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Cops and robbers 2.0: Tips for taking on the ‘big boys’

Men and women come in all different shapes and sizes, but female officers can still hone their training to overcome a few physiological differences


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When you were younger you played cops and robbers, and you were always the cop. This was a really cool game because both boys and girls were cops and robbers, and everyone was around 10 years old and pretty much all the same size and strength.

Today, you’re all grown-up and still a cop, but you are 5'2 and 115 pounds and the “robber” is 6 feet tall, 200 pounds. Yet you’re tasked with the same job: capture the “robber.”

Men and women come in all different shapes and sizes, but there are some significant physiological differences that we should look at and adapt some of our tactical training to accommodate.

Here are a few suggestions to help keep you one step ahead:

1. Martial arts

Take a martial arts class and whatever additional hand-to-hand training that is available. In the academy, you were taught the basics, from weapon retention to standing and prone handcuffing – maybe even how to grapple and ground fight. Without constant reinforcement and repetitive training, how do you expect your body to react? In a stressful situation, your body will react to the level that it has become habituated to, which is also known as muscle memory. If you have the opportunity to build up that muscle memory with some form of martial arts training, you will be one step ahead.

2. Train how you fight

You always hear that mantra, “train how you fight,” but what does that really mean? Think about who you fight. Since we are in a male-dominated profession, we have plenty of training partners available to be the “big boys.” Sure, you can sharpen your skills among other female officers, but unless you patrol and investigate crimes only on Paradise Island where Wonder Woman grew up, you will have to arrest – and possibly fight with – the big guys. When you train, take on a big partner and let him know he will be doing you a disservice if he goes easy on you. If he gives you a good run for your money, it can save your or his life.

3. Use your perceived weakness as your strongest asset

Use your communication skills to talk your way in or out of a situation as best you can. Some of the giants you may come in contact with might perceive your smaller stature as a weakness. In most cases, they let their guard down, so initiate your force up front and you may save the need to use greater force later. With their defenses down, you may have an opportunity to carpe diem, use explosive power and take down the bad guy.

4. Command/officer presence

“Command presence” is a term you hear often, but what does it really mean? It is simply how you present yourself, your confidence, your knowledge and your appearance. Your command presence represents every facet of your physical appearance, the non-verbal skills you project, the sound of your voice and the words you use. It is the total package that commands respect!

The aforementioned tactical reminders are just what they are – reminders. As the years progress on the job we tend to forget the little things, so be cognizant and use those amazing skills that came to you from birth and from training. Remember, stay safe, have fun and go get some bad guys.

Jean Kanokogi, Ph.D., is a recently retired Senior Special Agent from the FDA Office of Criminal Investigations with extensive experience in conducting myriad investigations, including several high-profile cases. She is a sought-after speaker and presenter in corporate, law enforcement and mental health arenas as she connects with people through her expertise in resilience, emotional intelligence, deception detection, interviewing skills, firearms/martial arts tactics, and humor – she keeps it real.

She has authored numerous mental health and law enforcement-related articles for professional journals. She holds a B.S. and M.S in Criminal Justice/Protection Management and a Ph.D. in Psychology. She is the co-author of the award-winning best seller, “Get up & Fight: The Memoir of Rusty Kanokogi” and tells the story of how one ordinary woman changed the world for so many.

Jean is the Director of Mental Health and Peer Support Services for the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association. She works daily to bridge the gap between law enforcement and mental wellness. She is a 9/11 first responder and uses her experience to help others with Post Traumatic Growth. She is a Department of Homeland Security Senior Instructor on all behavioral science topics and has worked with the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group. She is a 6th-degree black belt in judo and was a member of the U.S. National Judo Team.

Her website is