Street Survival: Tactics for Armed Encounters by Charles Remsberg, Ronald J. Adams, and Thomas M. McTernan

The book was given to me by my wife early on in my career as a police officer. This book embedded in me the proper mindset to be a police officer. It started my lifelong training on how best to mentally and physically prepare for those dangerous or hazardous situations that we could all one day find ourselves in. Those preparations continue to this day.

The mindset I’m referring to is the mental preparation that a law enforcement officer has done to prepare for their tour of duty. Mental preparation comes from thinking about how you will react under stress during one of those dangerous encounters. For example, you think about how you will react in a combatant situation or how you’ll respond if you encounter an armed suspect and you have to shoot, or how you will react in that situation if you are the one shot. If you are not mentally prepared through your mindset and mental preparation for these types of circumstances, the situation you’re involved in is not likely to end in your favor.

Proper mindset dictates that you understand and have studied the best approach to any dangerous situation, such as the proper use of a flashlight (misuse of your light is incredibly dangerous), as well as the proper use of cover and concealment. The final component of this mental mindset is a strong understanding of just how important your command presence is — Is your voice strong or weak? Do you look physically fit or look like an easy target? Human nature dictates that during confrontation a person will “size up” the officer and decide whether or not they can take on that officer almost immediately. A strong mental mindset is likely to convince the bad guy that this cop can’t be easily taken. Each and every one of these components come into play during a dangerous encounter and a prepared mindset is your first defense in every situation.

Intelligence-Led Policing by Jerry Ratcliffe

Without a doubt, the most influential book of my actual law enforcement career has been “Intelligence-Led Policing” by Jerry Ratcliffe. When I was the Chief of Police in Sherman, I was unsatisfied with the traditional model of policing where police officers randomly patrolled their beat and reactively responded to calls for service from citizens. Those patrol officers also tried to keep tabs on those they perceived as the ones causing the most harm to our community.

“Intelligence-Led Policing” is based on empirical data received from throughout the entire law enforcement organization and is forwarded to an intelligence analyst. This data is put into a useful format and used by the Chief or Sheriff in determining who is actually responsible for causing the most harm to the community. With this information, resources (patrol officers and/or deputies) are allocated to deal with the problems in the community.

A very simple analogy explains the methodology: A good fishing guide reads the signs of where the fish are, then casts the line. They are more likely to catch fish where evidence shows the fish are actually located. The same goes with crime. Police officers and deputies are used most effectively where there are known problems — drugs, robberies, theft, etc. — which is why I implemented “Intelligence-Led Policing” at Sherman P.D. and now at the Grayson County Sheriff’s Office.

The challenge of changing an agency from reactive (traditional) policing or proactive (intelligence-led policing) is the same. Because it goes completely against “what we’ve always done,” the Chief or Sheriff must first create an Intelligence Analyst position in order to put all of the crime data in a usable format. Next comes training upper management (captains & lieutenants) that the new approach will work in reducing or diminishing the effects of crime on our community. Once that happens, the focus is then on the sergeants and finally the front line officers. This is where the biggest challenge comes into play. Since the beginning of organized policing in our country, the front line officer has operated with autonomy in regard to who he felt was causing the most harm to the community. With intelligence-led policing this changes. Once the department is trained in intelligence-led policing, the entire agency becomes an integral part of an effective crime fighting model.

In The Hands of Providence by Alice Rains Trulock

A friend of mine told me about “In the Hands of Providence.” Little did I know how much this book, and the subject of the book, Colonel Joshua Chamberlain, would come to shape the way I think, do and say about matters of moral importance.

Though the book is a biography of a great American hero, it also provides an exceptional narrative of the American Civil War. Because of her extraordinary research skill, author Alice Trulock is able to provide many previously unknown primary sources of information about Col. Chamberlain. Trulock weaves these primary sources throughout the book, which seems to create a first person account of the Civil War with an abundance of reflection on the personal character of Col. Chamberlain.

At the time of the Civil War, most people felt that it would end quickly. It didn’t, and at the end of the first year of the war, Chamberlain left his academic position at Bowdoin College in Bangor, Maine to join the Union Army. He was commissioned as a colonel and formed the Twentieth Maine Volunteers. He is recognized by historians to be the person that turned the tide of the Battle of Gettysburg by repelling a strong Confederate attack on the left flank of the Union Army. When his Union troops were out of ammunition, he ordered a bayonet attack on the charging Confederate troops, thus ending the immediate threat. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his actions.

Throughout the book, Col. Chamberlain’s personal attributes and character are very well defined. Though you are not likely to hear Col. Chamberlain’s name mentioned with the great generals named Grant and Sherman, it is his attributes and character that led General U.S. Grant to pick, then General Chamberlain to accept, the surrender of General Lee’s army at Appomattox, Virginia.

Though there are many things about Chamberlain that stood out to me, what I admired most about the man is his leadership, his courage under fire, his compassion for his troops (as well as for the Confederate enemy), and finally, his personal integrity. In addition to his stellar military career, he went on to serve as a four term governor for the state of Maine.

There are many examples of his compassion for his troops, but one incident that reverberated with me clearly set him apart as an exceptional leader. As a commander, he was assigned a group of mutinous Union soldiers. He was told by his commanders to get the best out of these soldiers that he could and to shoot them on the spot if they didn’t work. His first realization of these troops was how badly they had been mistreated prior to his command. He ordered they be fed, properly clothed, and taken care of. His actions led to the loyalty of many of these men, some of whom went on to become some of the best troops under his command. In his memoirs, Trulock found Chamberlain’s true belief on this matter when he wrote, in part, “the way to ensure the efficiency of the army is to keep the men in the best possible condition, physically and morally.”

My leadership creed is based on this book, along with a few others, but this book best captures the attributes I strive to attain both professionally and personally.