The average criminal offender will do just about anything to avoid contact, detention, or ultimate arrest.

He'll shuck and jive. He'll carry false identification–or none at all. If he can't kill us with kindness, he'll try to intimidate us with allegations of racism, ageism, or sexism. He'll almost always assert the obligatory lie of "I know my rights."

He'll often start by averting eye contact altogether. Thanks to the marked visibility of our patrol cars and familiarity with even our unmarked Crown Vics, Mr. Recidivist is usually aware of our presence before we're aware of his. At the moment of recognition, he'll suddenly jog in the opposite direction, turn down a side street, or veer his bike into an alley to evade detection. At the very least, he'll deny his peripheral vision as though to will us invisible.

Should we fail to dematerialize and still strive to make his acquaintance, he'll turn on the charm. With a forced smile, he'll inquire about our personal welfare and end every sentence with "sir." (Really, when was the last time you heard anyone with a clear conscience give a tinker's damn about the welfare of a police officer that he didn't know personally?)

Catering to our egos and our authority, he may even say how much he admires the agency we work for. Then he'll flatter us as individuals, saying how we're not like the cops in the next county who'll screw him over for free.

But the dead giveaway that he wants to get away is when he starts to volunteer extraneous information. A simple question about where he's heading will yield a long, convoluted story about a friend of a friend—whose name and address he can't recall—who asked for a ride somewhere he can't remember. Perhaps he hopes we'll forget why we stopped him in the first place.

Should we decide to press the issue, he'll often execute a quick 180-degree turn from being obsequious and servile, to downright belligerent and hostile. (One caveat: If he's openly hostile and baiting you on the front end, he's probably not good for anything right then and there and is reveling in the fact that you don't have a damned thing on him.)

Make no mistake about it, these are only a few of the up close and personal samplings from his bag of dirty tricks.

When the Man of a Thousand Faces act fails, he'll make like a Man on the…

…Run. In a car or on foot, he'll head for the hills. Or he'll settle for the bushes in someone's backyard. With the fleet-footedness of a Ninja Warrior finalist, he'll cover huge stretches of landscape in an impromptu steeplechase. But we're too smart for that, opting instead to coordinate units and lock him down at which time he'll try and…

Break containment. He may do this either by sneaking past the rear of a parked patrol car, commandeering a car himself, or by forcing Joe Citizen to drive him out of the containment. (Officers on containments need to be vigilant for late night departures from the containment area, whether business or residential.) And if he can't get past us, he'll either have a friend stiff in a 911 call, or do it himself courtesy of a cell phone, in the hopes of pulling us off of containment.

Popular ruses used by the bad guys include giving phony last-seen directions on themselves or advising of a non-existent cross-town emergency. Keep your containment and listen for the blessed sounds of barking dogs. Keep an eye out for anything that suggests movement, and remember that motion detection lights are your friend. But should you catch sight or sound of him, he may further hedge his bets, by…

Altering his appearance. In the rush of the chase, this usually includes stripping off t-shirts to reveal a different colored shirt underneath or turning a reversible jacket inside out. But this can also include drastic makeovers like bad impromptu haircuts and dry shavings. Fortunately, no matter how the package is wrapped, there's no fooling a K-9, and eventually he gets caught.

Staying true to form, he'll continue the game even after we have him in custody. He may start spilling his guts about someone else who's committed a worse offense, as if we'd actually cut him loose for a bigger fish.

If you insist on placing him in the back seat of a patrol car, he may try to kick his way out of it. Some arrestees have been successful in doing so, but trying to escape with cuffs on is harder than it looks.

As a last ditch effort, he may fake a medical emergency. The appeal is obvious: It changes the environment, diminishes the likelihood of a large number of officers on scene, and sometimes requires the momentary removal of cuffs.

Understanding these ploys and staying a step ahead of the bad guy will reduce his options and help you to maintain control of the situation.

What are some of the criminal tricks of the trade that you've seen? Post your comments below, and let's get a discussion going. The information you provide today may help your fellow officer tomorrow.

Author

Dean Scoville
Dean Scoville

Associate Editor

Former associate editor of Police Magazine and a retired patrol supervisor and investigator with the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, Sgt. Dean Scoville has received multiple awards for government service.

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Former associate editor of Police Magazine and a retired patrol supervisor and investigator with the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, Sgt. Dean Scoville has received multiple awards for government service.

View Bio
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