Command Presence

Command Presence is all about being at the top of the game. Taking a few minutes to be sure your shoes, badge, and brass are all polished definitely goes a long way toward projecting a positive image. So does wearing a clean and neatly pressed uniform. And let’s don’t forget regular trips to the folks who cut hair for a living. All these things make an officer look sharp. Think about it … who would you have more confidence in, the officer with the dirty, wrinkled clothing and shaggy hair, or the officer who looks fresh and sharp, and projects a solid air of authority?

The two professionals in the above image, Cold Case and Bloodstain Pattern expert Dave Pauly and The Mayberry Deputy (David Browning) are two shining examples of people who display a natural confidence. The Deputy also reminds us that Barney Fife even went as far as polishing his one bullet.

Crooks size-up officers the same way officers examine the mannerisms of the bad guys. Criminals carefully study officers, looking for the weak ones, because they are the officers who’ll most likely be on the receiving end of escape attempts, lies, assaults, and/or other criminal tricks and tactics.

Officer tips for a better command presence

Captain Randy Shepherd is a textbook example of Command Presence

  • Be professional at all times. And that includes updated training. A cop who knows his job inside out projects more confidence. The same is true with physical training. Stay in shape and know and trust your defensive tactics. Remember, cocky and obnoxious are not good traits.
  • Good posture is important. Someone standing straight and tall has an advantage over the officer who slouches. Poor posture sometimes comes across as a weakness, especially when confronting an aggressive suspect. So heads up, shoulders back, and eyes intent and focused.

Colleen Belongea – NWTC Public Safety Academy and Writers’ Police Academy instructor, Green Bay PD (ret.), and current co-owner of Assured Private Investigations, a PI firm based in Appleton, Wi. Colleen’s partner,Jill Goffin, is also a NWTC Public Safety Academy and Writers’ Police Academy instructor. Their 2020 joint session at WPA’s special event, MurderCon,, is “Under the Trench Coat” is a journey into the real world of private investigators.

  • Always make and maintain eye contact when speaking to someone.
  • Maintain control of your speaking voice, even during emergency situations. A large man whose voice tone, when involved in a frightening situation, raises to an octave similar to Mickey Mouse’s squeaky voice does not come across as someone who’s in charge of the situation. I call this the Mickey Mouse Syndrome.
  • Honesty and consistency are vital traits. Bad guys will quickly learn that what you say is what you mean, each and every time. Treat everyone fairly and consistently. If you talk the talk , then you absolutely must walk the walk.
  • First impressions only come around once, so make it your best. If a suspect’s first impression of you is that you’re weak, well, expect to have a very rough day.
  • Walk with confidence and with purpose. You know where you’re going and why you’re going there.

Catherine Netter, GTCC and Writers’ Police Academy instructor – Women in Law Enforcement and Jail Operations and Searches

  • Size up everyone. Always be aware of who and what you’re dealing with
  • Stay one step ahead of the person standing before you. Remember, that person may want to kill you, so be prepared to do what it takes to survive. And I mean to do this each and every time you come into contact with someone. You never know which person is the one who plans to do you harm. Sometimes it’s the meek and mild who are quick to pull the trigger.

Most importantly, believe in yourself. Have confidence in what you do and who you are. All the shoe-shining and training in the world will not help you if the image you project is one of weakness.

So have the hero in your story wear the badge proudly, stand tall, and do what it takes to go home safely each and every night.

NWTC Public Safety Academy and Writers’ Police Academy firearms instructor

By the way, civilians in authoritative positions should also exhibit a command presence, and many do so instinctively. Command presence also applies to public speakers, including writers when appearing at conferences and book signings and readings. One of the best in the business at the command presence game is author Lee Child. The moment Child enters a room you know he’s confident, poised, and in full control of each word spoken. He looks sharp, acts sharp, and, well, he is sharp. And it shows.

Lee Child – Writers’ Police Academy

Another fantastic example of someone with fantastic command presence is author/former prosecutor Marcia Clark (yes, that Marcia Clark). Clark comes across as a take charge person, always in control no matter the situation.

Marcia Clark addressing the entire group at the Writers’ Police Academy

Both Lee Child and Marcia Clark are confident in what they do, and it shows, but their personalities are also warm enough to transform even the largest iceberg to a puddle, even at a homicide scene (shallow grave workshop at the 2012 Writers’ Police Academy).

Lee Child and Marcia Clark – shallow grave workshop at the 2012 Writers’ Police Academy

So, you see, having command presence does not necessarily mean a person has to be tough and gruff, but can be when the situation calls for it.

After all, even the toughest of the tough have their tender moments.

GTCC/WPA instructors Stan Lawhorne and Jerry Cooper – Writers’ Police Academy