Verbal Communication Skills for Law Enforcement


    General Speaking Skills

    • Vocal qualities are essential to police officers. In their book "Communicating Professionally," Catherine Ross and Patricia Dewdney outline several mistakes professionals make in efforts to communicate. How you communicate gives a lasting impression. Pitch and tone are important for making the person you're communicating with understand what is important and what you need them to understand. Evaluate how you sound to others -- bored or interested, nasally or breathless, too slow or too rapid. Mumbling or speaking too lowly can cause people to misunderstand what you're saying or not to listen because it takes too much effort. Classes are available for law enforcement officers that teach these and other nuances of speech.

    Tactical Communication Skills

    • An officer must be street savvy to be effective in tactical communication skills. The public often is unfamiliar with police procedures while police training instills these procedures in officers. The officer must be familiar with the cultures of people they are dealing with or they could inadvertently offend them. According to a 2003 RAND Corp. report, tactical communication skills are essential to policing under stress. It is "critical to successfully gaining compliance or cooperation from subjects," the report states. He can't calm someone when he is excitable, and he can't respond to verbal abuse and successfully defuse a heated situation.

    Verbal Communication during Active Listening

    • Verbal communication is ineffective without active listening. In his book "Effective Listening," Kevin J. Murphy notes that active communication is a "two-way street," and that it is at the heart of law enforcement. Studies, he said, have shown that people only listen with 25 percent to 50 percent accuracy and forget 33 percent to 50 percent of what they hear within eight hours. When it is time for the officer to communicate verbally, his response will be unproductive if he has not listened actively and accurately.


    • Paralanguage refers to speaking tempo, vocal pitch, intonation and sounds, such as "uh-huh," but also encompasses confidence, empathy and the intuitiveness that leads to tactical communication skills. It accounts for 35 percent of what is being communicated verbally, and body language accounts for an additional 55 percent, according to Martin Community College's basic law enforcement training course materials. If that is correct, spoken words only account for 10 percent of the exercise. Most police communication programs in colleges teach the communication skills necessary to be effective police officers.

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