One of the factions of my setting has several different races cooperating to form a cohesive society. Being relatively modern, it has a variety of amenities we would consider a part of civilisation, like hospitals, banks, and police(For the sake of the question, technology could be considered 1930s era)

This brings me to a question regarding one of the races. Gnolls are more or less to hyenas what humans are chimps, with the exception that they are quite a bit larger, with 6'10 being average across both male and female at a weight of 110-130kg, with certain individuals reaching sizes of up to 8-9ft and 230-270kg. They also have brutally strong jaws (Hyenas can crush bone), and on occasion, sharp claws. My point is, should they feel the need, they can be quite dangerous.

The police force thus encounters something of a conundrum, when apprehending them. Officers attempting to arrest a resisting gnoll find themselves at a distinct disadvantage most of the time, and the result of this can end up oftentimes being rather embarrassing or, should the gnoll be a particularly violent offender, Take an unwantedly brutal turn.

Whilst there are quite a few already, they don't want to hire exclusively gnoll police officers to "even out the playing field", as giving a single race a monopoly on sanctioned violent force is recognised as being, well, not a terrific idea. Conversely, they don't want to rely on brandishing potentially lethal force whenever interacting with gnolls, e.g pulling guns, as only using guns on one species and not the others would give the impression of discrimination, and considerably annoy high ranking gnolls (Gnolls are one of the respected founding races of aforementioned faction, not an oppressed minority, and therefore hold a good deal of sway). Keep in mind that most gnolls aren't particularly inclined to be violent towards authorities, but if one does, it is an altogether more difficult situation than if some 5'8 60kg human does so.

How then, does this societies police force manage to apprehend a consistently larger, stronger citizen, in such a way that they don't appear to be overly brutal?

  • 21
    $\begingroup$ I'm 6'5" and outmass your average gnoll numbers. Being a Navy veteran makes me a terrible ground combatant compared to a professional soldier, but I'm easily more dangerous than a football hooligan or garden variety madlad. Having been properly manhandled by people who know what they're doing, I'll offer that perhaps you've underestimated standard cop-fu. Which is easy to understand given the state of police training today, but the techniques work brilliantly if one knows them. $\endgroup$
    – user8827
    Commented Oct 5, 2022 at 19:03
  • $\begingroup$ I mostly agree with Nohbdy (or is it Odysseus?) on this one. That said, I have noticed that there seems to be a sharp falloff at about a 3:5 body mass disadvantage where even an unskilled grappler can usually beat a highly trained grappler if the weight difference is greater than this. . So an average gnoll could still be arrested no problem, but those bigger ones will typically take more than 1 human to take down. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented Oct 6, 2022 at 16:20
  • $\begingroup$ A canine that's 6' at the shoulder (presuming that the neck and head are another 10 inches) is going to weigh 250kg, not 130kg. (For example, an English Mastif is 3 feet at the shoulder and weighs 104kg. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Commented Oct 7, 2022 at 14:53
  • $\begingroup$ @RonJohn, I don't think you accounted for the beast becoming a fantastical bipedal sentient citizen whose anatomy is defined entirely by the OP. $\endgroup$
    – user8827
    Commented Oct 7, 2022 at 19:59
  • $\begingroup$ @Nohbdy I must have missed the "bipedal" part. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Commented Oct 7, 2022 at 20:06

9 Answers 9


Basic gear should always be designed for what kind of situations you expect to encounter.

Perhaps completely baffling to Americans, some police forces in the world don't carry guns at all and will have rules ("only when you expect to need one") or separate forces that deal with firearm policing. This puts emphasis on de-escalating violence and only using it as a last resort.

If your human police is expected to regularly interact with Gnolls that aren't violent to authorities then they'll not need violent lethal weapons to pacify them. Through talking and social capabilities designed to interact with Gnolls you could achieve most of your goals.

So what if it does turn violent? Assuming Gnolls have a higher sense of smell, the threat of pepper-spray can be a massive deterrent for attack, if not stop an ongoing attack if you do use it. Other options are force multipliers like a weapon stick as well as basic armor designed to stop slashing attacks. Hell, you could put a layer of pepper-spray or similar in the armor which releases when something rips into it, like a Gnoll biting down.


Authority is more important than Force

Individual police offers already face many of the same concerns you are bringing up here. For example, it is not uncommon for a female officer of average stature to have to face a male suspect who is twice her body weight and 3 times her strength. While you would think this means that she would have a harder time arresting a suspect, or put her in greater danger, you would be surprised. Most people simply will not resist arrest no matter how big or small the officer is simply because there is so much authority in being a police officer unto itself. The crimes associated with harming, resisting, or fleeing an officer are often much more severe than the crimes you are being arrested for, and in most cases are themselves enough deterrent to prevent a suspect from fighting back. In the vast majority of encounters that would be classified as dangerous, the police know going into it that it is a dangerous encounter and bring appropriate measures which would include superior numbers and if likely needed, weapons of lethal force. If the situation is dangerous enough, a cop will approach a situation with gun drawn, but the size of the cop /suspect are not supposed to be taken into account according to most police procedures when it comes to threatening or using lethal force.

Culture is also more important than Force

Gnolls are one of the respected founding races of aforementioned faction, not an oppressed minority, and therefore hold a good deal of sway

Police discrimination is real, but it's not arbitrary. We see this in the way that a cop's race does not have a big impact on how likely he is to discriminate against a certain group. In a given town, the police learn to fear/hate the same groups through past experiences and negative feedback loops of violence regardless of the cops race. When a police officer enters a "good" part of town to deal with a crime where he's never had to use force to get the job done, he will tend to be less on guard, and more prepared to solve the problem with words. Likewise, the people who live in that area tend to become more trusting of cops, and therefore more compliant. In contrast, if a neighborhood is of a higher threat, the opposite happens. When police profiling turns into police racism is where one race dominates one of these two types of areas; so, if your Gnolls are normally found in the more law abiding parts of town, then they will be more inclined to talk to and cooperate with law enforcement, and vise versa. (even those minority gnolls in the bad parts of town due to positive racism).

Another curious cultural factor is modern chivalry. Despite being smaller and weaker, female cops are less likely to be physically attacked than male cops. The use of lethal force against a female cop is exceptionally rare. This comes from having different cultural norms about using violence against women vs men. The majority of men in Western Civilization share the belief that it is much more wrong to hurt a woman than a man. This comes from the ideology that if you are strong it is your duty to protect those who are weak; so, attacking someone much weaker than you (or culturally identified as weaker) goes against most people's core ethics. Your Gnolls may share a similar ideology where humans are concerned. Thier history and folklore may be full of stories of valiant Gnolls use their superior strength to save Humans in distress, and that message becomes so engrained in them that when the time comes to talk or fight with a human officer, that they will be more inclined to talk things out.

Training is more important than Force

Up to this point, I think I've adequately answered the general question of how humans could still be an important and effective part of the police force without giving over an monopoly to the Gnolls, but there is also the implied question of what to do when things do get violent, and the reality is that police training already takes this kind of threat into account.

The first thing to consider is that a person trained in grappling is vastly more effective than a person who is not. When I was a in high-school, our wrestling coach decided one day to make a point about how important skill and training are so he made a bunch of the Freshmen face off against the Varsity team. After all us noobs got our butts handed too us in "fair" matchups, he went on to pair off 55kg guys with 80kg guys and 70kg guys with 105kg guys, and it did not make a huge difference. The experienced wrestlers won every single match. So, even when fights do turn violent, most of the Gnolls will not be trained fighters, just drunken idiots or what not, and the training of the human cops will still be adequate to overcome many significant physical disadvantages. Also, while that bite force the gnolls have is a scary thought, there are plenty of humans who work in animal control who "arrest" everything from dangerous dog breeds, to bears, to alligators. There are techniques to dealing with dangerous biters, and with proper training you can reliably avoid getting bitten.

Now the greatest threat where non-lethal force is called for is of course the trained, physically superior, and mentally ill offender. I used to know an Army veteran with PTSD who was on the upper limits of human size, strength, reflexes, pain endurance, and unarmed combat skill. So, I can confidently say he's about as dangerous as one of your more dangerous gnolls. One day he had an episode were he wound up outside during an episode of paranoid delusions. He was unresponsive to diplomacy, but his mental illness was obvious enough that the cops knew not to use lethal force, even though he was being clearly threatening. The 2 officers who first arrived on scene were warned that he was ex-military so did not even try to arrest him when they realized the situation was escalating, they backed off and tailed him from a distance but did not pursue closely enough to get caught up in a fight. Only after they had 10 officers in position did they attempt a take down. He was unresponsive to pepper spray or multiple tasers so in the end, all 10 cops simply had to pile on him at once with multiple offers immobilizing each limb. This whole story is to say that police already recognize when a perpetrator is too dangerous to go at alone, so when a physical threat is perceived as high, they use tactics in addition to their training to reliably win.

A final thought

Cops often have partners. Smart heads of police partner up cops who have complementary skills; so, it may be a very common pairing in your setting to see human and gnoll officers traveling in pairs. Let the smaller and less intimidating human handle the initial engagement to try to manage/de-escalate the situation, and have the gnoll ready to step in if thing start to get out of hand. Since your biggest concern seems to be not letting the police be dominated by gnolls, this sort of forced integration would do a lot to encourage mutual respect between the races in law enforcement while also minimizing how much racist cops could rally for exclusivity forming all gnoll clicks within police departments.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ I up voted this because the issue of perceived authority and the reality of mismatched police-to-criminal encounters are very real. But I also have friends who are members of the police, and when faced with a potentially violent criminal who couldn't care less about their authority (not the norm, but a very real exception), their training is to pull their sidearm. Along the scale of "what works when...?", this answer absolutely exists and the OP should use it. But it's not a solution that would stop a violent criminal (see OP's paragraph #3). $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Oct 5, 2022 at 20:29
  • 9
    $\begingroup$ Actually, it does. You cant make cops invincible, only measure how safe they are on the job. If gnolls are more likely to be aggressive towards and go too far with other gnolls, then humans could still be safer and more effective on the job without a single lick of added physical protection. In the real world, when a female cop is faced with a violent criminal, it is far less likely for the criminal to choose to use lethal force. The best defense is not the one that stops the bullet on impact. It's the one that stops the shooter from pulling the trigger. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented Oct 5, 2022 at 21:13
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ Oh, don't get me wrong. Everything you've described must come first. That's why I up voted the answer. It's just not a holistic solution because once the respect for authority breaks down, it's no longer a solution. The benefit this has to the OP is that all the other solutions are either strengthened by this answer or are worthless without it. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Oct 5, 2022 at 23:36
  • $\begingroup$ @JBH Ah, you are correct there. I've expanded on my answer to address when things do go bad aspect of how smaller cops deal with these threats in the real world as well. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented Oct 6, 2022 at 16:06
  • $\begingroup$ I would like to add that any social animal thrives on supporting one another. Anyone higher in the social hierarchy automatically also has more responsibility. The leader might get the most food and sex, they also have to face danger first, ensure the sick and the young eat first (for wolves the first BITE so the sick and young can eat even if they cant open the skin) etc. Breaking this means being ostracized and death (until modern globalization). This is why men are less likely to attack female officers/women overall, as this hurts your social standing and could ostracise yourself. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Commented Oct 6, 2022 at 18:23



Interestingly, spotted hyenas have also been found to be affected by catnip. Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is a plant in the mint family that is well-known for its effects on domestic cats. When cats smell or ingest catnip, they may become playful, roll around, and even drool.

The police have bags of catnip dust they throw. Angry gnolls become silly, mellow and very high.

Also more fun to write.

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ This raises some serious questions on if drugs are allowed in police settings. Imagine the police using THC to get people high and passive. It would probably work, but would we agree on it being allowed? Also reavers firefly.fandom.com/wiki/Reaver $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Commented Oct 5, 2022 at 19:43
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ I'm trying to imagine what would happen if police were given the power to drug people. (also see JBH's Tranquilizer answer) I mean, I personally wouldn't be happy about that. Police power is a touchy subject on its own though - even without catnip. $\endgroup$
    – Wyck
    Commented Oct 5, 2022 at 19:44
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ In District 9 the authorities would hand out cat food to the prawns, which had a similar effect to catnip I think, in terms of quelling an uprising, or was at least a cheap bargaining chip. Worth pointing out that they were highly racially discriminated against. $\endgroup$
    – Wyck
    Commented Oct 5, 2022 at 19:48
  • 8
    $\begingroup$ @Wyck The police already have the power to drug people. Mace… pepper spray… tear gas… Where are you trying to draw the line? Narcotics? I'm not trying to start an argument. I'm just pointing out that chemicals have been part of the policeman's arsenal for a long time. I'm only guessing, but I wouldn't be surprised that the reason narcotics or sedatives aren't used is the legal ramifications of innocent bystanders becoming collateral damage. IRL tranquilizers and sedatives must be balanced against weight and metabolism or they can be deadly. Tough to do during a fight. But this isn't Real Life. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Oct 5, 2022 at 20:24
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Wyck - I understand. And I propose instead we climb the fire escape to the top of the old bank. huff catnip, eat cold pizza and watch the Northern Lights. Bring your ukulele. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented Oct 6, 2022 at 23:35

1930s tech level you say? Fortunately, stunning weapons are older than you might think! If your gnolls aren't particularly resistant to electric shocks, a stunning glove with sufficient wattage should serve to subdue them. Just say that the greater need for nonlethal weaponry slightly accelerated development and adaptation of the glove (maybe tie it in with a tech-loving fantasy race if you got these; gnomes come to mind).

It might not be entirely egalitarian, but using a 'stunning' weapon should at least help with managing public opinion, compared to guns.


There is strength in number.

In the same way a group of herbivores can keep at bay hyenas when a single one of them would stand no chances, a large group of law enforcers can get a hold of the target without recurring to lethal force.

Should the subject be non cooperative, there is always the possibility of using sedation, regardless of its species.


Net the Bastards

enter image description here

The police carry nets. The net is the perfect nonlethal weapon. It has no sharp edges and one size fits all. You can net a gnome. You can net a goblin. You can net a halfling. You can net a human. You can net a troll. It is especially easy to net a Greater Demon because all the horns and spikes get tangled up in the net.

The only danger is you might accidentally net some bystanders with the bad guy. This is bad for the bystanders. Fortunately the police are good at aiming their nets because they learn it in police school.

  • $\begingroup$ A net is only a minor inconvenience. Perhaps a better alternative to this same concept would be something more like a man-catcher so you can force range between you and all those gnashing teeth and claws. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Commented Oct 6, 2022 at 17:01
  • $\begingroup$ @Nosajimiki Depends on how tangled you are. $\endgroup$
    – Daron
    Commented Oct 7, 2022 at 9:22


While the modern tranquilizer dart gun was invented in the 1950s, all the components for inventing them 20 years earlier existed in the 1930s. There just wasn't a particular reason to drive the invention faster.

If there's a concern here, use a blow gun, which was invented so long ago we can't really define when it happened. And while modern tranquilizers were also invented in the 1950s, sedatives have been around since the 1880s.

I believe it's well within suspension-of-disbelief to use tranquilizing darts as a non-lethal means of controlling what is for practical comparison purposes a grizzly bear.

  • $\begingroup$ pretty sure I already answered this with Poison below. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 6, 2022 at 23:32
  • $\begingroup$ @PrincePapaya I stopped reading your answer after the word "poison," which doesn't imply a non-lethal solution. Poisons are lethal by definition. Now that I've read your answer in full, it is regrettable that you used the word "poison." $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Oct 7, 2022 at 3:34

Skunk 'Em!

Police can use special clinging spray to change the conversation with the occasional recalcitrant Gnolls, who find the smell disgusting and horrible. They flee it when possible. Whether or not it's also irritating is up to you.

Of course, the clinging horrible smell means that all their (high-status) friends and co-workers know that they were obtuse and foolish enough to get into an altercation with the (lower-status) police, and they may be ostracized for a week or two until the smell wears off.

Optional: You can also make it an emetic for Gnolls: It defuses violence by inducing vomiting in the Gnolls who inhale it. Since it clings, the retching Gnolls quickly forget their anger and aren't very fast at fleeing.

Optional for comedic effect: It could also be a powerful laxative.

A police officer may have different sprays on their belt, each for a different species.

The Gnolls employed by the police department really hate that day of training.


Sleeping poison.

Using blow darts to poison targets with a narcotic could easily subdue a target without the need for much physical interaction which could lead to violence. The sleep poison could be adjusted in intensity to compensate for larger or smaller targets, to easily knock out a creature and safely subdue them.

  • $\begingroup$ Or use a deadly poison that takes a while to kill them, and promise them the antidote if they come to the HQ. Or use a poison that just weakens them for a while. $\endgroup$
    – user96966
    Commented Oct 6, 2022 at 17:08

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .