The 'How to Be a Better Cop' Reading List

I sincerely believe that if you were to read one or two of these books, you'll be a better cop for it. And if you haven't the time or inclination for reading, then it might hearten you to know some are available on audio books.

Author Dean Scoville Headshot

I'm wrapping up an article on how to be a better cop for the November issue of POLICE. One luxury of being a wordy bastard is that I always have more material left over than I can use, which accounts for my abandoning a sidebar on recommended reads. So, you know what that means...

Yep, I decided to use it for the blog. Waste not, want not. Right?

Now, please don't abandon me on account of the flippancy. Because I sincerely believe that if you were to read one or two of these books, you'll be a better cop for it. And if you haven't the time or inclination for reading, then it might hearten you to know some are available on audio books.

And since this is a patrol column, I decided to include books that if they don't help you become a better cop may at least help you in some other aspect of your life, which will inevitably improve the prospects of your being a better cop.

"The Art of Deception" by Nicholas Capaldi

Simple without being simplistic, Capaldi's book is an excellent primer on logic. Now, if you're like me, you may not be a fan of logic, at least as it might be communicated in the sterile confines of a classroom. But Capaldi's book dispenses with the algebraic notations and cuts to the chase in laying out what logic is all about. And therein lies its appeal.

In easy to read prose, Capaldi illustrates how people fall prey to fallacious contentions and illogical conclusions. By recognizing the errors of their ways, officers can conduct better interviews, better investigations, and write reports that anticipate others' anticipations (i.e., defense lawyers' arguments). Capaldi's book can also help you do a better job of testifying on the stand.

Of all the books I'm listing here, Capaldi's is the one I'm pushing the hardest-largely because I think it's the hardest sell, next to...

"How to Win Friends and Influence People" by Dale Carnegie

Yeah, I can just picture macho cops lining up to buy this staple at their book store, you bet. But there is a reason why the book is one of the all time biggest sellers and remains in print. The truths it presents still carry weight today.

Carnegie started from exceedingly humble origins to become the most widely read author of his time. Wish I'd read his book when I was younger. Maybe I wouldn't have been quite as disagreeable a jerk. (Come to think of it, I know a few people that might get it as a stocking stuffer.)

"We Get Confessions" by Al Joseph

If Carnegie's book will prime the conversational pumps, then Joseph's book is an excellent primer for both uniformed patrol and detectives. The man has been there and done that, and really covers all the bases in getting suspects to talk to you, both in the field and in custodial confines. And I don't care if he's still pissed at me, I believe in his book.

"The Art of War" by Sun Tzu

Any book that's been around for 1500 years only to land on Gordon Gekko's Book of the Month Club and whose principles have been invoked from by both General Douglas MacArthur and National Lampoon's Van Wilder must have something going for it. Some fans believe rigorous adherence to its principles will ensure victory, but I have to believe that little things-like say nuclear warheads-can offset certain otherwise acknowledged advantages. Still, it's epigramic wisdom has withstood the test of time, which is more than I can predict for Al Franken.

"The Anarchist's Cookbook" by William Powell

As a reference tool for putting one's war campaign to fruition, "The Anarchist's Cookbook" might well rate as a supplemental read for "The Art of War." It lays out all manner of nasty little enterprises such as bombs and booby traps that you need to know about.

(Note: I bet I now have the dubious distinction of perhaps being the only person to have this infamous volume and "How to Win Friends and Influence People" on the same list of recommended books.)

"Blue Blood" by Edward Condon

Even Joseph Wambaugh says this former NYPD officer's book is the best patrol memoir ever written. It touches on the good, the bad, and everything in between about being a cop, and in a manner that is at once as edifying as it is entertaining. If nothing else, it made me happy I didn't have to walk up and down flights of stairs all the damned time. (But believe me, there's more action than that). Condon knows how to turn a phrase, and his book will give every cop who's ever been screwed over by his or her admin a sense of vicarious vengeance.

"The PTSD Workbook: Simple, Effective Techniques for Overcoming Traumatic Stress Symptoms" by Mary Beth Williams and Soili Poijula

I actually had to make a run to Barnes and Noble to check this one out. If you have any inkling that you or a fellow worker may be suffering from the delayed effects of stress-inducing incidents, consider picking this book up.

"Tactical Edge: Surviving High-Risk Patrol," "Tactics for Criminal Patrol,"  and "Street Survival Tactics for Armed Encounters" by Charles Remsberg

The holy trinity of officer survival. Next to ballistic vests, academy training, and medical intervention, I can't imagine anything that has been responsible for saving more officers' lives than these books. It might seem redundant to some to include them herein, but I recently met a cop who wasn't familiar with them, so I don't want to assume everyone knows Remsberg's work.

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