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Blood Lessons: A review from ILEETA Use of Force Journal

By Lt. Harvey Hedden
ILEETA Use of Force Journal
Vol. 9, January – March 2009

Some 23 years ago as I attended the funeral of a fallen officer, his grandmother passed among us and thanked us for our presence and then said something that I still remember today. “Don‘t let my grandson die in vain,” she directed, “learn from his mistakes and you will honor him.” Most of the tactics taught today owe their origin not to a classroom but the street. Often our training will cite an anecdote about how an officer won or lost an encounter but much of the detail is lost. Detailed accounts from the officers themselves are compelling listening and can enhance training. When officers see themselves in the position of the person telling the story, they gain valuable experiential training.

Charles Remsberg‘s new book Blood Lessons is a departure from the textbook style of writing found in his earlier contributions: Street Survival, The Tactical Edge and Tactics for Criminal Patrol. These are excellent compilations of techniques and tactics gathered from street cops and trainers around the country. Blood Lessons are the detailed stories taken from interviews of two dozen officers who faced a variety of threats from the most nightmarish of killers to even scarier demons from within.

The author sought stories that would illustrate valuable tactical concepts from a variety of agencies around the country. It‘s very easy to imagine yourself in any of these stories. As a training tool, Blood Lessons is valuable in conducting crisis rehearsal for these events, either on your own or as part of a class discussion.

Each chapter contains many valuable learning points. The author recommends reading a chapter a day, but I found it difficult to stop reading this book because the stories are so compelling. As I read Blood Lessons on an airline flight, the impact of first few chapters was so apparent that my wife interrupted me to ask what was wrong.

There are two kinds of courage depicted in Blood Lessons. First is the courage to respond to the threat, a frequent topic of officer survival lectures. But more important to the substance of those lectures is the courage to tell others not just what we did right, but what went wrong and how it should have been done. A professional learns from both their mistakes and successes and wants to share that information with others on their team.

Blood lessons are the stories of ordinary cops in extraordinary situations performing heroically. The accounts also illustrate how the realities of the street alter the classroom tactical model. In my interview with the author, he said many of the officers relived the trauma again as they related their stories so they could share them with others. These events didn‘t just change the way they work, in most cases they were life changing events.

Blood Lessons does an excellent job of illustrating the importance of attitude and preparation to survival not only during the emergency, but for the battles that will follow. The book includes three special sections on post incident survival with contributions from a number of experts in this field.

This book has tremendous value to the trainer. It illustrates tactical problems and promotes discussion on how students might resolve them. Students tend to accept the lessons of a real life scenario over a hypothetical one because they know history repeats itself. Blood Lessons is an excellent read for the veteran street cop, the trainer, the supervisor/manager and especially the rookie. Friends and family can also gain valuable insights into the real world of law enforcement and what their cop might face or has faced already.

Blood Lessons is available through PolieOne Books and Calibre Press.

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