Three years ago in this space, we listed 10 "Must Read" Books for Law Enforcement Officers including titles such as "Blood Lessons" by Chuck Remsberg, "The War on Cops" by Heather Mac Donald, "The Gift of Fear" by Gavin De Becker, and, well, seven others.
With the International Law Enforcement Educators and Trainers Association Conference and Expo now just one week away—and in anticipation that many of the more than 600 expected to attend might now be contemplating new reading materials to enjoy during their flight to Mound City—we asked five well known-and well-read police trainers for some of the titles in their recommended reading in their library.
Unsurprisingly, the five individuals with whom we spoke offer titles as diverse and as interesting as their chosen focus of instruction in the field of law enforcement. Here is their short list. Add your own suggestions in the comments area below.
Fighting the False Narrative
Betsy Brantner Smith is a retired sergeant from a mid-sized Illinois agency, a published author, nationally renowned police trainer, and spokesman for the National Police Association who spends hundreds of hours each month speaking with the international media about American law enforcement issues.
Among the books Brantner Smith suggests for police professionals is The Blue Divide: Policing and Race in America, by Dr. Will Moravits. An in-depth, factual, and academic look at various infamous police use of force cases, Moravits uses his experiences as a police officer and a researcher to analyze some of the most high profile cases in the past decade.
"One of the most dangerous aspects of policing today is the extraordinary vilification of the American law enforcement officer by politicians, activists, educators and especially the media," Brantner Smith says. "By convincing the public that the police, not the criminals, are the most dangerous folks in the neighborhood, these entities continue to sow the seeds of distrust and fear that can impede our ability to successfully interact with the very people we are trying to “protect and serve."
Brantner Smith adds, "The fallacies put forth about the deaths of people like Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown and George Floyd have had an indelible impact on the police profession, and yet most of the media still can’t seem to get the facts right. Every cop in the country should make it their mission to know the facts about police use of force and be able to 'fight the false narrative' that the police are the problem."
Refining Your Teaching Style
John Bostain has served the law enforcement profession for the past 29 years—27 of which have been as a law enforcement trainer. John now leads a team of instructors at Command Presence Training, which delivers professional development training throughout the U.S.
Bostain says that dozens of books he'd recommend as required reading for law enforcement trainers but the one he recommend most is not a 'law enforcement' book at all. Bostain says that Teach With Style: Creative Tactics for Adult Learning by Jim Teeters and Lynn Hodges has "been a game changer" for his career as a trainer.
Bostain explains, "Almost every Instructor Certification program talks about 'Adult Learning Styles,' but I've never come across a single program that includes instruction about the four 'Teaching Styles.' This awesome book not only helps you identify your predominant style of teaching, it also provides entire chapters on how to improve on the other three. The elite trainers I've looked up to over my career have all shared one thing in common—they possess an incredible balance of all four teaching styles."
Preventing and Mitigating Trauma
Nicole Florisi—Law Enforcement Subject Matter Expert, VirTra Inc.—says that the books she suggests for other police trainers are "probably outside the normal law enforcement training box." She says that trainers have a responsibility to provide our training from a platform that prevents and mitigates trauma as well as increases the understanding of human behavior.
Among the titles she recommends is One Badge, One Brain, One Life: Preventative Maintenance for Your Brain While in the Line of Duty, by Dr. Robbie Adler-Tapia.
"If we want first responders to be healthier psychologically, this is THE book," Florisi says. "Trainers can weave the resiliency skills into their training program as part of stress inoculation and overall trauma/stress mitigation. Psychological Kevlar is a vital tool for survival, but beyond that, moving from surviving into thriving. I recommend this book to every first responder I know. We need to teach resiliency skills, not talk about teaching them."
Rethinking Old Philosophies
Brian Willis was a full-time police officer for 25 years and is still an active law enforcement trainer. Through his company Winning Mind Training Inc., Willis provides professional development training for law enforcement trainers, leadership training and training on performance enhancement imagery, mindset and mental performance.
Willis suggests that every law enforcement trainer and leader read is Do Hard Things: Why We Get Resilience Wrong and the Surprising Science of REAL Toughness by Steve Magness. Willis says that one particular passage from the book "accurately describes one of the issues in law enforcement training and leadership." It is:
For too long, our definition of toughness revolved around a belief that the toughest individuals are ones who have thick skin, fear nothing, constrain any emotional reaction, and hide all signs of vulnerability. In other words, they are callous……… The old model of toughness is represented in the Bobby Knight school of coaching, authoritarian parents, and the callous model of leading.
Willis explains, "Under the guise of getting people to 'toughen up' we applaud callous trainers, strive to create callous robots in the academy, and promote callous leaders in the profession. As Magness points out, 'there are consequences.' We need to think differently, train differently and lead differently in order to advance the profession."
Dan Greene—a 26-year veteran with the Chandler (AZ) Police Department who also serves as Executive Director of the National Association of Field Training Officers (NAFTO)—says suggests that practically everyone in public safety can benefit from reading Mindful Responder by Crawford Coates.
"If you were to look up Gen Xer in the dictionary, you'd find my photo," Greene says. "I grew up in the dead center of the 'rub some dirt on it' generation. When we were hurt, we 'walked it off.' I still subscribe to the personal strength and development—that kind of attitude can grow inside of you as a positive. However, I've also come to realize—with age—that not all injuries can be healed with dirt and a brisk walk."
Greene concludes, "In his book, Mindful Responder, Crawford Coates does a great job helping people like me, and maybe you, open their minds to the practice of Mindfulness. Crawford helped me demystify some of the stereotypes behind mindfulness and explained how I can benefit from some age-old practices to grow and heal. Crawford has a passion for helping others and a heart to serve first responders."
Sharing the Wealth
All of the above books are well worth the investment in purchase price at your local book store or one of the online mega-retailers. These books and others are also usually available directly from the authors' websites. For the frugally minded but voracious reader, the library is an excellent second option.
However, the best possible avenue for obtaining the knowledge in these pages is to make a book a shared experience—most officers are accustomed to this in an academy setting, but an even better setting is a book club or a book swap in any group larger than two persons.
Everyone involved brings a title to the table, offering thoughts to the rest similar to those articulated above, and lend that item to any interested individual. Discuss the material together to compare interpretations and reap the inherent value in each other's wealth of knowledge.