Some of the most important lessons in law enforcement are taught by involuntary instructors.
These teachings come from the grave, imparted by officers who made the ultimate sacrifice and, regrettably, often unwittingly abetted their own sad fate through misjudgments, vulnerable tactics, and flawed decision-making.
Beginning decades ago with the groundbreaking writing of the late and legendary homicide detective Pierce Brooks of the Los Angeles PD, reconstructed cases of officer fatalities have formed the core of officer survival training—an ongoing effort to turn the tragedy of officers’ murders into life-saving insights to protect today’s brothers and sisters of the badge who face similar mortal risks.
Following in that tradition, two other authors associated with Los Angeles law enforcement—Steve Cooley and Robert Schirn—have written a new book, Blue Lives Matter: In the Line of Duty.
Across 268 pages, this collection of in-depth case studies recreates a series of officer killings in compelling detail, comprising what they intend as a respectful “memorial and tribute” to those who lost their lives as well as an instructive “guidebook and training manual” for departments and individual readers.
Cooley, a former LAPD reserve officer and a career prosecutor, served three terms as DA for Los Angeles County, ending in 2012. A strong proponent of the death penalty for cop killers, he responded to many active crime scenes where officers had been shot and killed or seriously wounded during his tenure. “To this day,” he says, “I have a strong emotional reaction when I hear about the murder of a police officer.”
Shirn has spent some five decades as an LA prosecutor, compiling an impressive 90% conviction rate in major felony jury trials he has handled. He’s the “unofficial historian” of the DA’s office and, along with Cooley, he interviewed prosecutors and investigators involved in the cases they recount to unearth “never-before-released details” about the fatal consequences.
The authors were assisted with Blue Lives Matter by Greg Meyer, a certified Force Science Analyst, who as an LAPD captain formerly headed the department’s prestigious training academy. Cooley describes Meyer as “one of the nation’s foremost experts on police tactics and officer safety.” Meyer helped formulate the “Lessons Learned” segments of the book that follow each of the case-history narratives.
Of the eight cases the authors reconstruct, one was internationally famous—the spine-chilling hostage-cop drama of the Onion Field, in which one officer was murdered and another’s life was destroyed in the aftermath.
The others made local headlines briefly, then were eclipsed by newer cycles of “breaking news.” Yet they remain relevant today for their teaching powers and their reminder of the persistent, day-to-day dangers officers confront—traffic stops that suddenly explode in violence, drug-fueled suspects with surprising strength and deadly menace, ambushes by vengeful arrestees, tense undercover stings that unexpectedly go south, and so on.
Each case Cooley and Schirn analyze is dissected step by step, from the lethal event and its prelude, through the investigation and prosecution, and including the emotional toll on those left behind. In addition to the Lessons Learned that Meyer identifies, each case is imbedded with additional pivotal moments that creative instructors can develop into memorable teaching points.
Meyer told Force Science News: “We truly believe that lives will be saved if officers and police leaders take these ‘lessons learned’ to heart by ensuring that they are emphasized in training, as well as in daily practice on the street.”
The book is intended to be the first in a series utilizing the same format.
Meanwhile, Blue Lives Matter is available through Amazon.com