FEATURED IN LEADERSHIP
Students often ask instructors for suggested reading lists. Folks like Gordon Graham and Sid Heal have broadened my knowledge by sharing their recommendations. Since this month’s class is now in session, I’m going to take the opportunity to do the same and share some books that have influenced me.
By Joseph Heller
I first read Catch 22 as a young Marine. It instantly became a favorite. In this World War II U.S. Army Air Corps classic, “Catch 22” refers to an all-consuming policy section used by “them” (read: superior officers) to manage just about any situation. Example: The main character doesn’t want to go on any more combat missions because he might be killed. Therefore, “they” judge him as sane and order him to fly more missions. But if he volunteered for more potentially deadly flights, he would clearly be insane and, with that, he wouldn’t have to fly the missions. It goes on and on, but this anti-logic is the essence of Catch 22.
Once I pinned on a badge and strapped on a gun to become a lawman, I found a commonality between Catch 22 and police work. The book’s dark humor mirrors the reality of law enforcement. As they say, “The world is a circus and the cops get in for free.”
Heller bombards us with outlandish situations as he also injects war’s drama and tragedy. It’s a parallel story to the Ringling Brothers’ excursion we know as police work. From my trainer’s perspective, it speaks to how a bureaucracy—in the military, law enforcement or any other field—can develop an insulating self-importance that replaces the organization’s mission. This breeds a lack of sensitivity for those at the receiving end: “The case against Clevenger (a pilot) was open and shut. The only thing missing was something to charge him with.” This book is entertaining, and it also contains some profound lessons.
Sound Doctrine & Field Command
By Cmdr. Charles “Sid” Heal, Los Angeles Sheriff’s Dept. (ret.)
“Been there, done that” publications for understanding and managing critical incidents were uncommon until Heal wrote Sound Doctrine: A Tactical Primer in 2000. This book aims to help law enforcement to deal with major STAR moments. (What is a STAR moment? Recognizing the portent on an unusual situation, you utter, “Sh!t, that ain’t right!”) More recently, Heal expanded this learning process with Field Command. One reviewer—Fred Leland—has written: “Field Command is the single most important book written for law enforcement on strategy and tactics, mission planning and decision-making under pressure.” I agree.
Some law enforcement agencies now make these books required reading for promotions. In my mind, it should be required reading, period. These two books provide tutoring from a true expert to avoid errors that could otherwise become future case studies on poor critical incident management.
I Can See You Naked
By Ron Hoff
You pervert, you! Confess—that title got your attention, didn’t it? The book’s purpose is to improve instructional skills—while staying PG-13—and it accomplishes that mission. The technical, as well as the intellectual, aspects of training and sharing information are addressed in detail.
The book asks this important question: “How would your presentation play on television? Would you watch it or zap it in the first five seconds?” Naked (I shortened the title just to keep you interested) is a good investment if you want to consistently make it past those first five seconds with your classes. It’s organized into easy-to-read chapters, and there’s plenty of graphics and sidebar pro tips throughout.
Force under Pressure: How Cops Live and Why They Die
By Dr. Lawrence Blum
Much as Sid Heal has raised the bar for managing critical incidents, Dr. Blum provides insight into the effects of police stressors, including the aftermath of an officer-involved shooting. One reviewer wrote that this book should be mandatory reading for anyone who has gone through a life-threatening event. I’d go a step further: It should be mandatory for all cops, including trainers.
Why? Because I know “Dr. Deadlift”— he has a passion for weight-lifting—as our department psychologist. I have huge respect for him. Make no mistake, this is not just written in a boring theoretical context. The knowledge Dr. Blum provides comes from his work with street cops who’ve experienced the physical and mental trauma that the streets create. I’ve seen firsthand how this man has helped an officer who was almost murdered by a violent criminal and another who scooped up a child in a desperate failed attempt to get to the E.R.
Training at the Speed of Life
By Ken Murray
This should be required introductory reading for anyone assigned to conduct law enforcement or military reality-based training. It’s nothing less than the comprehensive “bible” on the subject. When someone like Lt. Col. Dave Grossman writes the forward (which he also did for Field Command), you know it’s going to be good.
The first chapter’s title gives the reader a sense of its importance: “The Body Count: The Unintended Consequences of Well-Intentioned Training.” There’s a roll call of training tragedies that have taken cops away from their families and profession, leaving their names on a wall in Washington, D.C. This list will continue to grow until every police trainer takes a more serious and dedicated approach to training. Murray lays out a framework for reality-based training using force-on-force techniques and equipment. The chapters of the book address it in a linear manner, beginning with “The Psychological Aspects” followed by “Safety Rituals.” Rituals conveys a dedication, a commitment to making sure that the safety process is observed each and every time before training begins. The remaining chapters dig into the mechanics of reality-based training. If you haven’t yet, put this on your “must-read” list.
Outliers and Blink
By Malcolm Gladwell
I learned about Gladwell from Sid Heal. I bought the audio books so I could listen to the author on long training trips. It gives an extra quality to hear him speak his own words. In Outliers, Gladwell explores such diverse topics as airliner crashes and the success of The Beatles. In Examining the former, with the help of the “black box” recordings and aviation experts, he dissects disastrous crashes and identifies a basic truth: Many could have been prevented had teamwork and effective communication been present in the cockpit. WHAT?! It’s true. In one case, he relates the timidity of a passenger jet’s first officer in dealing with the aggressive New York air traffic controllers. The plane is on the verge of running out of fuel, but he doesn’t press the matter to make sure that the controllers understand. Mass tragedy followed. Good teamwork and communication could have prevented disaster.
Gladwell also examines in detail the concept of success and comes up with a basic formula. In order to achieve personal and professional triumph, one must have the willingness to work hard and then back it up with hard work. How simple and yet so challenging. He chronicles the rise of The Beatles and Bill Gates. In each case, they were never overnight successes. Years of effort—and, yes, some good luck—eventually gave them a ticket to the very top. Along the way they made historic changes to the world’s cultural landscape.
Blink created another learning curve for me. One segment cited a U.S. military war game focusing on the Straits of Hormuz. A team of creative brains were the opposing force. Under the leadership of a free-thinking former Marine, they tear into the generals’ and admirals’ war plans. Rather than learning from this, the military controllers change the rules so that “our” side artificially wins the next battle. That story worries me. I pray it is an isolated example. A surprise was to find Gladwell quoting passages from Dr. Dave Klinger’s, Into the Kill Zone. A good read in its own right, Gladwell uses it to examine police shootings in the hope of reducing their frequency.
On Killing and On Combat
By Lt. Col. Dave Grossman
With his first book, On Killing, Lt. Col. Grossman introduced me to a new level of awareness as a trainer. I don’t have enough room to tell you about all the things I learned from it and the companion volume, On Combat. What I will share was that they exposed me to important concepts such as “stress inoculation” and combat breathing. I’ve done my best to share these and other ideas with students on a regular basis. The same opportunity is there for future readers to harvest from these books.
There’s more but the editorial time-space continuum won’t let me go further. These made me a better cop and trainer. I hope you build your own list to do the same for your students.
Train Safe. God bless America.