American Outdoor Guide|September 2021
Paul Rackley

The 1980s had some of the best movies. Sure, a lot of them were corny and contained too many themes of coming of age, decadence and extreme idiocy, and the gun handling in them was truly horrible. But good lessons can be found anywhere, including the 1984 comedy, Police Academy, which often focused on the importance of verbal commands.

Despite the slapstick nature of this series of movies, all seven of which received mixed reviews, they contained the importance of verbal commands. “Laverne Hooks,” played by Marion Ramsey (who died earlier this year), is a meek, little woman with a squeaky voice who shows that verbal commands given in a rough, authoritative voice can be quite effective in defense. In each of the movies, Hooks really backs folks up with an authoritative growl and a grim look in her eye.

In fact, verbal commands are included in the fundamentals of threat response, according to Tiger McKee, the director of Shootrite Firearms Academy. These fundamentals include “move,” “communicate,” “use cover,” “shoot” (if necessary) and “think.” The mind should always be working, searching either for an advantage or a way out, during a self-defense situation.

“Fighting is problem-solving at high speed,” McKee says. “But notice that ‘communicate’ is number two on the list.” Verbal commands are part of communication, meaning they can be used both against attackers and in conjunction with partners. People can use verbal commands to de-escalate a situation or inform a partner of intentions, as well as let an attacker know that they mean business.

Going Verbal

Verbalization is an extremely important factor in self-defense. It’s also a good way to prevent having to pull the trigger. Words are how people communicate, both in conversations and in disagreements. In fact, simply talking to an agitated person in a calm voice can solve some disagreements.

The police prove this pretty much every day when dealing with victims, handing out tickets for minor offenses and negotiating surrenders with agitated criminals. Officers also have to deal with both the media and the general public in a professional manner. People should follow that lead when dealing with a potentially bad situation on the street.

Referencing Colonel Jeff Cooper’s color code of conditions of readiness, the situation being discussed is when one would go from “Condition Yellow” (relaxed awareness) to “Condition Orange” (heightened awareness to a potential threat). If possible, one would evade or de-escalate the situation to prevent having to go to “Condition Red” (ready and expect to fight or act).

This could be anything from a homeless person yelling at a passerby to a person approaching in a threatening manner or even a customer screaming at a clerk. While many situations can, and should, be avoided if possible, sometimes, those with the means must step into situations to protect others … hopefully, with words instead of force.

Of course, police officers receive training to handle a variety of interactions with the general public, because they must be able to talk gently with victims and in a tough manner with suspects to learn the facts around a crime. Unfortunately, most folks completely overlook verbalization in regard to training.

This, according to McKee, is a major mistake. Verbalization should almost always be used in a violent encounter, either against the assailant or with companions and bystanders. And, being able to go verbal under extreme stress requires training and practice. After all, a gunfight is nothing like those depicted in movies.


In a situation where the suspect runs off at the sight of a gun, it’s tempting to just go about your business and not worry about reporting the assault. After all, no one was hurt or killed, nor were any shots fired. It just seems logical to not cause more paperwork for overworked police officers.

This is a huge mistake. Pretty much every cop out there will tell you to report the crime, regardless of how insignificant it seems, because—

• You might not be the only person the suspect has attacked.

• You might be able to offer better details than others, possibly providing identification for capture.

• The suspect will probably continue the spree, meaning that they might accost others who might not be able to fight back and might get hurt … or worse.

• Any bit of information can lead to an arrest, and it’s a citizen’s responsibility to help take such people off the streets.

However, the most important reason to report every incident is that criminals are dishonest individuals who, in general, have no problem hurting others. So, it doesn’t seem that big a stretch to think a criminal might call the police and try to use the law to lash out by getting friends to lie and say you were the aggressor.

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