Monday, October 12, 2009

Patrolman's Book List Busts Stereotypes

Searching the internet can sometimes lead to an unexpectedly intriguing result through sheer serendipity. While looking for an item the other day, a hit that popped up that sidetracked me: "The 'How to Be a Better Cop' Reading List."

The man behind the list, Dean Scoville, is a retired patrol supervisor and investigator with the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, and currently the Associate Editor of Police Magazine. He writes the "Patrol" blog for the magazine's website which is described as: "straight talk [for] officers and deputies working the urban and rural beats." Scoville describes himself as "a wordy bastard" given to "flippancy." But despite his snarky style, his book list is anything but lightweight.

Because public librarians deal with every kind of person and situation imaginable--just like cops--I thought there might be something useful to me on that list. What I found was a lineup of titles that gave me new insight into the mindset required to be a smart cop. (And anyone who works in the high-crime neighborhood known as "customer service" will find these titles almost as helpful as a bulletproof vest.)

Scoville's first recommendation is The Art of Deception, an introduction to logic by Nicholas Capaldi. The retired patrolman admits the book will be a hard sell to his fellow officers but makes this convincing argument for tackling the tricky tome: "Capaldi illustrates how people fall prey to fallacious contentions and illogical conclusions. By recognizing the error of their ways, officers can conduct better interviews [and] better investigations and write reports that anticipate others' anticipations [i.e. defense lawyers' arguments.]" A book that helps cops outsmart lawyers. I bet that one gets picked up by an officer or two.

The list continues with both titles and annotations that surprise:

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

The Art of War by Sun Tzu: "Epigrammatic wisdom that has stood the test of time, which is more than I can predict for Al Franken."

Blue Blood by Edward Conlon: "This former NYPD officer's book is the best patrol memoir ever written. Conlon knows how to turn a phrase, and his book will give every cop who's ever been screwed over... a sense of vicarious vengeance."

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 bookstore, you bet. [But] the truths it presents still carry weight today."

The Anarchist Cookbook by William Powell: "It lays out all manner of nasty little enterprises, such as bombs and booby traps, you need to know about."

Scoville dryly notes that he has the "dubious distinction of perhaps being the only person" to put those last two titles on the same recommended reading list.

The retired cop even makes a statement that sounds suspiciously like the words of an old pro at reader's advisory: "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." Prima-facie evidence that the patrolman and the public librarian really do walk similar beats.

1 comment:

  1. So why isn't a book like this handed out to graduating police recruits?


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