Book Review: Street Survival II

Street Survival II delivers sound guidance on a variety of topics that are relevant to today’s street cop


In support of the release of “Street Survival II," the book's co-author and PoliceOne columnist Dan Marcou is writing a series of articles on street survival in which he shares the tactics acquired during a career dedicated not only to ensuring his own personal survival but assisting other officers in their quest to survive as well. This series is member exclusive content. Get free access to this and other PoliceOne exclusives by signing up or logging in today!

When I was a young man, my dad took several of his precious days off from the job to attend a multi-day seminar titled “Street Survival,” after the name of a recently released police book from a new company called Calibre Press.

Although it was tough to find room in the family budget for the tuition (safety-conscious cops have always had to spend their own money to supplement the meager training they receive from their departments), it was money well spent. The lessons he learned in the ground-breaking officer safety program helped keep him safe and get him home to his family each night, and you just can’t put a price on that.

Nothing like it

This wasn’t a project that could be undertaken lightly. (Image/Calibre Press)
This wasn’t a project that could be undertaken lightly. (Image/Calibre Press)

There had never been a book quite like “Street Survival” when it was published in March 1980. Pierce Brooks’ “…officer down, code three” had helped usher in the fledgling “officer survival” movement when it was published five years earlier, but Brooks’ effort was more focused on the mental aspects of officer safety. Through a series of stories based on actual incidents, Brooks helped to identify and encourage a survival mind-set, but his book was light on tactics and procedure.

In contrast, “Street Survival” was a virtual “how-to” for policing. Critical concepts and theory were covered, but what made “Street Survival” unique was its detailed focus on the tactics, techniques and procedures police officers should follow to ensure their safety. Diagrams and photos showed officers how to use cover, how to counter a disarm attempt, how to reload a weapon with one hand injured and how to conduct a search. Officers could learn better handcuffing techniques, tactics for a high-risk stop and how to clear a malfunction in one of the semiauto pistols that were just starting to make inroads in police work.

“Street Survival” became an instant classic because it filled a desperate need. Police training honestly wasn’t very good or comprehensive in many parts of America in 1980. A lot of training lacked context and realism, and in some places, officers were put on the street without any formal training at all. Agencies didn’t share much information with each other, and most officers didn’t have access to police training beyond what their agency provided…which often wasn’t very much.

“Street Survival” helped change that. It provided vital information many officers had never seen before, and shared best practices with officers who had no other way to discover them. The accompanying Street Survival Seminars – inspired by the book’s success – had an even more dramatic effect on learning, because they brought officers from all over the country together to share their experience and knowledge. The seminar’s presenters often learned as much from the audience as the audience learned from them, and Calibre Press wisely incorporated this new knowledge into the presentation. As such, the seminar continuously improved, and the information never got stale.

Updating a classic

Tens – maybe hundreds – of thousands of cops around the nation have read “Street Survival” and been exposed to its lifesaving lessons. It’s still full of good information and will always be a classic in police education, but some of the content is dated by today’s standards. While some things about policing will never change, it’s still a dynamic profession and there’s no way a text written in 1980 could do a good job of addressing all the challenges faced by street cops today.

Nobody understood this more than Lieutenant (Ret.) Jim Glennon, the current owner of Calibre Press. As a cop for 29 years and a lead instructor for the Street Survival Seminar for 15 years, Jim knew the book hadn’t kept pace with the march of time. While the seminar it had inspired benefitted from continuous improvements that maintained its relevancy, the book was overdue for a refresh.

This wasn’t a project that could be undertaken lightly, however. Street Survival had become an icon in the law enforcement community, and any attempt to revisit it would fail unless it was done right. The information had to be presented in a way that would engage a new generation of cops who didn’t suffer from the information shortage their fathers and grandfathers experienced “back in the day.”

To make that happen, Jim approached Lieutenant (Ret.) Dan Marcou to lead the effort. A PoliceOne columnist and editorial advisory board member, “Lt. Dan” is a critical thinker, skilled tactician, passionate instructor and talented writer. Like Glennon, Marcou is a “cop’s cop,” and was the natural choice to tackle a project of this magnitude.

Changes

Readers familiar with the original “Street Survival” will recognize some of the changes in Street Survival II right away.

Some of these changes are the result of advances in equipment used by officers today. In the nearly four decades since “Street Survival” was published, the semiautomatic pistol replaced the double action revolver in police work, and the carbine came close to doing the same thing to the venerable shotgun. Electronic discharge weapons and OC spray emerged as the primary less-than-lethal tools, and cops found themselves suiting up with body-worn cameras before every shift.

The amazing power and capability of modern tactical flashlights, weapon-mounted lights and weapon-mounted lasers have opened doors to new tactics and techniques that couldn’t have existed in 1980. Similarly, the proliferation of in-car computers, cell phones and other electronics have created distractions and safety issues that previous generations of cops didn’t have to deal with as much.

“Street Survival II” deals with these changes and their influence on tactics and officer safety, but it also goes beyond equipment-related topics. Contemporary issues like terrorism, active shooters, the “Guardian versus Warrior” debate, officer-created jeopardy, the war on cops, law enforcement interaction with suicidal subjects and current legal issues are all freshly addressed by the text.

Some things don’t change

Street Survival II” also recognizes the constants in the profession though. Just as the prior text offered instruction on the best ways to handle the daily challenges of the job, “Street Survival II” guides a new generation of officers toward the best practices for searching a building, approaching a car, keeping their sidearm running, or countering an ambush.

Situational awareness and mental preparation are covered, and the authors also discuss how physiological changes induced by stress can affect performance.

One of the things that made the original “Street Survival” so unique was its bold and open recognition of post-traumatic stress in an era when the issue was usually ignored or hidden from view. “Street Survival II” continues that theme with a frank and helpful discussion about this unique threat to officer safety and health.

“Street Survival II” also follows the successful pattern of its predecessor by teaching many of its lessons through the powerful stories of officers who both won and lost their battles with evil. These real-life tales will resonate with the reader and hammer home the most critical officer safety lessons of the book.

Strong suites

Capitalizing on Glennon’s expertise and experience in the field of communications, “Street Survival II” provides new insights on ways that officers can use language to influence suspects, calm a situation and eliminate confusion. Officers will learn how to craft and deliver commands that achieve the desired effect without creating additional safety risks. The text addresses the power of communication to establish dominance, create rapport and smooth ruffled feathers. The reader will also learn how to look for and interpret non-verbal cues that provide insight to a suspect’s mind-set and help warn of a pending attack.

Marcou’s expertise in the martial arts is put to good use in “Street Survival II” as well. Officers are introduced to proven arrest and control techniques that enhance officer safety while protecting the suspect from needless injury. Weapon retention and disarm techniques are studied, as well as realistic defenses against edged weapon attacks. Color images break down many of the moves for clarity, in the same pattern established by “Street Survival” many years ago.

What it is and what it’s not

With such a variety of topics covered, there’s no way “Street Survival II” could have included everything there is to know on any given subject. Some of the sections are top-level discussions that avoid getting into too much detail. Conversely, some of the sections go into detail on a topic, but only show a single technique to perform a task, because there just isn’t enough space to discuss all the possible variations. There are many ways to cuff a suspect, run a pistol, or defeat a disarm attempt. Some officers might find that their favorite technique isn’t addressed in “Street Survival II,” but that’s just the nature of the beast.

“Street Survival II” is not designed to be the complete and final word on anything. The authors are much too wise to think about education and learning as anything other than a continuous, evolutionary process.

Glennon and Marcou didn’t set out to capture the entire universe of police knowledge on paper. Instead, they focused on delivering sound advice and guidance on a variety of relevant topics to create a book that would serve both as good foundation, and as an inspiration for additional learning.

They succeeded. “Street Survival II" upholds the tradition of “Street Survival,” and will be a valuable text for law enforcement officers for many years to come.

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