May 31, 2020

| Recognizing pre-assaultive indicators can stop attacks, avoid injuries, and prevent deaths.  Law enforcement professionals have learned through experiences and lessons from others a variety of behaviors which occur preceding an attack, based on a multitude of circumstances.

Pre-assaultive Indicators

To significantly enhance officer safety during any policing encounter, the effective recognition of criminal behavior and pre-assaultive cues is based on the peace officer’s abilities to read the scene (RTS) and react to my presence (RTMP). Officer safety skills are perishable and diminish over time without ongoing learning and practice. Peace officers must strive to correctly interpret a single act or a combination of behavioral and physiological cues that indicate the probability of a crime or an attack.  The following is a non-inclusive list of pre-assaultive indicators meant to be thought-provoking for on and off-duty law enforcement activities:

  • Behaviors: aggressive or threatening demeanor, argumentative, contempt, distrust, hate, hostility, non-compliance, non-congruence with communication, and spitting
  • Body language: bladed, defensive, fighting stance, clenched fists, clothing removal, defensive posture, and exaggerated moving or stretching limbs
  • Communications – nonverbal and verbal: gestures, hand signs, signals, and threatening statements with a lack of reverence for human life
  • Emotions: anger, despair, fear, sadness, and suicidal
  • Head/facial movements: animated gestures, blank stare, clenching the jaw, and scanning the area
  • Physical positioning: closing the distance, moving to cover, seeking a position of advantage, and triangulating
  • Physiological cues: breathing changes, elevated pulse, and sweating

Why should I read this article?

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in 2020 has caused a behavior shift throughout society. The wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE) may create a greater risk to law enforcement when identifying pre-assaultive behaviors of an offender, while mitigating risks for everyone wearing PPE. The following article is designed to be thought-provoking for law enforcement officers, trainers, and supervisors in discussing experiences and recognizing pre-assault indicators.

Link to article: