Saved by the Tongue

Have you ever been under a lot of stress? Have you ever had one of those days or weeks where everything and everyone is conspiring to ruin your life?

There was a coffee cup on my desk that had the definition of stress written on it. “Stress: That feeling you have when the mind overrides the body’s desire to choke the living shit out of someone who desperately deserves it.” Sometimes we are all under a great deal of stress.

Every cop is faced with the opportunity to have a knock down, all out fight with some pretty bad guys. Sometimes a warrior needs to pick his battles. This is especially true for those battles where he might not come out on top. I was not a big guy on the job, 5’9”, about 165 pounds. Not your typical image of a warrior.

I stopped a guy on a simple traffic violation on Gettysburg Avenue. It was no big deal and the guy pulled over right away. I went up to the car, introduced myself and asked for his driver’s license. He was kind enough to give it to me and not start an argument over why he was being stopped. Everything changed when I ran his license through my computer.

It turned out the guy had a warrant for his arrest for another traffic violation. Normally this would not be a big deal. Bond for the warrant was only about a hundred dollars and the guy would be out in a few hours. Not a big deal, unless the guy did not want to go to jail.

Did I mention this guy was about 6’5” and over 300 pounds? I was really hoping he was not opposed to going to jail over a silly warrant. My hope did not become a reality.

I went back up to the car and asked the guy to step out of the car. Just picture in slow motion a guy 6’5” and pushing 350 pounds getting out of a small car. He kept getting bigger and bigger as he pulled himself out of the vehicle. I took a few steps back and was thinking, “Whoa, this could get ugly.”

In my most relaxed voice, I explained to Goliath that he had a silly little warrant out for his arrest and he would bond out in a very short time. I asked him politely to turn around and place his hands behind his back.

Goliath squared off into a fighting stance and told me in no uncertain terms he was not going to jail. To ensure I understood his intent he even dropped a few F-bombs. He had my attention.

Now this was before the days of pepper gas or Taser’s. It was me, my night stick and a .38 revolver. And my lawyer trained tongue. I immediately assessed the situation and realized I could not fight this guy and win. Nor could I shoot him. So I did the next logical thing.

I bladed my body and asked him what hospital he wanted to go to. He got a look of utter confusion and asked “WTF” I was talking about. I told him there were 50 other cops on duty. I calmly told him I was going to push my red emergency button on my radio, and we would start fighting.

I told him when the 50 guys who were on duty were done kicking his butt (I really used a different word), he would be in no condition to tell them what hospital he preferred, but I would be. Goliath had a sudden change of attitude, turned around, placed his hands behind his back and told me he was sorry.

What an awesome warrior lesson I learned that night. Warriors, when faced with seemingly bad odds, need to think quickly on their feet and come up with a viable alternate plan to the one the enemy has in store for you. There were only 15 guys on duty in my district that night, but Goliath didn’t know that. What makes a lie believable is a shred of truth. I just told the shred of truth in a very convincing manner.

In late 1976 or early 1977, I read the recently released book by Francis P. Martin, Hung by the Tongue. There is truth in what you say is what you get. You can be both saved and hung by your tongue. My friend and author of Toxic Boss Blues, Captain Steve Neal (Ret.), put it best when he told me, “Quick thinking, human relations skills, and the ability to engage the mouth and brain effectively are the biggies in successful law enforcement.”

It isn’t any fun when you get hung by your own tongue, it is worse when you get hung by something someone else said. Listen to the rhetoric of BLM advocates. They are mostly telling stories “they heard” about how cops treated some minority. They are repeating someone else’s stories, not their own.

Cops are being assaulted, spit on and even killed, many times not because of their own conduct, but because of the conduct of another cop. It doesn’t matter if the stories are true. They are inflaming the passions of people to attack cops.

What is your response and attitude when under a great deal of stress? Do you pull a turtle, and retreat inside your shell? Do you start swinging wildly and hope you win? Do you reach inside and develop a viable warrior plan that helps ensure you come out on top? Are you saved or hung by your tongue? Your answer has consequences for your fellow cops. Choose wisely and be safe out there.

Pat Welsh, a Best Selling Author, Speaker and Trainer, is a retired Major of the Dayton Police Department. A graduate of the FBINA and Police Executive Leadership College, Mr. Welsh is also a member of IACP. Mr. Welsh specializes in law enforcement training, strategic work session, keynote speaking and leadership development for civilian and USAF Security Forces personnel. Please contact Mr. Welsh at [email protected] to learn more.

(Photo courtesy Boynton Beach Police Department)