been trained said their training was very limited in scope.

Those cops were only trained in two areas. The first was on detecting deception in an interview and interrogation setting. The second was on the basics of identifying imminent attacks, such as a suspect blading his body or making a fist. None have received training about the body language of violence or how to identify violent perpetrators.



I have never met anyone who even thought about the body language of nearby non-participants that might be indicating danger was afoot.  I consider this to be the most important aspect of officer safety. It is a widespread training void, and it motivated me to develop two training classes on the subject.

The first class is titled, ‘Recognizing the 99 Signs of Danger’ which exposes in depth the many danger signs trained officers can easily recognize.  It focuses on the identification of discernable body language and other danger signs.


The second class title, ‘Recognizing the Characteristics of Armed Suspects,’ exposes over one hundred characteristics displayed by suspects carrying firearms and other weapons.

Both courses are strictly designed to protect the lives of law enforcement officers by arming them with the ability to identify danger before it happens.

This is the most important aspect of Officer Safety: the ability to recognize a threat from someone or something.  Experts call this Threat Recognition yet, it is the least type of training received by officers. As cops know, dangerous situations can arise within a blink of an eye when you least expect it. They can also arise amidst or part of a distraction, such as a cell phone in your face.

Many officers spend hours and hours training on firearms tactics and self defense.  While preparing to defend against a threat is important, it also needs to be enhanced with the knowledge and information about identifying a threat in its early stages.

More importantly, in my opinion, if you can identify a threat, you can become the offender rather than the defender.  This will give you the ability to better prepare, even for a short time, your defense, retreat or offense in order to conquer the threat.

We cops tend to use the words that often lead to failure.  These words are heavily entrenched.  Words like ‘Routine’ Patrol, Officer ‘Survival’, and ‘Defensive’ Tactics are intrinsically self-defeating words.

In my opinion, there is nothing routine about law enforcement work.  Officers must do far more than just survive a critical incident, they must win.  As we know, the best defense is a good offense. With this in mind, I believe that a good offense is also the knowledge, skills and abilities to identify a threat and to identify it as early as possible.



“You can’t win a fight, if you don’t know you are in one!”   Sgt Lou Savelli, NYPD (ret)

The best chances of winning a fight is knowing early that you are about to have one.  And ‘recognizing’ the indicators must be foremost in the minds of all officers.  The recognition of a threat comes from the identification of one of more indicators from one or more of the following categories:

  1. Body language
  2. Verbal Communication
  3. Non Verbal Communication (NVC)
  4. Potentially dangerous situations
  5. Commission of crime
  6. Behavior by non-participants

  1. Body language will be displayed by someone who is about to attack or capable (armed with a gun) of doing so. In the first recorded ‘dashcam’ video of a law enforcement officer killed in the line of duty, Texas Constable Daryl Lundsford didn’t discern the body language of the three males he had just stopped in a vehicle.

One attacker was seen taking off his hat in a preparation to fight, another back-stepped to get behind Officer Lundsford and all three scumbags surrounded him just before the attack.

  1. Verbal communication although it sounds simple and discernable, it is not. The verbal communication between suspects may be in a foreign language, a street slang or code. It may be a predetermined sound, a whisper, or just plain English that is spoken so quickly that an officer doesn’t have time to realize it is a call for an attack.

In Holland, Michigan, an officer didn’t understand the words spoken by the local Latin Kings gang members he had stopped on the side of the road.  However, after attending our training, he realized it was a strong indicator they were planning something.

  1. Non Verbal Communication (NVC) has three types that are used between people who are trying to deceive an officer or prepare for action that can be an early indication of danger or impending violence.

Officers need to identify such behavior because it will lead to a quicker defense against perpetrators attempting to carry out a plan of attack or even to elude an officer.  Also, in the case of Constable Daryl Lundsford, he didn’t heed the non-verbal behavior between his attackers when they looked at each other and used a variety of facial expressions to prepare each other for their attack, and his eventual murder.

  1. Potentially dangerous situations such as dealing with Emotionally Disturbed Persons (EDPs), handling a Domestic Violence incident, dealing with Drug abusers, and lastly, encountering Gang members and Terrorists. Each situation has a high potential for danger to the officers involved. These situations should be an automatic indicator of the potential for violence and place the officer on alert.
  1. The Commission of a crime usually associated with violence or any crime where the potential exists for ‘fight or flight’ should be a warning that the potential for danger is high. When a police officer is observed by a criminal involved in the commission of a crime, the criminal logically assumes that the officer will attempt to arrest him. The criminal is already planning his fight or flight.
  2. Behavior by non-participants or observers when they are watching violence unfold or watching dangerous persons (criminals) flee from violence or a crime can be a surefire indicator that an officer is entering a dangerous situation. This should alert the officer to be on guard for an attack.

Behavior by non-participants can consist of:

  • Frozen in time look: They look like people in the movies who act like they are frozen in time because they are too scared to move.
  • Lack of emotion look: It happens for the same reason as the previous behavior in that frozen in time look.
  • Look of fear: Observing violence will usually show in most people in the same way as those who are the target of the violence.
  • Deer in the headlights look: Intense staring at the persons committing the violence is common among people exposed to violence just like a deer staring at the headlights of an oncoming car just before the deer gets struck.
  • Get ready to run stance: In gang neighborhoods where violence is common, bystanders, especially teenagers and children, hang around waiting to watch the violence occur. They know the gangsters and know very well that guns are involved.
  • Peek around the corner look: Similar to those who know violence is coming but don’t want to miss anything, bystanders will hide behind a building or a tree to ‘peek’ and watch what is happening but still fearing to expose themselves to the violence.
  • Pointing over there look: Often, people will point others in the direction of a crime or violence when they see it.
  • Everybody’s running the other way situation: Just like we saw on September 11th, 2001, people were running away from the collapse of the World Trade Center towers. In the news footage you can see the first responders running toward the collapse.



Whatever the manifestations of someone else’s body language or their actions, street cops should try to identify it and heed what it is saying.

Whether it is coming from a suspect, from someone who is not yet a suspect or from a bystander, it is providing information and insight into what is happening.

People’s body language, no matter how deep their participation or if they are just an observer, speaks volumes about danger.  Street cops must learn to identify this body language of violence and decipher its meaning.

These important skills can save a cop’s life!

At the bottom line, it’s all about saving just ONE life.




If you have questions for Lou or want to know more about his classes, he can be emailed here:  EMAIL


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