All about Intuition

Many officers say that as their experience grows, so does their intuition. Out of nowhere comes a warning, a suspicion, or a hunch that can alert them to danger or help solve a crime. Sometimes there’s a dramatic flash; at other times it’s a gut feeling or a hunch. Some officers even say that they owe their lives to a sudden intuition that something serious was about to happen.

But when the incident is over and the suspect has been apprehended, there’s a report to be written – and a problem. Hunches, intuition, and experience can’t be documented. Police paperwork has to focus solely on hard facts. Here are some statements that can’t be used in police reports:

I had a hunch…

He looked suspicious…

I could tell that he was about to…

I had a funny feeling…

I had an intuitive sense that…

Something seemed odd…

I knew she was thinking about…

To put it another way: Police reports are limited to data that comes to you through your five senses. It’s odd but true: You learn a lot through years of policing, but you can’t say “based on experience” or “I had a hunch” when you’re writing a police report.

As Sgt. Joe Friday used to say: “Just the facts, Ma’am.”

So what should you put into your police report? The answer comes from a deeper understanding of where those sudden flashes and unexpected hunches are coming from. Psychologists say that they can be traced to an unconscious two-step process that happens so quickly that we don’t notice it.

While you’re thinking about other things – perhaps concentrating on driving safely – some hidden part of your mind 1. sees something amiss (or smells it or hears it) and 2. races through a reasoning process to figure out what it might mean. Result: a hunch, a fast reaction on your part, and a risky situation averted.

For example, you’re walking along a sidewalk on your way to a local business to investigate a theft. As you’re walking along, you  have a hunch that one of the passersby is up to no good. You react. After it’s all over, you realize he was dressed too warmly for the weather, and his eyes were showing the results of an illegal substance.

But you weren’t looking for danger while you were walking – you were thinking about that theft you were going to investigate. So how did you pick that suspect out of the crowd?

We usually credit our intuition or sixth sense, but experts say it’s actually a highly trained response – and mostly unconscious – response to potential danger. Psychologists explain that those hunches and flashes can always be traced back to one of your five senses.

If you reflect on what happened, you’ll usually discover that something specific – a sight, sound, or smell – tipped you off – and that’s what goes into your report: He was trembling, even though there seemed to be no reason for nervousness. She was holding onto her purse too tightly. The bumper on the car was out of alignment. He was walking too quickly.

But will you be able to recreate what happened when you have to write your report? This is where practice come in. Officers who’ve had long experience with hunches and intuition recommend practicing recall throughout the day. After a friendly conversation or a business transaction they try to remember – in detail – what just happened. What was the person wearing? What color were his eyes? What kind of voice did she have? What breed of dog was she walking? And so on.

Training yourself to observe and remember gives you some powerful tools that ordinary citizens don’t have. Add them to the lessons you learn through experience, and you’re equipped to deal with many emergencies – and write a thorough report afterwards.  

Share

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *