04 March 2015

Profiling works-how to use it as a citizen

In my last post, I wrote about how these days I do my best to hone the arts of Awareness and Avoidance to make every attempt to avoid Aggression.  I have also written before about how people like to throw the word Awareness around, and usually without context.  In courses we teach three specific types of Awareness; Self, Team, Situational  / Environmental.  When people seek out police to train, they often do primarily for firearms.  In this article, and maybe more depending on what I can come up with, I want to help with your Awareness but talking about how to formulate Reasonable Suspicion for use by non LE as a tool for developing your situational awareness.

Reasonable Suspicion
A police officer has "reasonable suspicion" when there exists articulatable facts or circumstances which would lead a reasonable person to suspect that a crime has been, is being, or will be committed.

The easiest way to explain it is that Reasonable Suspicion is more than just a mere "hunch" and less than Probable Cause.  You will notice in the above definition that it says a "reasonable person” and not a police officer..  As a citizen you are not looking to arrest anyone or even have contact with them.  You are looking around for things that catch your attention enough to make you want to Avoid them.

Basically what I am talking about is profiling.  Everyone profiles every day of their lives.  We look at what people wear, how they act, and how they speak and consciously or subconsciously build a profile of them in our heads.

We have filters in our minds that allow us to sort through people that we want to interact with or those who we would like to avoid.  Let's just call it friend or foe.Being aware is a habit and unless you have something to look for you will not become any better at it.  You cannot limit yourself and need to constantly be scanning and filtering.  One of the best ways to practice this is in traffic by looking at other vehicles.

Example- you pull up behind a late model SUV with a bumper sticker that says something along the lines of "PENN STATE PARENT".  There is another sticker that says "NITTANY LION MOM".  It is 10 AM on a weekday in March.  Before you pull up next to the driver, you probably have a picture in your head of who is most likely to be behind the wheel.  Most likely a middle aged woman right?  Chances are you are right.  Every time you make a prediction like that based on the totality of circumstances you get faster, more accurate, and your confidence grows.

Here is another example- you are driving down the road and you see what you recognize as a late 80's Chevy Cavalier in front of you.  On the edge of the trunk and back window it has some decals from local radio stations and sports teams, however this is the plate.



Like we said, it has a bunch of stickers on it that would lead you to believe that it is a local vehicle, but unless you are in TX or a neighboring state that TX license plate may seem out of place.  Now add into the equation that the tag is being held on with zip ties.  You can see how your suspicion should be growing that this car may be stolen and the occupants may not be on their way to choir practice.

The car just happens to pull into the same place you are going for gas, and the driver exits. As he does, you can see that he has tattooed on the side of his neck and on the back of his hands.  The ones on his hands are very elementary and look like they were done at home. Any officer worth his salt would be running that license plate and is going to make contact with the driver because of all the Reasonable Suspicion he can now articulate.  What as a citizen do you do?  Drive away and go someplace else to get your gas and Red Bull.


Get in the habit of constantly looking around you and use your filters to sort out friends and foes.  Profile people using the vehicle that they drive and the stickers on their car.  See how good you can get at formulating what the driver will look like and see how close you are. You will get faster and more accurate at detecting when things are just not right.  The faster you detect them, the faster you can Avoid them.

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